Two-time Grammy nominee, saxophonist Najee, is a jazz artist who doesn’t want to be placed in any category.
“I know the industry would define me as a smooth jazz artist,” he says. “My experience in music has been in so many genres. I have played jazz with Charles Earland, fusion with Stanley Clarke and [I] toured with Prince for three years. I don’t enjoy being classified as one thing or another. I like being called a multi-instrumentalist.”
Najee is proficient on soprano, alto and tenor saxes, but has developed a newfound attachment for playing the flute, which he showcases on his latest CD, Rising Sun. His musical philosophy is reflected in the scope of his new album, as he covers tunes from James Moody’s jazz to John Mayer’s pop. But when asked about the popularity of his smooth jazz, he says it melds R&B and pop elements “using an instrumentalist as the lead voice.”
Najee’s fans are as diverse in their demographics as in their musical tastes. “I think [they’re] probably in the age [range of] 30 to 50, but I do know a lot of kids come to my concerts,” he says.
Najee constantly challenges himself musically to maintain his own integrity and creative identity, reaching a diverse audience. He admits he would love to perform and record in an orchestral or big band setting. “It’s been awhile since I have been in that world. Last year, I did a concert with the Dallas Symphony,” he says. “We did everything from Mozart to Burt Bacharach and some of my material with my band in the second half of the concert.”