As a pioneer of the so-called "rhythm and jazz" era of the 1980s, saxophonist Najee has been in the forefront of contemporary jazz for almost twenty years. With nine albums to his credit, he has survived the ups and downs of acceptability and credibility that has eluded most of his contemporaries. Always the consummate musician, Najee has received widespread recognition as one of jazz's most dominant influences; however, there is a caveat to that assertion. Although he has managed to maintain a highly visible presence since the 1986 release of Najee's Theme, critics believe he has rarely pushed the envelope of creativity.
Notwithstanding the 1995 EMI release of Songs from the Key of Life that highlighted the work of Stevie Wonder, which was considered by many to be one of his better releases, Najee has stayed close to the tried and true journeys into R&B and smooth jazz arenas. His adherence to the familiar has allowed him to be known as an influence, without the accolades of an innovator. But 2005 may be the turning point for Najee Rasheed. He has a new record label and a brand new recording entitled My Point of View for Heads Up International.
Najee's latest effort is a reflection of his many years in the music industry while continuing to maintain his own distinctive voice. My Point of View sets the stage for a renewed sense of prominence and an individual statement that supercedes that of previous albums. From the onset tracks such as "Sidewayz," "3 AM" and "Falling in Love with You," Najee's multi-faceted instrumental dynamics carries his listeners down a path of sultry groove-oriented melodies that are introspective as well as noteworthy. The CD also reflects a wide variety of influences that have not been heard since some of his earlier recordings. There is plenty of funk and circumstance to go around, coupled with an energetic display of keyboard agility from such notables as James Lloyd, Rex Rideout and Chris Davis. Even in its more quieter moments, My Point of View stimulates the listening palate with a voice that is pure Najee without the innate display of compromise.
Admittedly, Najee has confessed that "through a period of imitation, where artists learn how to do what they do through listening to and imitating other people, he isn't any different. But at some point, all of that got filtered through his own sensibilities." With that idea in mind, there may be some truth in that assessment. For most saxophonists, the models have always been Charlie Parker, Grover Washington, Jr., John Coltrane and a host of other notable influences; however, after everything else has been played and replayed, a voice has to emerge that is distinctive, effervescent and original. Najee has always been a cut above, but with the release of My Point of View, he has easily re-emerged as one of jazz's best known saxophonists.