In this, the age of being able to record your own CD in your basement, the adage, “just because you can record your own CD doesn’t mean you should,” has never been more true, especially in the smooth jazz realm. The market has been flooded with, let’s face it, tons of just terrible recordings, mostly done by artists playing all the parts themselves on their keyboard workstations. None of the above applies to the new CD by saxophonist Neamen, So Free.
A 2003 graduate of the University of Arizona with a degree in Jazz Performance, Neamen gets it. The best smooth jazz is really instrumental R&B, and it has to be part of your soul, not just something you want to do to make a buck or two, for it to be any good. That this music resonates deeply within this young artist is a statement that can be taken to the bank.This professional recording expertly produced by the up and coming young keyboardist and guitarist Jay Soto, is full of great tunes, hip melodies, rock solid grooves, and spritely powerful saxophone playing by Neamen. On this disc the young artist shows himself to be a musician of the highest quality. Playing with such power and soul one can’t help be reminded of Dave Koz’s early recordings, back before he was lured into following radio industry defined standards.
The first three tracks are all solid winners. “Candy,” “Let’s Chill, and “So Free” are so commanding, authoritative and energetic you’ll think this young artist is at least twice as old as he is because certainly no youngster can play with the command of his saxophone and be so locked into a rhythmic pocket at such a young age.When things do finally slow down, as on the “Don’t Say Goodbye,” you won’t want the groove to end. Neamen’s soprano is so velvety and silky you’ll absolutely find yourself luxuriating in his sweet sounds. No matter if he’s playing the melody or taking an improvised solo, every one of his phrases is played from his heart and makes the best musical sense. Other highlights include the Tower of Powerish “Who Dat,” and “Feels Like Heaven,” that features a nice half-time groove feel and honeyed backing vocals. It's also nice to have a fusionish "Cooling The Plasma" included on the disc. It’s too bad smooth jazz radio is dying, because this guy gets it. Don’t let the death of smooth jazz deter you, if you love smooth jazz this disc is well worth picking up.