Close your eyes and think about the very best Belgian chocolate and a truffle melting on the tip of your tongue. Imagine the lingering taste of the finest French red wine. Now you are in the mood for Rising Sun, the new CD from soprano saxophonist/flautist Najee. Sisaundra Lewis’ words, "If this would last forever," from the opening track "Clarity," express what you will feel as you listen to this wonderful CD. I know I could easily have listened to the lush songs on this album, over and over again (and I did). This collection of songs boasts some great R&B vibes, mixed with some excellent smooth jazz grooves.
"Clarity" was written by John Mayer (yes that John Mayer!), just one of several outstanding songwriters, including Najee, whose tunes appear on this album. The gorgeous arrangements and excellent musicianship testify to why Rising Sun debuted in the number-one spot on Billboard’s jazz charts. The warm, deep notes of Nick Reider’s flugelhorn regularly compliment the higher soprano voice of Najee’s saxophone. The sensitive piano chops of Phil Davis emerge during his solo in "Child At Heart," a song in which Najee sparkles on one of the many instruments with which he is skilled, the flute. The fourth track, "I Can’t Wait Another Minute," rests gently on the cusp of jazz and R&B. Timmy Maya and Isaac Clemon treat us to rich, smooth vocals and the groove invites you to dance.
Funky is the order of the day as "Come What May" dawns on the musical horizon. Najee co-wrote "Come What May" with James Lloyd and the personal connection is evident when Lloyd lets loose on the keyboards. Najee finds the sweet spot in his groove on sax while guitarists Randy Bowland and John Grant, bassist David Dyson, drummer Kentrick Morris and the amazing Victor Williams on percussion complete the rhythm section. Special mention should be made of Jeff Antoniuk’s horn arrangements for "Out Of A Dream," a song on which he also plays his tenor saxophone. Antoniuk, in my opinion, is one of the most underappreciated sax men in the world of jazz. "Out Of A Dream" is lively and has a quick tempo.
Let me hear you say, ‘I love you, just one more time,’ are the words that come to mind while listening to "Moody’s Mood For Love," a song that was authored by& stellar jazz artist James Moody and two iconic writers, Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh. The elegant, romantic playing of pianist Chris "Big Dog" Davis are all you need to know about this song and this CD before you purchase it. As great as the other songs on this album are, "Moody’s Mood For Love" is the one that captured my heart.
"Romance The Night" features Phil Perry on lead vocals and he is capably backed by Timmy Maia and his own overdubbed vocals. Perry co-wrote the song with Chris Davis and again the person connection is evident with Perry’s emotive vocals. Perry has sung background vocals with Anita Baker, Peabo Bryson, Boz Scaggs and Rod Stewart.
Do yourself a favor and scoop up a copy of Rising Sun from Najee and Heads Up International. You can’t go wrong with this album.