NAJEE: Mind Over Matter (Label: Heads Up)

NAJEE: Mind Over Matter

Time was when a Najee release would have stirred a deal on interest in the soul community. Back in the 80s a lot of his work was built around solid soul grooves but since then the sax man’s trajectory has veered to the middle of the road. On this new set, though, the soul crew might decide to investigate since it features a couple of their heroes – Eric Benet and Gary Taylor. Benet takes lead vocal on his own song ‘We Gone Ride’. It’s a lazy neo-soul ramble that seems to owe a little to D’Angelo’s ‘When We Get By’ and both Najee and Benet are in fine form. Where Benet currently enjoys a high profile (with guest spots on all kinds of albums), Taylor, by contrast, has seemed almost reclusive… so its good to get him back on record. He contributes almost everything to ‘Moon Over Carolina’ … writing the song, producing the track, sequencing the instruments and taking lead vocal, and it’s that lazy, languid voice that’s the cut’s attraction. It caresses the melody and is a perfect foil to Najee’s laid back soprano sax lines. It’s a typical Gary Taylor track and a real grower. There’s another ‘sort of vocal’ on the album too – ‘Forever And a Day After’. This one, though, is typical of Najee – very light, but pleasant and lifted by the brief cooed vocal from Lomon Andrews and some delicate piano from Darryl Woodson. There’s a lot more of that same lite jazz sound – notably ‘Needless To Say’ and ‘The Journey’. However, on the cuts where Najee transfers to alto sax the groove is a tad deeper – as on the opener ‘Love You A Lifetime’, the two Jeff Lorber-accompanied pieces ‘Stolen Glances’ and ‘One More Thing’ and the looser ‘Mind Over Matter’ which really does swing – thanks chiefly to Will Brock’s keys. Najee fans will find lots to like here while soul lovers could do worse than check out the vocals.
(BB) 3/5