With three platinum and five gold albums, Najee is one of the pioneers of what is commonly known as Contemporary Jazz. A combination of jazz improvisation and R&B, this genre forms a bridge from the jazz fusion of the 70s to the jazz pop of the mid 80s.
A native of Jamaica, Queens, New York, Najee shared all of his musical dreams-and later, many professional gigs-with his brother Fareed, a guitarist who was a year younger. Their father passed away when they were very young, but their mother encouraged a deep exposure to jazz via recordings by artists as diverse as the Miles Davis Quintet, Junior Walker and Mongo Santamaria. Najee showed an early interest in the sax but a grammar school teacher steered him towards clarinet when there were no sax chairs available in the school band.
Najee, along with his brother Fareed, attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston with a concentrated study in performance and composition.
Najee left the Conservatory after three years and moved back to New York, where he immersed himself in the club scene. One night when he was out playing straight ahead jazz, Lesette Wilson, keyboardist and musical director of Chaka Khan-who was hot at the time with her trademark hit “Ain’t Nobody”-came in and loved what she heard. She called him to audition for the singer’s upcoming tour, and in no time Najee found himself on the road for a year with the legendary diva, playing alto sax and flute. Najee’s good fortune transferred to Fareed’s career as well when Chaka’s longtime guitarist Tony Maiden failed to show up for a rehearsal. Fareed plugged in and was hired to play alongside Maiden for the tour.
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