My Point of View

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As lush and charming as Najee's flute playing is on "Sidewayz," the opening track of his Heads Up debut, it's curious that he would lead off his album with three tracks (including likeable romantic vocals by Will Downing and newcomer Lomon) that put his long beloved soprano anything less than fully out front. Yet even in his heyday back in the formative years of smooth jazz, Najee was more about great overall tracks than worrying about such perceptions -- his fans can assume then, that like always, his new point of view is varied, designed to keep them on their toes. Najee spent the first years of the new millennium playing with Prince, and some residual funk rubs off on the catchy Rex Rideout collaborations "Back in the Day" and retro-flavored "Charm," whose sonic effects and wah guitar by Dwight Sills truly take you back. Chris "Big Dog" Davis produced the album's big ballads, the silky title track and the moody, ambient "How Lovely You Are." Because Najee is shown throughout the packaging playing the soprano, his more aggressive alto energy on the James Lloyd-produced "2nd 2 None" comes along as a spirited surprise that makes you want even more. Even with all the new sax players that have arisen on the scene since his albums were routinely selling gold, it's a good bet that this very likeable set will once again bring Najee to the forefront of the genre.

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