The musical landscape has changed a lot since smooth jazz saxophonist Jerome (Najee) Rasheed first stepped on stage some 30 years ago. While some music lovers may argue that he was responsible, at least in part, for the explosion of the popular smooth jazz genre, the humble musician is quick to affirm that many other late and great musicians before him laid the foundation.
Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker were just a few of the artists that influenced and inspired me, he said in an interview in New York with TNJ.com. Davis, Coltrane, and Parker were the true original jazz musicians.
The New York native was in the Big Apple earlier this year to launch his latest CD, You, Me and Forever, and celebrate three decades of bringing music to fans across the world. A private reception hosted by ESSENCE magazine featured him in a live performance, along with singers Me’lisa Morgan and Eric Roberson, and trombonist Jeff Bradshaw.
Najee took time to pay homage to the late Kansas City saxophonist and composer Ahmed Aladeen, saying, He created swing and hard bop oriented songs that were popular in the 1990’s.
Aladeen, who passed away in 2010, wrote the song Jannah, which is featured on Najee’s latest CD. Other artists Najee has worked with include, Prince, Chaka Khan, Angie Stone, Sheila E, Will Downing and Phyllis Hyman.
I remember when Prince called and offered me the chance to tour with him, Najee recalled. He didn’t talk much and just said, hey, when are we getting together?
That brief exchange in 2000, led to a three-year tour engagement with Prince, who passed away unexpectedly in April.
His death was a shock, Najee said. I never saw him sleep, he was a workaholic.
Najee argues that style and creativity in music have waned in recent years, and that the days of genuine and real classical jazz music may have succumbed to bigger money-making musical genres like Pop, Rock and R&B.
Classic jazz and creative style in music has given way to commercialism in the industry, he lamented. That may explain why jazz music is not respected and seldom recognized by the Grammys and other organizations.