Jerome Najee Rasheed, known professionally as Najee, is an influential American Smooth Jazz saxophonist and flautist. Born on November 4, 1957, Najee grew up in Queens, New York, and started his musical journey in grade school at the age of eight. Initially, he began playing the clarinet but soon found a deep passion for the saxophone. His early musical influences came from his mother’s recordings of legendary American jazz artists like Miles Davis.
Najee’s decision to become a professional jazz musician was a pivotal moment in his life. During high school, he started studying jazz at the Jazzmobile program where he honed his skills on tenor saxophone and flute under the tutelage of greats like Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, and Ernie Wilkins. At the age of 16, Najee began studying flute at the Manhattan School of Music Preparatory Division, taking lessons with Harold Jones, a renowned flautist from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
Najee’s musical inspiration comes from saxophonists John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Yusef Lateef, Joe Henderson, Grover Washington Jr., Ronnie Laws, as well as flautists Hubert Laws and James Galway. His professional career started in his teenage years, performing in local bands in the New York City area. After high school, Najee’s first world tour was with a band from New York City called “Area Code,” performing in locations ranging from Europe to the Caribbean on behalf of the USO.
In the summer of 1978, Najee toured with legendary vocalist Ben E. King. He then attended the Bronx Community College for two semesters and was admitted to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston the following year. At the conservatory, he majored in performance and composition, studying with the legendary Joe Allard, the first clarinetist for Toscanini.
After his studies at the New England Conservatory, Najee returned to New York City in the early 1980s. He toured with the legendary vocalist Chaka Khan in 1983. Three years later, he released his debut album, Najee’s Theme, which earned him a Grammy Award Nomination for Best Jazz Album.
Najee’s second album, “Day By Day,” released in 1988, went platinum. This album was produced by several producers including legendary producer Barry Eastmond. His album “Tokyo Blue,” released in 1990 and produced by his brother Fareed, is one of his most successful recordings. Both “Tokyo Blue” and “Day By Day” led to Najee winning two Soul Train Awards for Best Jazz Artist in 1991 and 1993.
Najee’s next album, Just an Illusion, was released in 1992 and produced by several producers, including Arif Mardin, George Duke, Fareed, Marcus Miller, and Wayne Brathwaite. Following this, he made guest appearances with Quincy Jones at the Montreaux Jazz Festival and released his album “Share My World” in 1994.
Najee’s tribute to Stevie Wonder’s 1976 classic, Songs In The Key of Life, was released in 1995. His album Morning Tenderness was released in 1998, and it went #1 on the contemporary jazz charts. The same year, The Best of Najee was released, cementing his legacy in the jazz world.
Page last updated 5/22/2023.