On his seventeenth album as a bandleader, the New York-born saxophonist revisits a handful of classics alongside a collection of well-crafted originals. The first cover to catch our attention was his complete reinvention of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ”Wave,” which here is miles away from Rio de Janeiro. The tune begins with a flurry of notes and then follows with a neo-soul arrangement featuring accomplished solos from Najee and master pianist Robert Damper, a musician best known for his work as musical director for alto saxophonist Kenny G. The arrangement briefly changes as an acoustic guitar appears and the track returns to its samba roots – long enough for the bass and percussion to pick up and take it back home. His cover of Ambrosia’s 1980 hit “You’re The Biggest Part of Me” also takes it to a whole new direction, backing Chuck Johnson’s lead vocals with several well-placed riffs and a stellar horn section.
One of the highlighted originals is “Signature,” a tune co-written with former Branford Marsalis collaborator Frank McComb, who sang lead and played all the instruments save for the saxophone on the track. It is a fast-paced neo-soul number in which Najee interacts with McComb’s multi-tracked vocals, creating the impression of a live recording. Damper appears again on the title track (which he also co-wrote), a gentle ballad that showcases the bandleader’s range as a front man and improviser. Also notable is “Give it All You Got,” an up tempo tune with soulful lead vocals by co-writer Andrea Wallace. (Shanachie)