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Najee: Morning Tenderness

Fresh from a distinguished Stevie Wonder tribute album, saxophonist Najee returns to his soft-lit, easygoing signature sounds on Morning Tenderness (Verve Forecast 314 559 062-2; 47:49). His bell-clear soprano is the main attraction, singing with emotion that is neither too fluttery, nor too technical on tasteful arrangements like the sweet ode to family “Not a Day Goes By.” His solos distinguish otherwise so-so tunes like “Window of Change,” and “Sapphire,” which finds his snaking, constantly building melody overcoming tingly synth and needless background vocals. Najee does offer a few surprises here, like bustling tenor riffs and a rocking flute solo on the bass-popping “Room to Breathe,” and a strong, multi-instrumental performance on the dark-to-light, twisted melody “Second Time Around.” The veteran wind-smith also gleans a soulful, world-weary vocal performance from Regis Branson on “Indian Summer”-a terrific combination which should be kept in mind for future efforts.

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