Next week, jazz saxophonist Najee returns to the neighborhood of his childhood as he makes a series of appearances at schools in the Queens area. Najee grew up in the Jamaica, Queens area, where he will be appearing at York College on Monday, November 16 in a special workshop and performance that is free to the public. Start time is 7 pm at the newly renovated Illinois Jacquet Performance Space. York College/CUNY is located at 9420 Guy R Brewer Blvd. in Jamaica, Queens.
For Najee, the chance to come back to his old neighborhood is a great feeling. “It’s like shaking hands with your past,” he told JT. Najee went to August Martin High School, which specialized in aviation (school motto: “Where dreams take flight”). In fact, he wanted to be a pilot, but inspired by great music teachers there, he chose a different path. And, at an impressionable age, Najee was deeply influenced by the noted Jazzmobile program, in which Jimmy Heath offered a master class in saxophone. “I was one of the kids who were fortunate enough to learn from someone like that, as well as from Frank Foster and Frank Wess,” Najee recalled. “You know, you don’t always realize how special something like that was until later. What a great opportunity I got.” Hello, jazz. Goodbye, aviation.