With an intervening Stevie Wonder
Tribute and a several year delay involving a label shift from EMI to Verve, Morning Tenderness
's first project of original tunes in nearly five years; despite a few tunes led by tenor and flute melodies, his focus is on the appealing attributes which launched and then sustained his success - picture perfect light funk melodies and suave ballads, grooves ranging from slow seductions to bouncy dance rhythms and a keen ability to modulate the soprano from a high pitched squealing cry to a lower toned reflective declaration. Over the low key simmering bass throb of "All the Things (Your Man Won't Do)" and the gentler "Second Time Around," Najee
introduces melodic statements in the lower voice, and then, often without warning, draws upon those sharp improvisational instincts and honks a flurry of higher tones as if to emphasize the main point. On poignant reflections like "Not a Day Goes By" and "Sapphire," Najee
also displays his longtime mastery of wrapping his sax melodies around shadowy background vocal choruses - playful conversations which lead to the human voice trailing off and giving way to meditative improvisations which again draw upon the bop influence. One of the most memorable tunes is the percolating "Room to Breathe," which sounds as if a mellow minded Richard Elliot
wandered into the room, did a little side stepping shuffle, and bumped heads with Tim Weisberg
on the way out. Najee
sells his flute abilities a bit short here by limiting the flute to the closing minute of the tune, then redeems our longing by devoting the entire brooding title cut to the soft graces of the instrument. It's almost as if he's time traveling with us, emphasizing his smooth jazz life for the most part but here and there allowing us glimpses into his serious minded past as a student of be-bop.