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BILL VAUGHAN’S TASTY CLIPS: New Najee album aimed at ‘Center of the Heart’

Two-time Platinum-selling and four-time Gold-selling multi-instrumentalist Najee is back with his much-anticipated 18th recording “Center Of The Heart.” The 10-track excursion finds the master reedman deftly shapeshifting through diverse musical terrain and fusing all of the elements that have made him a fan favorite for more than three decades.

The CD features Najee’s own timeless and sensuous spin on Maxwell’s “Sumthin’ Sumthin’” from the singer’s acclaimed “Urban Hang Suite” and he conjures up his own lush arrangement of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Alfie” from the 1966 film of the same title that was scored by Sonny Rollins.

The release also marks the first time that Najee has recorded with Grammy-nominated vocalist Kenny Lattimore on “Better.”  

“Kenny and I started our careers around the same time and never did a record together even though we have been around the world together,” he said. “We first met in 1998 when we both performed at Nelson Mandela’s Gift To the Nation concert in Johannesburg and Durban.”

This is his fifth album on the Shanachie label.  2012’s “The Smooth Side Of Soul” successfully covered such diverse terrain as Jimmy Heath and Ne-Yo and the follow-up, “The Morning After,” arrived in 2013 debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and exploring the many sides of love.

“You, Me & Forever” was released in 2015 and united Najee with James Lloyd (of Pieces of a Dream) and Frank McComb, among others. In 2017 Najee released “Poetry In Motion,” dedicated to the memory of Prince and Al Jarreau and featuring an all-star lineup including Maysa, Will Downing, Eric Roberson and Incognito.

“I’ve known real legends,” Najee added. “I remember watching Charles Mingus rehearse when I was a kid and meeting Sonny Rollins at 16. There is a saying about musicians. It says that we never retire — we just stop hearing music. I still hear music and I love working with people and that is what keeps me inspired.”

DVD/DIGITAL WATCH: Among the week’s new DVD/digital releases are Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman’s next installment in their presidential bodyguard franchise “Angel Has Fallen;” the sci-fi thriller “Don’t Let Go,” starring David Oyelowo, Storm Reid, Mykelti Williamson and Brian Tyree Henry; and the complete final season of “Game of Thrones.”

CLIPPETTES: Billy Porter (“Pose”) hosts the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s World AIDS Day Concert with Faith Evans, Daya and Miss Shalae on Dec. 1 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. Also that evening, The O’Jays, Jeffrey Osborne and Four Tops perform at the Microsoft Theater

On the day of their last broadcast of the year, Showtime announced they are renewing hot late-night talk duo “Desus & Mero” for another season to begin in February

Eddie Murphy is consenting to a Q&A after the Hammer Museum’s screening of the Rudy Ray Moore biopic “Dolemite Is My Name” on Dec. 3  

Chloe x Halle unveil new music at the Fonda Theatre on Dec. 4; as ScHoolboy Q’s Crash Tour hits The Forum; and Snoop Dogg’s I Want To Thank Me Tour with Warren G and RJMRLA launches at Santa Ana’s Observatory, moving the next night to The Wiltern

Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Bobby Z, BrownMark and Dr. Fink, aka Prince’s most famous band, The Revolution, is playing the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Dec. 5. Debbie Allen’s “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker” begins a four-day run this day at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center with Raven-Symoné, Tichina Arnold, Carlo Imperato, Matthew Johnson, and DADA!

TC ON TV: Nov. 29 – “Wendy Williams” (Syn): Nick Cannon  “Staging Christmas” (Lifetime): Former child actors Soleil Moon Frye (“Punky Brewster”) and Jaleel White (“Family Matters”) are the leads of this holiday movie. “Baking Christmas” (OWN): Aloma Wright (“Suits”), Tim Reid (“Greenleaf”) and Yohance Myles (“Ambitions’) are featured in this sweet new movie about a family consumed with a competitive Christmas cake bakeoff. “Great Performances” (PBS): The London production of “Kinky Boots” is presented featuring its original West End stars: Matt Henry in his Olivier-winning performance as Lola and Killian Donnelly as Charlie.

Nov. 30 – “Merry Liddle Christmas” (Lifetime): Marking her first foray into producing for television, Kelly Rowland also stars in this tale inspired by her own recent Christmas catastrophe. “Hip Hop Holiday” (BET): Terri J. Vaughn directs this story of a rapper, played by Ta’Rhonda Jones of “Empire,” rediscovering her roots. Wendy Raquel Robinson and Melba Moore co-star. “The Substitute” (NICK): Singer/actor Ne-Yo is transformed by a team of special effects artists to go undercover as a substitute teacher to surprise Burbank middle school students in this new hidden camera prank show. During the reveal at the end of the day, a $25,000 donation will be made.

Dec. 1 – “Christmas Under The Stars” (BYU): John Legend  “Lost Kingdom Of The Black Pharaohs” (Science):  “You Light Up My Christmas” (Lifetime): Kim Fields reunites with her “Facts of Life” castmates Lisa Whelchel, Mindy Cohn and Nancy McKeon for this reality-based tale that she also produced. “Godfather of Harlem” (EPIX): “Chickens Come Home To Roost” closes the explosive inaugural season. “Every Day But Christmas” (Bounce): Fate leads a best-selling author to find his faith in this original film starring Timon Durrett (“Queen Sugar”), Carl Payne (“Martin”) and Antonique Smith (“Luke Cage”). “The Tonight Show” (NBC): Tiffany Haddish, Lakeith Stanfield, the Free Nationals feat. Anderson .Paak

Dec. 2 – “9-1-1” (FOX): The 118 responds to holiday-themed incidents, including a shopper pushed over the edge, a woman who is literally having a “Blue Christmas” and a luggage handler accident on a tarmac. “Black Lightning” (CW): Neema Barnette, the first African American woman to direct a major network TV sitcom, helmed this episode.

Dec. 3 – “Tiffany Haddish: Black Mitzvah” (Netflix): On her 40th birthday, the Emmy-winning star of “Girls Trip” drops a bombastic special studded with singing, dancing and raunchy reflections on her long road to womanhood.

Dec. 4 – “Stuart Scott Day” (ESPN): The network will honor its beloved “SportsCenter” anchor, who succumbed to cancer at age 49 in 2015, with his greatest excerpts throughout their programming. “Ellen” (Syn): Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Sheryl Crow, (who leaves here for her concert this night at Theatre at Ace Hotel) and Stevie Nicks  “87thannual Christmas in Rockefeller Center” (NBC): Gwen Stefani, Chicago, John Legend, Idina Menzel, Lea Michele, Straight No Chaser, the Radio City Rockettes and Miss America 2019, Nia Franklin.

Dec. 5 – “Ellen” (Syn): Eddie Murphy “Growing Up Hip Hop” (WE): The franchise returns for an extended fifth season with  Angela Simmons and her siblings, Vanessa Simmons, and JoJo Simmons, Romeo Miller, Tyran Moore, Egypt Criss, Damon “Boogie” Dash; and more. Since launching, the series has become a core part of the network reigning as the No. 1 Thursday night network among African-American audiences.

TASTY QUIP: “It’s about two people who fall in love as the world burns around them. And what is so beautiful about the story is that, while these terrible things are happening, there can still exist this wonderfully human connection that cannot be destroyed. This film feels like a celebration of that.” – “Queen & Slim” star JODIE TURNER-SMITH to IndieWire about her groundbreaking movie opening Nov. 27

As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment columns in the nation, serving nearly one million weekly readers. To reach Bill Vaughan, send email to tastyclips@yahoo.com or via Twitter @tastyclips.