Tucson, Arizona is home to this 31-year-old sax star.  Once you hear his music, you will hear the influences of such heroes as Eric Marienthal, Gerald Albright and Grover Washington Jr. 

He has already shared billing with Dave Koz and on this, his debut CD, he has been able to surround himself with considerable playing and producing talent, including Jay Soto, Jeff Lorber and Mel Brown. 

Fans of contemporary jazz sax, especially those who like to get on the dancefloor every so often, will love the bright and breezy opener ‘Candy’.  Brian Simpson’s piano solo complements the alto lead lines perfectly.  Let’s just say, I have some DJ gigs lined up and this track is going to get some serious rotation!  The mood is just as sweet, though mellower, for ‘Let’s Chill’.  The hook on the chorus is sublime – Jay Soto has penned a beauty here.  Takes me back to the hot summer of ’94, listening to WQCD in Manhattan. 

The title track is the song you’ll hear if you visit Neamen’s website.  It’s another joint composition by Neamen and Jay Soto and here the alto gets pushed almost into David Sanborn territory, there is just that ‘edge’ that shows the album is not about playing it safe.  As the tune vamps out, Neamen’s chops are more evident.  A great live tune, surely.  Players like Brian Culbertson and Marcus Johnson aren’t afraid to delve deep into the ‘urban’ sound and on the ballad ‘Don’t Say Goodbye’ Neamen captures it to a T.  The soprano sax floats beautifully over that programmed drum track – all good, all good. 

‘Who Dat’ is a brass-fest, with Darren and Jason Rahn joining in on a selection of horns and delivering a punchy performance.  It’s very ‘up’ and this is going to light up the stage – if it doesn’t already!  Covering a Michael Jackson song is tricky, especially if you’re going to do it as an instrumental.  No problem!  “Remember the Time” rocks just as well as the original and allows Neamen’s alto to blaze.  The background vocals are right on the money too. 

‘Thinking of You’ is a grand and very soulful ballad, written in 3/4 time and it’s got the trademarks of a classic: big piano chords, some good, strong drum fills, key changes and some serious blowing.  You hear this and you know this young Arizonan is going to be on the scene a long time!  The solid compositions and performances just keep on coming: ‘Feels Like Heaven’ feels like it’s been around for years.  It has a strong melody line and that alto horn increasingly sounds like a voice.  A good lyricist would have a great time with this song, it’s so melodic.  All of my favourite songs are ones where I can sing/hum them pretty easily – that box is ticked here. 

And while we’re on the subject of what makes a great ‘smooth jazz’/contemporary jazz tune, some crisp snare, a nice fluid bassline, fat chords on electric piano and a saxman who’s not scared to cut loose will usually get you there.  On ‘Things Change’ they get you there!!  I mentioned Jeff Lorber earlier and you’ll hear him on Rhodes on the staccato and offbeat ‘Cooling the Plasma’ which closes an already impressive set in fine style.  A style that throws a curved ball to listeners who thought they had found a box to put Neamen’s music in. 

Ah, this is amazing.  Neamen does it sweet but he can blow as hard as Sanborn and Rangell – and he can already give Jay Beckenstein a run for his money in terms of complexity.  It’s crazy – he is a young man and his tunes are fresh and yet I feel like I’ve been listening to him for 20 years.  You might notice I started out by calling him a sax star – you better believe it!



N1 Studios Producer – Jay Soto

Hear and buy the CD at CD Baby