At times, it felt like the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department would be needed on the evening of January 25 at the Macon City Auditorium. That’s because the hot sax of modern jazz great Najee thrilled the crowd during All That Jazz and nearly caught fire during the Tubman African American Museum’s annual fundraiser.
A multitude of citizens of all kind turned out to support the museum’s effort. Included in the audience were politicians, professionals and people from other walks of life — all coming together under one roof for a great cause and a great time. Macon’s GQ Band, headed up by legendary trumpeter Jimmy Mills, set the tone for the evening with great takes on a variety of R&B classics. Then Najee followed the opening act up with a sizzling rendition of the Earth, Wind & Fire smoker Can’t Hide Love and it was clear that the Tubman had chosen well.
This is the forte of “All That Jazz”. Music is the platform, but the goal is to raise funds that support the museum’s commitment towards educating youth through various programs that it offers throughout the year. It’s a great combination, especially for those on the auditorium floor. Everyone on the hardwood paid extra, but for their money, was treated to a great multi course meal including coffee and dessert at specially priced, elaborately decorated tables. The auditorium balcony struck a balance at only $25.00 a seat and afforded those not able or willing to dole out $125.00 for a floor seat. While the vast majority of those in attendance got up close and personal with Najee down low, a respectable size group of concert goers view the event from up top.
All else proved secondary to Najee however. The audience focused like a laser beam on the stage the entire time the five man band played. They were especially appreciative of Close Up, a tribute to iconic singer/songwriter/producer the late great George Duke and former South African President Nelson Mandela. By the time the Grammy nominated music man neared the end of his set, everyone was on their feet clapping in unison to a string of songs from the late eighties that established Najee as a contemporary jazz force — including his interpretation of former R&B songbird Anita Baker’s Sweet Love.
Macon was the first concert stop this year for Najee. And he expressed his appreciation for having been chosen by the Tubman to serve as the primary draw for 2014’s “All That Jazz.” “I’m really honored to be here tonight playing for you,” said Najee to the audience in between songs. “The Tubman has been a real pleasure to work with.” In a conversation between making rounds from table to table, Tubman Museum Executive Director Andy Ambrose expressed his impression of Najee. “We (Tubman) were very fortunate to get Najee for this year’s event,” smiled Ambrose broadly. “He has been great to work with and proven to be a great choice.”
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