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Salem Washington: Reviews

by Frank Rubolino, Cadence, January 2007

Reedist Salim Washington's Harlem Arts Ensemble is a medium-sized band with a large sound, mixing Blues, Jazz, and improvised realms into a potent whole. The compositions favor more spiritually influenced realms (note the concluding rendition of the traditional gospel pieces, "How Great Thou Art/Yes Lord"), with particularly strong work from Washington himself. Washington's flute and tenor sax are often heard bursting through densely layered ensemble charts. The high points include the fiery "Harlem Homecoming," featuring soaring work from Washington's tenor, the Latinish spirituality of "Maestro Joe," highlighted by Washington's Traneish tenor and Donald Smith's Tyneresque piano work and Frank Lacy's "Impressions"-like "Stranded." There is also a socio-political bent here, as seen on "In Search of Sane Alternatives" (featuring a Washington rap on current events) and the terse ecologically-inclined avant freak-out of "There Is Grass Growing In Antarctica." It's not all heady stuff, though, as the funky stroll of "Country Walk" is a joy, while the lilting lines of "Horace T" feature a moving solo from trumpeter Waldron Ricks.

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