Salim Washington's (1958, Memphis, TN) discography is equally slim in both leader and sideman categories, begins in 1988 on trumpeter Billy Skinner's Accurate release, and is followed up almost ten years later with Salim's first lead session, Love in Exile (Accurate).
I first worked with Salim when CIMP recorded him (CIMP 336) as a member of Carl Grubbs' quintet in June of 2005. At that time I was struck by his calm demeanor, the passion of his playing and the reasoning of his thoughts. After that date I said to him perhaps we would work together again. Except for the occasional email (more often than not a reprint of some social commentary/observation which he found interesting though wasn't necessarily endorsing) I heard nothing until about 14 months later when he contacted me regarding a few projects that interested him: a live recording of his Harlem Arts Ensemble and a larger grouping with strings. He further outlined personnel, even some of the repertoire. The possibilities interested me and seemed compatible with a new label we had just begun—CIMPoL.
Salim's Harlem Arts Ensemble had been playing a weekly Friday night gig for the past two years at St. Nick's club. While this group had recorded previously (UJam Records), both Salim and I felt the live dimension of the regular working group in its familiar surroundings was promising especially since Salim said it was his favorite place to play. My one reservation was the club's electric piano, a problem solved when Salim arranged for an acoustic (upright) piano to be brought in. The sight of an acoustic piano caused an excited stir among many of St. Nick's regulars.
St. Nick's stage, about 93 feet square, is in the back of the club, past the bar and before the bathroom. We arrived at 8 p.m. to set up. Mostof the band arrived at 9 p.m., a good sound check was done at 10 p.m. and the band hit at 10:30, open and on target.
The corridor to the right of the bandstand offered up a steady stream of traffic through which the musicians had to weave in and out of when they stepped off the narrow confines of the stage. A very live environment and a very live gig.
The second set (from which the bulk of this recording comes) began a bit after midnight and, with a standing room audience, stormed out of the gate with even greater resolve and intensity than the first set. Midway, Frank appeared to have blownout his lip (what he had was a nasty blister on his top lip). But this took nothing away from the energy and throughout this set Salim was all smiles, dancing about a bit and obviously in his element, thoroughly enjoying the intensity and the group's response to it, the room, and the audience.
The final set began at 2 a.m., the audience a little thinner but accommodations were still standing room, and the energy remained undiminished from the bandstand. It really is an incredible front line with its brilliance and blend and strong solo statements. The rhythm section, the Donald Smith Ensemble, excelled in its support and framing as well as going out and taking risks.
I've included two takes of Shade of Jade. The first comes from the opening of the first set and actually served as the sound check. No matter, it's a nice edition of the tune and it gives a good and accurate sense ofthe opening ambiance. The second take comes from the end of the second set and it reflects accurately the ambiance and peak energy of that period. One other note. The final track, and indeed the final performance of the evening features Tulivu Donna Cumberbatch, a fine singer, who chose to reference one of the few great standards out of the post Bop free movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s. We were not set up to record vocals (a very different procedure) so her vocals are simply off the house sound system and thus the fidelity and separation suffer a bit. But the performance is such that I feltit perfectly finished off a night at St. Nick's. The program appears in the order it was played.
Robert D.Rusch - February 2007