Harlem Homecoming is a breath of fresh air, a powerful musical statement that will surely give hope to those who bemoan the future of jazz. These ten original songs were mostly composed by Washington and executed by the formidable Harlem Arts Ensemble; the CD is a heady mix of first-rate musicianship with positive intention and emotional warmth. The ensemble, comprised of fourteen uniformly excellent musiciansincluding Kuumba Frank Lacy (trombone, flugelhorn), as well as Washington's wife, Melanie Dyer (viola), and their son Malik (drums)shines on all of the tunes.
All the songs are worth mention, but several stand out. The title track has a fat, funky sound with a cooking front line and an urgent wildness reminiscent of Ellington's famous jungle sound. "Stranded," a Lacy tune, has a delicious Blue Note feel and amazing horn work, featuring the composer on flugelhorn. There are lots of great solos, including one by Donald Smith (the "High Priest of Harlem") on piano. "Country Walk" is downright goofy, a playful song with broad sounds and tight-as-a-drum ensemble playing.
The tour de force is "In Search of Sane Alternatives," Washington's response to the events and aftermath of September 11. The majestic song explores the many emotions evoked by America's recent history and includes a spoken word interval by Washington that sums up the situation with soulful passion.
One of the reasons Harlem Homecoming is so compelling is that the Harlem Arts Ensemble creates music 100 percent true to jazz' roots, but at the same time effortlessly blends it with other modern music, including the Motown sound and funk. The other reason is that this music is grounded in values such as family, community, national unity and world peace. Washington's vision is strong and true, and he has found the perfect vehicle of expression in jazz.
Track Listing: Morning Is the Time For Miricles; Harlem Homecoming; Country Walk; Maestro Joe; In Search of Sane Alternatives; Jamila; Stranded; Horace T; There Is Now Grass Growing In Antarctica; How Great Thou Art/Yes Lord.
Personnel: Salim Washington: tenor saxophone, flute, oboe, vocals; Kuumba Frank Lacy: trombone, flugelhorn; Waldron
Ricks: trumpet; Melanie Dyer: viola; Kurtis Rivers, Henry Cook: reeds/woodwinds; Rumas Barrett: percussion;
Donald Smith: piano; Andy McCloud, Steve Neil: bass; Malik Washington, Mark Johnson, Taru Alexander: drums;
Aaron Johnson: tuba.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.