Long a Friday night fixture at St. Nick's Pub in New York's Sugar Hill section, Salim Washington's Harlem Arts Ensemblethe leader on tenor, flute and oboe, pianist Donald Smith, violist Melani Dyer, bassist Aaron James, drummer Mark Johnson and trombonist Ku-Umba Frank Lacy, who also plays a mean flugelhornshares fresh ideas with an aware audience on this live document from the aforementioned club. In his liner notes, Washington points out that the Friday night audience is so hip that it drives his ensemble deeper into improvised adventures.
Washington's "You Can Fly" stands out as the night's most significant adventure as the unit comes together on the exotic theme and then explodes outwards. They drive even harder with their second interpretation of the night of Joe Henderson's "Shade of Jade." Presented in the order played and with CIMPoL's under-produced sound, listeners can feel the evening (and what would become early morning) heat up as the program progresses. Steve Lacy's "Stranded" finds Washington pushing the ensemble with a spate of aggressive tenor while flugelhorn and viola sit back, measure up and then come back with their own challenges. The performance closes with "The Creator Has a Master Plan," featuring vocalist Tuliva Donna Cumberbatch in a passionate reading that draws upon the emotional fury of her musical partners. Together, they build a bridge between free jazz and today's modern mainstream that makes for a fine night out.
Track Listing: Shade of Jade; Harlem Homecoming; You Can Fly; Shade of Jade; Stranded; The Creator Has a Master Plan.
Personnel: Salim Washington: tenor saxophone, flute, oboe; Donald Smith: piano; Melani Dyer: viola; Ku-Umba Frank Lacy: trombone, flugelhorn; Aaron James: bass; Mark Johnson: drums; Donna Cumberbatch: vocals.