A Harlem-based musician/scholar, Salim Washington plays tenor saxophone, flute and oboe, and is an accomplished composer/arranger. He is also a Harvard graduate who earned both a bachelor and doctorate degrees. His dissertation for his Ph.D is titled “Beautiful Nightmare: Coltrane, Jazz, and American Culture.” As a musician Washington is an exciting saxophonist whom critics have lauded as one of the most compelling modern voices in the music:
"Salim Washington’s Live at St. Nick’s offers a hearty sampling of the artist's lengthy stint at New York City's St. Nick's music club. . . . One thing is for certain: this is live jazz at its very finest." --Glenn Astarita, JazzReview
"Salim Washington’s Harlem Homecoming is a celebration of what this music ought to be all about. It's also some kind of antidote to all the technically proficient but ultimately clinical modern mainstream stuff, and its uninhibited joyfulness brings a smile to the face and a fire to the heart... Anyone eager to have their faith in this music restored - and those who suffer from jaded ear syndrome - will be doing themselves a favour by hearing this one." -- Nic Jones, AllAboutJazz.
"If a person had to choose only one adjective to describe Love In Exile, it would be "lush." "Exuberant," "inspired" and "optimistic" also apply, but the lush nature of Salim Washington's melodies and arrangements is the thing that stands out the most about Love In Exile, the tenor saxman/flutist's first album as a leader... Like Duke Ellington's bands, Washington and the RBA prove that one can be lush and gritty at the same time... This fine CD demonstrated that Washington's nonet was quite deserving of national exposure." -- Alex Henderson, All Music Guide
"...Love in Exile was a powerful statement of jazz in the post-Coltrane tradition, steeped in the legacy of the Black Arts movement while wearing its agenda lightly. The same bittersweet brew of urban exhilaration and melancholy pervades the work of Washington's new venture, the Harlem Arts Ensemble..." --Siddhartha Mitter, The Boston Globe
Salim has performed in jazz festivals in the United States, Canada, various countries in Europe, South Africa, Mozambique, Mexico, Brazil. He leads the Harlem Arts Ensemble and has performed with many of New York’s finest musicians, including Randy Weston, Pharoah Sanders, John Hicks, Hilton Ruiz, Charles Tolliver, Oliver Lake, David Murray, Billy Bang, and others.
In addition, he currently holds chairs in various dynamic ensembles, including Fred Ho’s "GREEN MONSTER BIG BAND" and "Afro Asian Music Ensemble, "Donald Smith’s "Six Bashiri," (with whom he can be heard weekly on Fridays at Harlem’s St. Nick’s Pub), Kuumba Frank Lacy’s "Vibe Tribe," James "Jabbo" Ware’s "Me We and Them Orchestra," and Ahmed Abdullah’s "Diaspora."
Born in Memphis, Salim grew up in Detroit where he learned to play music in various environs, including church, school, and with rhythm and blues and jazz bands. Relocating to Boston to go to college he deepened his commitment to and experience with jazz as a member for eight years of Billy Skinner’s Double Jazz Quartet. After the dissolution of this band Washington formed the Roxbury Blues Aesthetic, a nine-piece jazz band that featured the leader’s compositions as well as works by Mingus, Monk, and Stevie Wonder. Salim Washington can be heard as a leader on Love in Exile (Accurate Records), Harlem Homecoming (Ujam Records), Live at St. Nick’s, (CimpOL), and Strings (Cadence).
He has also recorded as a sideman with various artists, including Billy Skinner, Carl Grubbs, Oliver Lake, Katy Roberts, Henry Cook, Ahmed Abdullah, Fred Ho, Brian McCree, Jabbo Ware, Reggie Nicholson, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Victor Lewis, Joe Bonner, and others. Salim Washington is also an important scholar and African American culture.
He has written several articles, and co-authored a book about the music and culture of African Americans. His research has led him to lived in both Bahia, Brazil and South Africa for extended periods to learn of their music and culture, and especially their expressions of jazz. He has conducted extensive research in African American musical culture and has been an educator and workshop leader in the United States, South Africa, France, and Ireland. As a scholar Washington has won many honors and fellowships including the prestigious Fulbright Scholars Fellowship, Ann Plato Fellowship at Trinity College, W.E.B. DuBois Fellowship at Harvard University, Wolfe Institute Fellowship at Brooklyn College.
As an educator Salim has brought his artistry and scholarship to underserved populations. In addition to teaching at jazz seminars and workshops, and in universities, he has also conducted many workshops in various prisons and jails in Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Nebraska. He has also led seminars, both scholarly and musical at prestigious institutions of learning, including Harvard University, Bill Evans Conservatory (Paris), Ecole Nacional du Moçambique, and the Sorbonne.