A.k. Salim

Albert Atkinson was born in 1922. The alto saxophonist, clarinetist, and convert to Islam in the 40s. He also changed his name. After sustaining a jaw injury in 1943, Salim quit playing and focused his efforts on organizing. Many of the big bands of the 1940s were his clients, including Lucky Millinder, Jimmie Lunceford, and Lionel Hampton. He ghostwrote and wrote for them all. Salim was a master at weaving powerful charts with multiple melody lines, which built to swinging crescendos. Salim was also able to write with a light, lyrical touch. His spring-loaded melodies were framed by modern harmonies and created a sound that Quincy Jones liked. Chico O’Farrill was the only one who could match Salim’s ability to write jazz bands with the same ease and authenticity he did for Latin mambo orchestras. Salim arranged Illinois Jacquet’s Boot ’em Up, Count Basie’s Blee Blop Blues, as well as Tito Puente’s Puente Goes Jazz, and Machito’s Kenya. These albums were crucial in the evolution of Latin-jazz. He also organized for Louie Bellson and Dizzy Gillespie in the 1950s. Salim is still a mystery today. Although he is listed in the Encyclopedia of Jazz, he does not appear in any subsequent volumes. He also doesn’t appear in the huge New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. Salim’s last album as a leader was Afro Soul Drum Orgy, which was released in 1964 by Prestige. The Encyclopedia of Jazz has a brief note about Salim’s early 50s real estate ventures. Other than that, it is pretty much the entire record. Salim is best known for his big, swinging orchestrations. He was the leader of five small-group Savoy albums from 1957 to 1958. The first LP, Flute Suite, featured Frank Wess and Herbie Mann. They would only record three times together and this was their first summit. The results are smart and sweet if you love jazz flute. On the date, Mann was joined by Joe Wilder (trumpet), Frank Rehak(trombone), Hank Jones [piano], Wendell Marshall (“bass”) and Bobby Donaldson (“drums”). Salim is one the great arranger-composer of the 1950s. Only Salim and Chico O’Farrill were able to write in both Latin and jazz idioms. Flute Suite is a great example of Salim, the jazzy small-group writer. We especially hear him on pearls like Pretty Baby and Lopin’. Mann and Wess never sounded better. from http://www.jazzwax.com

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