Chris Washburne Rags And Roots
Review by Willard Manus

Trombonist Washburne’s RAGS AND ROOTS has become one of my favorite ragtime jazz albums of all time, thanks to its exquisite musicianship, deep respect for tradition, and its playful, life-affirming spirit. On this Zoho Music release, which was supported by the Catskill Jazz Factory, Washburne explores the music of such culturally diverse composers as Scott Joplin, W.C. Handy, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, William Grant Still, Ernest Nazareth and Jens Bodewalt Lampe.

Washburne interprets their hundred-year-old compositions in a variety of ways. His arrangements of such classics as “St. Louis Blues,” “Maple Leaf Rag” and “Creole Belles” make them sound fresh and vital, qualities which are further enhanced by a superb six-piece band, among whose members are Alphonso Horne (trumpet) and Andre Mehmari (piano). These dedicated musicians are joined at different times by vocalists Sarah Elizabeth Charles, Vuyo Sotashe and Gabriel Anders.

In addition, Washburne pays tribute to an influential 20th century song, “Strange Fruit,” the anti-lynching ballad made famous by Billie Holiday. This time around, Charles handles the vocal, in an intense, heartfelt way that even Lady Day would have admired.