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Chris Washburne

Chris Washburne

As if it wasn’t enough that trombonist Chris Washburne suffered the usual consequences of being a New York-based jazz musician, doctors told him in 1992 that he had a virulent form of nerve cancer and a 50 percent chance of surviving an operation. Washburne played one more gig with buddies as the SYOTOS (See You on the Other Side) band, then opted for surgery. He beat all the odds and began playing again after six months of rigorous retraining to overcome facial nerve damage.

Debuting as leader with Nyorican Nights (Jazzheads label), Washburne achieves a striking, well-balanced, salsa-jazz sound bolstered by a veteran lineup that includes Ole Mathisen (tenor sax), Barry Olsen (piano), Harvie Swartz (bass), percussionists Bobby Sanabria and Wilson “Chembo” Corniel, and founding members trumpeter Ray Vega and drummer Vince Cherico.

“We’ve had this regular weekly gig at the Nyorican Poet’s Café in New York City for four years, and named the album as a tribute to the nights spent there,” says Washburne. (New York Puerto Ricans call themselves “Nyoricans” to be distinguished from native Puerto Ricans.) “That gig was the catalyst for the record because it was a place for us to try out new things and to really develop a group sound.”

A “typical Midwestern farm boy” from Bath, Ohio, Washburne’s a gifted arranger and an expressive trombonist who cites as his major influence the late Barry Rogers, an arranger for Eddie Palmieri’s La Perfecta bands in the 1960s who paved the way for the trombone as a solo instrument in Latin jazz.

Washburne has formally studied classical trombone, holds post-graduate degrees, and has chalked up performances with Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Mark Anthony, and others, as well as with classical, jazz, rock and downtown improv groups. He aims to take Latin jazz to another level. “I want Latin jazz solos that are playing Latin rhythms and jazz rhythms really inside the music,” he says. His debut CD indicates he’s well on his way.

Originally Published