Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jackie Washington 1919-2009

Jackie Washington, the legendary folk/jazz/blues singer, guitarist, pianist and raconteur from Hamilton passed away yesterday at age 89.

From the first time I heard Jackie, at the Mariposa Folk Festival – I think in 1974, maybe ’75 – to the shows I produced for him at the Golem in Montreal until the final concert I saw him do last year with Ken Whiteley and Mose Scarlett at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, I loved being in his audience. He was a wonderful performer with a seemingly endless repertoire of standards and obscurities. Just as good were the opportunities to sit and visit with him off-stage where the stories and songs would always continue to flow. In 2004, Jackie did a wonderful interview with me on Folk Roots/Folk Branches.

As a guitar player, he had a sense of chords and rhythm that I’ve only ever heard from two other players: the late Freddie Green of the Count Basie Band and the late Ted Bogan of Martin, Bogan & Armstrong. Close your eyes, point your ears to the sky and maybe you’ll hear Jackie sitting in a circle with Freddie and Ted having one heaven of a jam session.

To be in Jackie’s presence was to feel the joy of music and the joy of being alive. I’ll have a Folk Roots/Folk Branches radio feature honouring Jackie sometime in the coming weeks.

This picture, taken in the green room at Library & Archives Canada on May 8, 2008, is of Sneezy Waters, Ken Whiteley and me all kneeling behind Jackie.

--Mike Regenstreif

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