The genesis of jazz has long been a subject of great debate, but at Baird Auditorium Friday night its common roots in spirituals, blues and ragtime music were explored and celebrated in a variety of settings.
Not surprisingly, Donald Vails's Salvation Corporation Choir delivered the most emotional performance. Vails, the music director of the Ebenezer AME Church in Washington and a powerful singer in his own right, illustrated the profound influence of spirituals, jubilees and gospel tunes on secular music while consistently forging the ensemble's mighty voices into a cohesive, soul-stirring blend.
Pianist Alex Hassan also shed considerable light on the subject. Reaching back to the 1860s' syncopated piano compositions of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, he drew strong parallels between ragtime music and some of its lesser-known precursors before performing a robust and delightfully eclectic assortment of turn-of-the-century rags and novelties, plus a few syncopated piano tunes popular in the 1920s and '30s.
As for the blues, guitarist, singer and longtime District resident Archie Edwards covered that genre in his typically personable and informal fashion. Most of the pieces he finger-picked on his battered resonator guitar were either composed or strongly influenced by his mentor and pal, Mississippi John Hurt.