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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, April 20, 2024


The Caribbean. Palm trees swaying gently in the warm breeze, azure water lapping white sand beaches, a profusion of flowers in riotous colors. We are known the world over for our excellent rum, superb cigars and exotic fruits. Nevertheless, perhaps our most significant export is the wealth of talented musicians we have spawned over the last ninety years. Native sons who have conquered the musical world with their supreme, and often sublime, artistry.
Musicians must be in an environment that stimulates and challenges their growth as artists and they must have an infrastructure that supports them; the ability to study and train and the economic opportunities of performing and recording. The islands, being geographically isolated and, for the most part, economically deprived cannot offer these necessities, Consequently, the artist go where they must; England, Paris, New York, Florida, Boston. Once they’re gone there is a way in which we never get them back. Perhaps the saddest aspect of this phenomenon is that these very same musicians who have garnered world-wide recognition are often not known in the Caribbean. This is true for a variety of reasons. Art appreciation and survey classes have virtually disappeared from our schools, Caribbean history is not taught as a matter of course, and there is not broad-based accessibility to public radio or television. It is for these reasons that the Reichhold Center initiated a three day festival featuring Caribbean pianists. The festival is being held from January 15th-17th at the Reichhold Center for the Arts, St. Thomas; H. Lavity Stoutt, Tortola; and the Island Center for the Performing Arts, St. Croix. (See schedule below) The project is meant to highlight the musical riches that have evolved from the convergence of different cultures within the Caribbean basin. Three and one-half centuries of colonizing history (layered contributions from Africa, Europe, North and South America) make the Caribbean an ideal spot for studying the phenomenon of what is retained, what is discarded and what is fused when cultures intersect. The phenomenon of schismogenesis, the creative process and product of hybrid cultures, is well-represented by the chosen artists. The piano, as the ultimate symbol of Western musical tradition has been chosen as the instrument through which to explore this idea of cultural cross-fertilization.
Danilo Perez was born in Panama in 1966. He began his musical studies at the age of three when his father, a bandleader and singer, gave him a set of bongos. Five years later, he began studying the European classical repertoire at the National Conservatory in Panama. In 1985 he went to Berklee in Boston to study and it was there he discovered his love for jazz. “The first time I heard Bill Evans, I flipped. I never knew the piano could sound so beautiful.” Cultural traces and a variety of musical influences are the essence of Perez’s work. He was honored as “the most outstanding musician” by the Boston Jazz Society in 1989. His 1997 release, Panamonk won a Grammy award.
At fifteen, Mario Canonge was playing the organ at the Saint Theresa church in Martinique, the island of his birth. Now thirty-five and living in Paris, Mario has four solo albums to his credit. He was awarded the prize for best pianist at the “Festival de La Defense”, Paris in 1983. His music has always reflected the signature cultural hybridity of the Caribbean. His second album Trait d’Union, meaning both ‘hyphen’ and ‘that which unites’, mixes biguine, mazurka, ballad, salsa, calypso and compas. He has performed at festivals throughout France, Germany and the US. Omar Sosa has infused the musical consciousness of the local San Francisco Latin jazz scene with a new vitality since his arrival in 1995. Much of Sosa’s piano style stems from his development as a percussionist in his hometown of Camaguey, Cuba, where he studied music as a child before going on to learn percussion at the National Music School in Havana. The 32 year-old Sosa has been compared to Thelonious Monk and Randy Weston, who also investigated African and Caribbean rhythms. But he is not exclusively a jazz player. Like many of the young artists of the ‘90s, his vision is informed by the global genre-bending of contemporary music. John Santos is one of the foremost exponents of Afro-Latin music in the United States today. He is known for his innovative use of traditional forms and instruments in combination with contemporary music. Born in San Francisco in 1955, he was raised in the Caribbean and Cape Verdean traditions of this family, surrounded by music. He is widely respected as one of the top writers, teachers and historians in the field.
Friday, January 15th – 8:00 PM
Reichhold Center – St. Thomas – Mario Canonge Trio
H. Lavity Stoutt – Tortola – Danilo Perez Trio
Island Center – St. Croix – Omar Sosa with John Santos
Saturday, January 16th – 8:00 PM
Reichhold Center – St. Thomas – Danilo Perez Trio
H. Lavity Stoutt – Tortola – Omar Sosa with John Santos
Island Center – St. Croix – Mario Canonge
Sunday, January 17th – 8:00 PM*
Reichhold Center – St. Thomas – Omar Sosa with John Santos
* H. Lavity Stoutt – Tortola – Mario Canonge – 4:00 PM
Island Center – St. Croix – Danilo Perez Trio
Editor's Note: Renee Heider is the program manager for the Reichhold Center for the Arts

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