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Monday, July 15, 2024


April 27, 2002 – In the groove for May's Jazz Vespers concert is The Dave McKean Quartet — McKean on drums, Mario Thomas on bass, Otto James on piano and Marcus Rabb on trumpet.
The May 5 concert at the St. Croix Reformed Church has as its theme "It's About Time."
Now that might be a matter of wondering why the four haven't been featured at Jazz Vespers — which is still in its first season — before. But more likely, it could mean you'll be hearing such titles as "Time After Time," "Next Time I See You," "This Time," "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," "Time on My Hands," "Now Is the Time," "It's About That Time" and, naturally, "It's About Time."
Or maybe such timely classics as "Sunrise, Sunset," "Manha de Carnaval" (Carnival Morning), "Day In, Day Out," "Night and Day," "A Night in Tunisia," "'Round About Midnight," "Yesternow," "Out of the Past," "The Way You Look Tonight" and "After You've Gone."
However — and drummers and those knowledgeable about their craft must be scratching their heads by now — it's none of the above.
"Actually 'It's About Time' refers to what a drummer's head is all about," Willard Fields, publicity point person for the jazz concert series, explains. "It's about keeping time — it's about time."
Jazz Vespers is a family-oriented program held on the first Sunday of each month in an alcohol-free, smoke-free environment at just the right time to enjoy spectacular sunset views. The music begins at 5:30 p.m. There's no admission charge but a freewill offering is taken. After the concert, refreshments are served and there's an opportunity to talk with the evening's artists.
Drummer McKean was playing professionally by age 15. He attended the Army Navy School of Music in Norfolk, Virginia, and played with the Army band in the state of Washington for two years. He toured with Forecast and Suite 7 and worked at LA Golden West Studio producing music tracks for commercials. He has worked with Hank Crawford, was house drummer at Jimmy Smith's club in Los Angeles, and taught percussion in the Tacoma Symphony Youth Development Program. He came to St. Croix in 1994 for a jazz festival and a few days later was gigging with the St. Thomas All Stars at Pier 69. He joined Rhythmix a year later and also is a mainstay of VI Art Ensemble.
Mario Thomas took up playing the bass at 10 years of age, his interest piqued by listening to his dad, Scypio Thomas, and his band practicing at their home. As a youngster, he played whatever was popular on the radio — calypso, reggae, blues, rock and more. In the 9th grade, he formed his first group, Together Root. He studied at the Military School of Music in Washington, D.C., and at Howard University; he toured Africa as a member of the Howard University Jazz Septet. He has worked with Jon Faddis, Louie Belson and Wynton Marsalis and was a mainstay in saxman Dave Yarborough's band. In 1990, he formed the St. Croix band Rhythmix.
Pianist Otto James counts his brothers and sisters and trumpeter Eric Davis among his early musical influences and recalls the excitement of listening to Latin music on Puerto Rican radio stations as a youngster. He has fond memories of keg — the art of making drums from a key and goatskin. He went on to study at the Manhattan School of Music and to perform with some of the top Latin bands in New York including Orchestra Tropicana. Upon his return to St. Croix, he immersed himself in the local music scene, working with Archie Thomas, Mario De Chabert, Mario Moorhead, The Vibratones and Rudy Schulterbrandt's band, where he played timbales.
Marcus Rabb began studying piano and trumpet as a child in Baltimore. In high school he played trumpet in local jazz bands. Attending Howard University on full scholarship, he gained exposure to various kinds of music and began his career as a composer as well as performer. He earned his master of music degree from Howard and won a fellowship which allowed him to study chamber music at the American Conservatory of Music in Fontainebleau, France.. He has preformed with Wynton Marsalis, Milt Jackson and Joe Henderson. A St. Croix resident since 1997, he teaches music privately and at Evelyn M. Williams Elementary School.
This first Jazz Vespers season will conclude with the June concert, featuring trumpeter Stan Joines. After a break in July, the second season will get under way on Aug. 4 with a program headlined by flutist Dianne Russell. Next up will be "Marcus Rabb with Strings" on Sept. 1 and pianist Otto James on Oct. 6.
The St. Croix Reformed Church is located in Estate La Reine on the hill above the Kingshill post office. For more information call Willard Fields at 719-3672 or Pastor Rod Koopmans at 778-0520 or e-mail to Jazz Vespers.

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