Aug. 12, 2003 – As the sun sets on the American Paradise Friday, this month's Sunset Jazz in Frederiksted concert will be presented by the band Paradise.
For Crucian jazz fans, it's a mostly "imported" ensemble, comprising three musicians from St. Thomas, one from the British Virgin Islands and one from St. Croix.
Okay, let's name names here:
Paradise is … Neil Simon of St. Croix on bass; Kamau Georges from Tortola on saxophone; and Vin Phillip on guitar, Lonette James on keyboards and Jeffrey Minnieweather on drums, all from St. Thomas.
Paradise plays contemporary jazz.
Bassist Neil Simon, who's from an ultra-musical St. Croix family, made the switch from guitar as a teenager at his father's prodding and began playing in Frederiksted's Seventh-day Adventist Church. At 18, he played his first jazz gig with local pianist Benjamin Jacobs-El. While studying at New York University, where he got his degree in architectural engineering, he performed for commercials and toured with Freddie Jackson and Billy Ocean. Back home on St. Croix since 1988, he has worked with trumpeter Duke Jones and can be heard on Duke's "Special Edition Collector's Album" and on the "Pier 69" CD.
Guitarist, composer and arranger Winston "Vin" Phillip got his first music lessons from his father and grandfather in Antigua, and by age 7 he was playing alongside them in clubs and roadhouses. At 15 he was studying with George Benson at the Jazz Mobile in New York by day and playing gigs in Greenwich Village at night. He has performed in concert with Elton John, Andre Crouch and the Ramsey Lewis Trio. Last fall with pianist Louis Taylor he opened the David Sanborn concert at the Reichhold Center on St. Thomas; the two have a CD out — "Pure and Personal."
Kamau Georges, 23, took up the sax when he entered high school in the B.V.I. A year later, he joined the school jazz ensemble. At 15 he took jazz classes at the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp in Michigan. After graduating with high honors, he spent a year as a teacher's assistant in music at his high school while focusing his studies on tenor sax. Majoring in production and audio engineering at Berklee College of Music in Boston, he worked with top jazz musicians including trumpeter Roy Hargrove and two St. Thomas sons, bassist Reuben Rogers and sax-man Ron Blake. Today he's the B.V.I. High School music department's saxophone specialist.
Pianist Lonette James got her early training in the piano lab at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School on St. Thomas. She get her B.A. in music education at the University of the Virgin Islands, where she played in the UVI Jazz Ensemble and sang gospel with By Faith. Today, she is in charge of the piano lab at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School and is working on a gospel album. She has been a member of Paradise for two years and says her most recent musical influences are Bob James, Bobby Lyle and Anointed.
No information was available on drummer Jeffrey Minnieweather.
Sponsored by the Frederiksted Economic Development Association, Sunset Jazz takes place the third Friday of each month. from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Veterans Park on the Frederiksted waterfront.
It's a family-oriented event and attendees are encouraged to bring folding chairs or blankets to sit on. They're also encouraged to stay in town afterward to enjoy dinner at a restaurant and/or some local nightlife.
The concerts are free. F.E.D.A. operates a cash bar with proceeds going to defray concert production expenses, and Hispanos Unidos sells food. to raise funds for community projects.
The next Sunset Jazz concert, on Sept. 19, will present St. Croix's Rhythmix ensemble. For more information, send an e-mail to Sunset Jazz, or call 719-3672.
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