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IN FREDERIKSTED, ALL THAT JAZZ JUST INSPIRES MORE

April 23, 2004 – The third Friday of every month, jazz enthusiasts on St. Croix flock to the west end of the island to enjoy two hours of Sunset Jazz in Frederiksted, served up by many of the best musicians the Virgin Islands has to offer. Guitar, keyboard, saxophone, trumpet, bass, conga and drum sounds fill the air against the backdrop of the setting sun, bringing the week to a creative close.
Sunset Jazz, sponsored by the Frederiksted Economic Development Association, celebrated its second anniversary last December and had its most recent concert last Friday. And last Sunday, it was payback time.
More than 40 local musicians and singers were honored at the Evening of Appreciation FEDA hosted at Pier 69 Restaurant and Bar. They were treated to a buffet dinner, certificates of appreciation and door prizes for their participation in Sunset Jazz performances. And they got to enjoy some top-flight music from the audience as they were entertained by the visiting jazz group, "Smooth" Joe Johnson and his sextet, who had performed the night before at Island Center for the Performing Arts.
Sunset Jazz was born of a vision with a dual purpose — to provide performance opportunities for the wealth of local musical talent and to stimulate the struggling economy of businesses in Frederiksted town.
Unise Tranberg, FEDA treasurer and owner of Pier 69, recalled how it all came about:
"It was December of 2001. Governor Turnbull planned to host his annual Christmas party in Buddhoe Park. FEDA wanted to complement the event with a musical performance, and Sunset Jazz was born."
The event was immediately extended to once a month, Tranberg said. Local businesses helped defray the costs of paying the musicians and otherwise putting on the concerts. Shops and restaurants arranged to stay open late and offered specials to entice people to stay in Frederiksted after the concerts and enjoy dining, shopping and/or the nightlife of the town.
Rupert Ross, FEDA president, and Claire Roker, vice president, presented the certificates and gifts to the jazz artists. For residents and visitors alike, "you make Sunset Jazz such an amazing success," the musicians were told.
The appreciation event was the brainchild of FEDA's secretary, Bridget Cox-Dawson. "The musicians deserve this," she said. "With their help we have created the most positive, all-inclusive community event."
Cox-Dawson said area businesses were generous in donating the evening's door prizes. "We got donations of hotel stays, jewelry, dinners, luncheons and dive packages to give the artists. It was awesome!" she said.
Trumpeter Eddie Russell, who headlined the April 16 Sunset Jazz concert and also was showcased last month in a St. Thomas jazz series at Coral World, was singled out for two special recognitions.
– He was chosen by his peers to receive the first Mario de Chabert Music Appreciation Award. De Chabert, an accomplished jazz musician who died in 2001, was a co-founder of the two jazz festival events held on St. Croix in the 1990s. From now on, the award will be given annually on Feb. 28, de Chabert's birthday.
– Russell also received an appreciation award from his fellow musicians. Charles Farrell, retired vice president of Virgin Islands Community Bank, made the presentation.
The evident local pride and spirit were not lost on the visiting musicians. "I was impressed with the sense of community that is given so freely here," Johnson said. "We have never experienced this before anywhere we have been! "
And jazz being jazz, the local artists jammed with Johnson and his band when the ceremony was over.

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