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Jazz on Tap: Neil Simon, Paradise and 'Blackness'

July 13, 2004 – July's Sunset Jazz in Frederiksted concert is this Friday, with St. Croix's own Neil Simon and Paradise Band doing the honors and Emogene "Blackness" Creese performing as guest vocalist.
This will be the third concert in the temporary Sunset Jazz setting, the Fort Frederik Beach Park, while renovations proceed at the series' home venue, Veterans Park.
It's a return date by popular demand for Crucian bassist Simon and his pan-Caribbean contemporary jazz combo, who last sent their sounds soaring into the sunset at the March concert.
Performing with Simon once again will be Winston "Vin" Phillip, a native Antiguan, on guitar; Kamau Georges, who hails from Tortola, on saxophone; St. Thomian Lonette James at the keyboards; and St. Thomas resident Jeff Minnieweather, an Oregonian by birth, on drums.
Bridget Cox-Dawson, Sunset Jazz publicist, says this week's event is a great opportunity for folks not familiar with the third-Friday-of-the-month concerts to give one a try.
Simon started out studying guitar but switched to bass as a teen-ager at his father's prodding. He played his first jazz gig with pianist Benjamin Jacobs-El at the age of 18. He has a degree in architectural engineering from New York University and while in New York did numerous commercials and toured with Freddie Jackson and Billy Ocean. After returning to St. Croix in 1988, he worked with trumpeter Duke Jones from Kid Creole & The Coconuts. He can be heard on Jones's "Special Edition Collector's Album" and on the "Pier 69" CD.
Phillip, a composer and arranger as well as a guitarist, got his first music lessons from his father and grandfather. By the age of 7, he was playing nightly alongside them in Antigua's clubs and roadhouses. At 15, he was studying with George Benson at the Jazz Mobile in New York by day and gigging in the Village by night. He has performed in concert with Elton John, Andre Crouch, the Ramsey Lewis Quartet and St. Thomas pianist Louis Taylor. His most recent CD, "Pure and Personal," is of duets with Taylor.
Saxophonist and music teacher Georges took up the sax when he entered British Virgin Islands High School, where he played in the junior and senior concert bands and the jazz ensemble. At 15 he studied at the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp in Michigan. After high school, he spent a year teaching, learning the rudiments of woodwind, brass and string instruments, and completing the Royal School of Music grade 8 examinations on tenor sax. Then it was off to Berklee College of Music, where he focused on music production and audio engineering.
James got her early formal training in the piano lab at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School on St. Thomas and pursued further studies at the University of the Virgin Islands, where she earned a degree in music education. She was a member of the UVI Jazz Ensemble and sang with By Faith. A commuting member of Paradise for two years, she also teaches and oversees the piano lab at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School on St. Thomas.
Minnieweather was born in Portland, Ore., where his early years were steeped in gospel music. While studying at Mount Hood Community College in Portland, he was one of the inaugural performers in the Mount Hood Jazz Festival, which is still going strong. In the 20 years since then, he has toured throughout North America, Europe and Japan backing a variety of jazz, blues, funk, R&B and gospel artists. On St. Thomas he continues to perform regularly.
Sunset Jazz concerts, which start at 5:30 p.m. and last for two hours, are free and open to the public, with families encouraged to attend. They're presented by the Frederiksted Economic Development Association, which operates a cash bar to help defray concert expenses, while the group Hispanos Unidos sells food. And a suggestion for those not in the know: Tote your own folding chairs or a blanket for seating comfort.
And coming up: The next concert, set for Aug. 20, will showcase the talents of Steve Simon & the Jazz Islanders. Simon, a St. John resident and clarinetist, has fans throughout the territory thanks to his presenting of numerous jazz and blues events on that island as well as St. Croix in the last couple of years.
For more information about the concert series, send an e-mail to Sunset Jazz, or call 277-7874.

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