Dec. 11, 2002 – Fans will get a double dose of Sunset Jazz in Frederiksted this month — a special anniversary edition this Friday plus the regular third-Friday-of-the-month concert on Dec. 20.
This week's performance is in celebration of the first anniversary of the open-air jazz series, which is sponsored by the Frederiksted Economic Development Association. According to promoters, "From the first concert on Dec. 14, 2001, with the Marcus Rabb Quartet through an amazing array of world-class, mostly St. Croix, talent, Sunset Jazz in Frederiksted has become one of the monthly events in the territory that concertgoers look forward to with great anticipation."
St. Croix's Rhythmix combo has been tapped to do the anniversary honors. That's Mario Thomas on bass, Alphonso "Scypio" Thomas on saxophone, Otto James on keyboards and Bobby Richards on drums — plus they'll be calling on some special guests. The concert will be a tribute to Theron "Nick" Nicholson, who died on Dec. 4. A retired U.S. Customs officer and ex-Marine, Nicholson was a lifelong jazz fan and a friend and mentor to many of the territory's jazz artists.
On Dec. 20, the St. Thomas band Paradise will be crossing the waters to perform. More information on that concert will be forthcoming soon.
Mario Thomas, who founded Rhythmix in 1990, took up the bass at the age of 10, his interest in music already honed from listening to his dad, Scypio Thomas, and his band practicing at their home. Mario formed his first group, Together Root, when he was in the ninth grade. He went on to study at the Military School of Music in Washington, D.C., and at Howard University, touring Africa with the Howard Jazz Septet. He has gigged with John Fadis, Louie Belson and Wynton Marsalis and was a mainstay in saxman Dave Yarborough's jazz band.
Scypio Thomas got his introduction to music at St. Patrick's School in a band that played for parish marches and processions. He started out playing coronet and trombone, until his friend Elmo James gave him a saxophone and told him to go home and practice. He did, and was soon sitting in on sax at jam sessions around the island. He formed the Vibratones and later played with Archie Thomas's band, filled in for Rudy Schulterbrandt while he was in New York, and was a member of Sonora Santa Cruz. He is now a mainstay of son Mario's band, Rhythmix.
Otto James counts his siblings and trumpeter Eric David among his early musical influences and fondly recalls the art of keg — making drums from a key and a goatskin. A fan of Latin music heard as a youngster on Puerto Rican radio stations, he went off to study at the Manhattan School of Music and to perform with top Latin bands in New York including Orchestra Tropicana. Returning home, he joined forces with Archie Thomas, Mario De Chabert, Mario Moorhead, The Vibratones and Rudy Schulterbrandt's band, where he played timbales.
Information on drummer Bobby Richards was not available.
Sunset Jazz concerts take place in Veterans Park on the Frederiksted waterfront, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Admission is free and families are more than welcome; they're wanted. The park's few benches are quickly claimed by early arrivals, so concertgoers are encouraged to take along folding chairs or blankets for seating on the grass. FEDA operates a cash bar and Hispano Unidos sells food at the events.
This Friday, entertainment on the waterfront will continue after the music ends and the sun sets, too, with performances by Ballet Folclorico de Santa Cruz and the folksinging group La Tuna de Hispanos Unidos.
And for those ready to pencil in dates on their 2003 calenders: The first Sunset Jazz event of the new year will showcase VI Art Ensemble, on Jan. 17.
For more information, call 719-3672 or e-mail to Sunset Jazz.
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