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Monday, December 11, 2023


Jan. 20, 2004 – Concert No. 2 in the new Choice Communications Jazz @ Coral World series brings Boston saxophonist Joel Press to St. Thomas this Friday.
Performing under the stars in the marine park amphitheater, he'll be backed by local jazz artists Sally Smith on piano, Winnie Phillip on guitar, Vince Wallace on bass and Curtis Griffin on drums.
Press's albums include "Mainstream Extensions" with his own quartet, The Evolutionary Jazz Ensemble; "Music from a Passionate Time" featuring improvised duets with cellist/vocalist Gwendolyn Watson; and "Live at Harvard," a straight-ahead collaboration with pianist Harvey Diamond. The "Passionate Time" release showcases Press's diversity of talents — spanning soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes, along with clarinets, flutes and electronics.
As youngster, Press started out studying violin but was entranced by Benny Goodman's clarinet work on "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise." He soon gravitated to the tenor saxophone after hearing Coleman Hawkins' rendition of "Body and Soul."
Coming of age in the era of Charlie "Bird" Parker, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane, St. Croix's own Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Lennie Tristano, Press did some time in Paris, where he bought a new sax to replace the second-hand one he'd been trying without success to tame.
He formed his own group, The Evolutionary Jazz Ensemble, which continues to present jazz history programs throughout New England. He was part of a group including Jimmy Garrison, bassist with the Coltrane Quartet, and vocalist Sheila Jordan that collaborated with writers in Harlem who read their poetry and prose to improv jazz accompaniment.
A Boston Globe reviewer hailed Press for his "solid techniques, rich sounds, imaginative improvisations and well-meshed interplay." Another critic credited his soprano sax work on "Yardbird Suite" with "building a linear melody that could burn a hole in one's socks." And a Patriot Ledger writer said he "evoked Sonny Rollins when he raced through an extended solo, playing so effortlessly it was easy to overlook the technical proficiency."
Friday's program begins at 7 p.m. at Coral World. Tickets are $15 general admission and $5 for students with I.D., with no advance sales. Part of the proceeds will benefit the Jazz Arts Virgin Islands Scholarship Fund. There will be food and drink available for purchase at the marine park.
In addition to Choice Communications, the sponsors of the St. Thomas concert are Cruzan Rum, Diane Russell, Elizabeth Jane's at American Yacht Harbor, Perfection at Coki Beach, Sapphire Beach Resort and Marina, and Virgin Islands Ear, Nose and Throat.
Press also will be performing a week later, on Jan. 31, at St. George Village Botanical Garden on St. Croix. There, he'll be joined by Otto James on piano, Mario Thomas on bass and C.J. Everett on drums. That program also is to begin at 7 p.m. And there, too, part of the proceeds from the $15 admission will go to the Jazz Arts Virgin Islands Scholarship Fund.
Meanwhile, next up for Jazz @ Coral World will be "The Trumpet Summit," featuring the Crucian brass artistry of Eddie Russell and Marcus Rabb, on Feb. 27. And closing out the series will be a performance by The Jeff Medina Group on March 26.
For more information, send an e-mail query to Jazz Arts V.I. or call Willard Fields at 775-1404.

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