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Thursday, December 7, 2023


Jan. 21, 2004 – Boston saxophonist Joel Press will be performing at St. George Village Botanical Garden on Jan. 31 in a concert to benefit the Jazz Arts Virgin Islands Scholarship Fund.
He'll be backed by St. Croix artists Otto James on piano, Mario Thomas on bass and C.J. Everett 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."
Press also will do a Choice Communications Jazz @ Coral World concert Friday, Jan. 23, on St. Thomas, with part of the proceeds also to benefit the Jazz Arts Virgin Islands Scholarship Fund. There he'll be playing with local artists Sally Smith on piano, Winnie Phillip on guitar, Vince Wallace on bass and Curtis Griffin on druma.
For more information, send an e-mail query to Jazz Arts V.I. or call Willard Fields at 775-1404.

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