March 14, 2004 – Talent from four islands of the Caribbean combines to perform as Paradise, the band in the spotlight for Friday's Sunset Jazz in Frederiksted concert.
Led by Crucian bassist Neil Simon, the contemporary jazz group also includes Winston "Vin" Phillip of Antigua on guitar; Kamau Georges of Tortola on saxophone; St. Thomian Lonette James on piano; and Bobby Richards, also a Crucian, on drums.
Free Sunset Jazz concerts are held on the third Friday of each month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Veterans Park on the Frederiksted waterfront. The scheduling is timed to allow attendees to take in the equally free sunset — and makes the event suitable for families with young children. Those in the know bring folding chairs or blankets for comfortable seating on the grass.
The concerts are presented by the Frederiksted Economic Development Association, which operates a cash bar to help defray expenses. The community group Hispanos Unidos sells food to raise funds to support its programs.
FEDA also encourages those who come out for the concerts to stay in town afterward for dinner or some indulging in the local night life.
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 studied with George Benson at the Jazz Mobile in New York by day and gigged 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 Louis 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 the earned a B.A. in music education. She was a member of the UVI Jazz Ensemble and sang with By Faith. A member of Paradise for two years, she also teaches and oversees the piano lab at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School on St. Thomas.
Richards, a self-taught drummer/percussionist, began to develop his musical interest around age 5. In his teens, he, his brothers Ricky and Tony, and some of their friends started the Soul Busters band. The popular group later became Quiet Fire and released the well-received LP "Tropical Depression." Among the headliners Bobby has performed with are Jon Lucien, Jimmy Hamilton, Najee and Jimmy Owens.
Looking ahead to the next Sunset Jazz event, you can mark your calendar for Elvis Pedro on April 16.
For more information, send an e-mail to the Sunset Jazz, or call 772-0069 or 775-1404.
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