Aug. 12, 2004 – St. John jazz and blues impresario Steve Simon resolved earlier this year to dedicate more time and energy to his passion for performing as a jazz artist, and St. Croix audiences (along with others crossing the waters) will get three opportunities on Aug. 20 and 21 to see and hear the results.
The band he has put together Steve Simon and The Jazz Islanders will perform at the Aug. 20 Sunset Jazz in Frederiksted concert. The group will be back later that same night playing for a Sunset Jazz After Party at Pier 69. And on Aug. 21 it's booked for the Beachside Café Jazz Dinner Club at Sand Castle on the Beach.
"I trust that St. Croix will enjoy my music as much as I enjoy St. Croix," Simon says.
Simon and his band are being presented by the Frederiksted Economic Development Association, which is in its third year of producing the monthly open-air Sunset Jazz concerts.
"Steve has graciously agreed to do an entire weekend in Frederiksted," Sunset Jazz publicist Bridget Cox-Dawson says. "For those who have not yet come to Frederiksted to enjoy our monthly Sunset Jazz, this would definitely be a great weekend."
There's no admission, no cover, no minimum and no other mandatory cost to enjoy the music.
The Friday Sunset Jazz concert, as always, is a family affair, now running from 6 to 8 p.m., which is a new time. It will take place at Fort Frederik Beach Park, the series' temporary venue while Veterans Park, home to the concerts from the start, is undergoing renovations.
For the outdoor concert, as always, those attending are encouraged to take along folding chairs or blankets for seating. FEDA will have its drink concession going, with proceeds going to keep the concerts going, and Hispanos Unidos will be selling food to benefit its community causes.
Then, from 9:30 p.m. "until," the band will regroup at Pier 69 (and no one will be surprised if some Crucian jazz artists end up sitting in).
Cox-Dawson says the idea of the Sunset Jazz After Party is "to offer our concertgoers an opportunity to spend an entire evening with us in Frederiksted — make dinner reservations at one of the fine Frederiksted restaurants for after the concert, then join us after that at Pier 69." Reservations for the after party are encouraged; the number to call is 772-0069.
Reservations are definitely recommended for the Beachside Café on Saturday night. The music will go from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. To save some seats, call 772-1205.
According to Simon, after a year and a half of putting together concerts strictly on St. John he started producing jazz events on St. Croix last year mainly for two reasons:
First, "St. Croix has more jazz fans per square inch than anyplace else in the world … The St. Croix audiences are amazing, and every one of our performers has raved about them. You can feel the excitement in the air the moment you walk into any of the island's jazz spots."
And second, "All of us that live on St. John and St. Thomas have a responsibility and an obligation to bring some joy to our sister island. St. Croix is one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean and is home to some of the most wonderful people on Earth."
Although he plans to continue producing concerts on St. John and St. Croix (next season's lineup will be announced shortly), the coming weekend is about making music, himself.
"After my last concert this past season, I decided that I was going to dedicate more of my time and energy to performing," he says. "I had been playing in a jazz band on St. John every Sunday for the past four years, but I really wanted to have my own band."
He tapped four St. Thomas talents pianist/vocalist Sally Smith, saxophonist Joe Ramsay, bass player Cliff Finch and drummer Jeff Minnieweather and says the result is the partnership of his dreams come true.
"We all love jazz, we all love to perform and, most important, we all love to perform together," he says. "Each one of us acknowledges that we have been given a special gift, and each one of us is dedicated to sharing that gift."
Simon is an accomplished jazz clarinetist whose style has won international acclaim. His last CD, "If Only For One Night,"was recorded live with The Toronto City Orchestra. In his adopted home of the Virgin Islands he continues to perform live to standing-room only audiences.
Smith is a lounge performer who came up through New York's famed "Borscht Belt" before making St. Thomas her home. She has performed at most of Simon's "Jazz in the Moonlight" concerts over the last three years and is a featured artist on the award-winning CD "The Best of Jazz in the Moonlight – Volume 1" that was recorded live on St. John.
Ramsay's sweet sax sound has made him one of the most sought-after jazz musicians in the Virgin Islands. From New York to the Caribbean, he has performed with such legends as Natalie Cole, Roberta Flack and Cab Calloway. He's also featured on "The Best of Jazz in the Moonlight – Volume 1."
Finch, who has been part of the Virgin Islands music scene for many years, is known for his mellow mood and his mellifluous sound.
Minnieweather, who relocated to St. Thomas from Oregon, has toured with jazz groups throughout North America, Europe and Japan. And yes, he, too, appears on "The Best of Jazz in the Moonlight – Volume 1."
The weekend is not aimed exclusively at Crucians by any means. Sand Castle on the Beach has put together a getaway package and welcomes jazz lovers from neighboring islands to take in all three performances. For details, call 772-1205.
Simon makes a pretty good pitch for making the trip: "We have seen St. Thomians and St. Johnians at every one of our concerts on St. Croix, and I am sure we will see them on Aug. 20 and 21 also. It's so easy for them to come over the seaplanes run every half hour and the hotels have amazing deals. It's the perfect combination: easy to get to, inexpensive, great food and great jazz!"
WTJX-TV continues to record the live Sunset Jazz in Frederiksted concerts for airing on Saturday nights. And now WVIQ/Sunny 99.5 FM is onboard as the official radio voice of Sunset Jazz. According to Cox-Dawson, who ought to know, "Rumor has it that Kathleen McManus, Sunset Jazz emcee and popular WJKC and WVIQ radio personality, will be doing a live interview with Steve Simon in the week leading up to the big weekend."
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