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Blue Bay Festival Bringing New Orleans Jazz Greats to St. Croix

Oct. 22, 2007 — Thirteen years after Hurricane Marilyn blew away St. Croix's Jazz and Caribbean Music and Arts Festival, jazz is coming back to the big island in a big way next month with the new Blue Bay Jazz Fest.
The New Orleans-themed festival will feature several acclaimed performers, including veterans Donald Harrison Jr. and Henry Butler and young guns Christian Scott and Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews. It will take place Nov. 15 through 18, with opening events in Christiansted and main-stage performances in Frederiksted.
Other featured artists include Stephanie Jordan and the Jordan Family, Marlon Jordan, Kermit Ruffins, and James Andrews from New Orleans, and a number of local artists, including Rhythmix, Eddie Russell and the Quelbe Latin Jazz Band, Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights, and Don Moors.
"St. Croix was home to one of the first Caribbean jazz festivals," says Bridget Cox-Dawson, the new festival's executive producer. When Marilyn came through in 1994, she says, the original festival "took serious financial blows." The jazz musician behind it, Sunny Isle Shopping Center owner Mario de Chabert, had health problems and wasn't able to bring it back before his death in 2001.
But dedicated Crucian jazz fans have kept the music alive in other ways, most notably the Sunset Jazz series, offering live music for free one night a month. Cox-Dawson quotes St. John clarinet player Steve Simon as saying, "St. Croix has more jazz fans per square foot than any place on the earth." Cox-Dawson also serves on the board of directors of the Frederiksted Economic Development Association, which is sponsoring the new festival.
"It's been one of our goals since beginning Sunset Jazz in Frederiksted seven years ago," she says. "The goal has always been to resurrect the jazz festival on St. Croix."
The idea got a jump start a year ago in the form of a letter to Cox-Dawson from Carmello Rivera. "He said he was sitting at Sunset Jazz and had a vision," she says. "The vision was how wonderful it would be for us to host a New Orleans-themed jazz festival here."
The Blue Bay festival will kick off with a "Hugo to Katrina Benefit," a fund raiser to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, hosted by Gov. John deJongh Jr. at Government House in Christiansted. An after party at the Tutto Bene Cafe will feature music by a crew from New Orleans' famous jazz and blues radio station, WWOZ, which is sponsoring the festival and broadcasting live from it.
Cox-Dawson has worked to organize the festival throughout this year, along the way befriending a number of great New Orleans musicians — including legendary clarinet player Alvin Batiste, who died May 6.
"I went on what I refer to as a fact-finding mission, to see if we could get the interest of the music community of New Orleans to do such a thing," Cox-Dawson says. "I was totally embraced by the masters of jazz themselves. I was blessed to befriend Alvin Batiste — he always said that we were family in a prior life. He held such a position of status and respect within the industry, and you can't get any more New Orleans than Bat."
While Batiste offered plenty of help, in exchange he insisted that the Crucian festival cover a wide cross section of Crescent City music.
"Bat started saying, 'Oh no, oh no — if you're going to do this, you need to include true new Orleans flavor,'" Cox-Dawson says. That rich heritage includes Dixieland jazz, avant garde, modern, hip-hop jazz, funky jazz and straight-ahead traditional. Cox-Dawson also got input from Dwayne Brashears, program director at WWOZ.
"The next thing I know I've got a possible roster of artists that really took me back," Cox-Dawson says. "I kept wanting to pinch myself. I was totally astounded at how receptive all of them were to the idea."
More than the music and musicians struck Cox-Dawson. The atmosphere made her feel as if she were back home on St. Croix.
"There are so many similarities and commonalities between New Orleans and St. Croix," she says. "The infrastructure is so similar."
So similar, in fact, that when someone called her for a picture of the Frederiksted Strand, she accidentally emailed them a picture of St. Louis Street in New Orleans instead.
"The historical and cultural parallels between here and New Orleans are uncanny," Cox-Dawson says. "Even the cuisine has simliar ingredients — both creole and Cajun. The seasonings may be a little different, but the vibes within the cities are so similar. I believe with my whole heart that when all our visitors get here, and when all our New Orleans artists get here, they are just going to be astounded."


Donald Harrison Jr.

Alto sax player Donald Harrison Jr. probably won't be surprised. A smooth jazz performer billed as "the king of nouveau swing," he has noticed plenty of African and Caribbean connections to New Orleans in his quarter century as a performer.
"We have a big carnival — I think that's the strongest influence of African culture," Harrison says, speaking from his home in New Orleans during a recent phone interview. "You see the same thing in St. Croix. I know in New Orleans that influences all the music that we have here. And being a person who is actually in one of the tribes here in New Orleans, I really see the connection."
Like his father before him, who was big chief of four different Mardi Gras tribes, Harrison is a big chief who spends a lot of time every year "preparing tribes to meet other tribes and keeping the culture alive — all aspects of it," he says. Harrison felt a strong African connection to New Orleans when he performed in Guyana recently.
"I invited some traditional drummers from Guyana on stage with us, and I was dancing," he says. "The most interesting comment was people started saying, 'You're doing the same dances we have here.' One of the percussionists was playing the same rhythm we play here in New Orleans. We have the same thing going on in different parts of the world."
Harrison's father — "a great folk and blues singer" — got him started on alto sax.
"My father brought home an alto saxophone, completely unbeknownst to me," Harrison says. "He said, 'This is for you.' I was 10 years old. I figured I didn't like it, so I quit." But a hit record by Grover Washington Jr. rekindled his interest. "When I got to high school, my father said, 'You need to play that,'" Harrison says. "I guess he knew."
In the years since, Harrison has played with a number of jazz legends, joining Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers at 21. His band with Terence Blanchard helped drive a movement toward neo-traditional jazz. Though known primarily for smooth albums such as Nouveau Swing, Harrison defies easy categorization, also recording with an electric band and drawing on his family Mardi Gras heritage for the album Indian Blues.
His reach even extends to hip-hop. Harrison lived in Brooklyn during the 1990s, and while there he met a young rapper named Christopher George Latore Wallace — better known as the Notorious B.I.G., AKA Biggie Smalls. Before Biggie's rise to fame and violent death, Harrison served as a musical mentor.
"He was my neighbor, just like the rest of the young people," Harrison says. "I was able to teach him. The things I taught him he was able to put into practice — a lot of jazz and music principles. Ideas about telling stories with the music. They were already keepin' it real — I've always thought of hip-hop as the modern version of the blues, the folk perspective of telling stories from an everyday viewpoint, even if you don't agree with everything they're doing. Just to be able to te
ll a story and make someone see it. Enunciation, learning rhythms, using musical hooks — all those things that he was able to put into play."

Christian Scott

Harrison also served as a mentor to his nephew, Christian Scott, a 24-year-old trumpet player and rising star in the jazz world. Scott started playing with Harrison at age 14, and will probably join him onstage during the Blue Bay Jazz Fest. A "New Orleans Trumpet Summit" at 6 p.m. Nov. 16 will feature a rare joint appearance by Scott, Kermit Ruffins, James Andrews, Marlon Jordan and Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews.
But Scott has refused to be pigeonholed as a New Orleans player since leaving Harrison's group at age 21, and graduating from the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2004. Where Harrison specializes in smooth jazz, Scott plays more aggressive music featuring electric guitar by Matt Stevens, shot through with echoes of the classic Miles Davis fusion albums Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson.
"I listened to all types of music growing up," Scott says, speaking by phone from New York recently. "My grandfather played me a lot of Miles Davis. My mother was a big Prince fan, so I heard a lot of Prince growing up. I ended up playing with Prince recently — he's one of the warmest people I've ever had the pleasure of being around. He's like the greatest all-around American musician of the past century."
Like his uncle, Scott has also had an impact on hip-hop and modern soul music. He has performed on records by rapper Mos Def and singer Jill Scott, and recently collaborated with pianist David Benoit on some of the classic songs written by pianist Vince Guaraldi in the 1960s to score Charlie Brown and Peanuts television specials. For his latest album, Anthem, an homage to post-Katrina New Orleans, Scott brought in rapper Brother J from X-Clan.
"Was it genocide by drowning or homicide by clowning with time?" Brother J raps.
For a detailed schedule and more information about the Blue Bay Jazz Fest, call the Frederiksted Economic Development Association at 340-773-3332, email Bridget Cox-Dawson, or visit frederiksted.org or the festival's MySpace page.
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Oct. 22, 2007 -- Thirteen years after Hurricane Marilyn blew away St. Croix's Jazz and Caribbean Music and Arts Festival, jazz is coming back to the big island in a big way next month with the new Blue Bay Jazz Fest.
The New Orleans-themed festival will feature several acclaimed performers, including veterans Donald Harrison Jr. and Henry Butler and young guns Christian Scott and Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews. It will take place Nov. 15 through 18, with opening events in Christiansted and main-stage performances in Frederiksted.
Other featured artists include Stephanie Jordan and the Jordan Family, Marlon Jordan, Kermit Ruffins, and James Andrews from New Orleans, and a number of local artists, including Rhythmix, Eddie Russell and the Quelbe Latin Jazz Band, Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights, and Don Moors.
"St. Croix was home to one of the first Caribbean jazz festivals," says Bridget Cox-Dawson, the new festival's executive producer. When Marilyn came through in 1994, she says, the original festival "took serious financial blows." The jazz musician behind it, Sunny Isle Shopping Center owner Mario de Chabert, had health problems and wasn't able to bring it back before his death in 2001.
But dedicated Crucian jazz fans have kept the music alive in other ways, most notably the Sunset Jazz series, offering live music for free one night a month. Cox-Dawson quotes St. John clarinet player Steve Simon as saying, "St. Croix has more jazz fans per square foot than any place on the earth." Cox-Dawson also serves on the board of directors of the Frederiksted Economic Development Association, which is sponsoring the new festival.
"It's been one of our goals since beginning Sunset Jazz in Frederiksted seven years ago," she says. "The goal has always been to resurrect the jazz festival on St. Croix."
The idea got a jump start a year ago in the form of a letter to Cox-Dawson from Carmello Rivera. "He said he was sitting at Sunset Jazz and had a vision," she says. "The vision was how wonderful it would be for us to host a New Orleans-themed jazz festival here."
The Blue Bay festival will kick off with a "Hugo to Katrina Benefit," a fund raiser to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, hosted by Gov. John deJongh Jr. at Government House in Christiansted. An after party at the Tutto Bene Cafe will feature music by a crew from New Orleans' famous jazz and blues radio station, WWOZ, which is sponsoring the festival and broadcasting live from it.
Cox-Dawson has worked to organize the festival throughout this year, along the way befriending a number of great New Orleans musicians -- including legendary clarinet player Alvin Batiste, who died May 6.
"I went on what I refer to as a fact-finding mission, to see if we could get the interest of the music community of New Orleans to do such a thing," Cox-Dawson says. "I was totally embraced by the masters of jazz themselves. I was blessed to befriend Alvin Batiste -- he always said that we were family in a prior life. He held such a position of status and respect within the industry, and you can't get any more New Orleans than Bat."
While Batiste offered plenty of help, in exchange he insisted that the Crucian festival cover a wide cross section of Crescent City music.
"Bat started saying, 'Oh no, oh no -- if you're going to do this, you need to include true new Orleans flavor,'" Cox-Dawson says. That rich heritage includes Dixieland jazz, avant garde, modern, hip-hop jazz, funky jazz and straight-ahead traditional. Cox-Dawson also got input from Dwayne Brashears, program director at WWOZ.
"The next thing I know I've got a possible roster of artists that really took me back," Cox-Dawson says. "I kept wanting to pinch myself. I was totally astounded at how receptive all of them were to the idea."
More than the music and musicians struck Cox-Dawson. The atmosphere made her feel as if she were back home on St. Croix.
"There are so many similarities and commonalities between New Orleans and St. Croix," she says. "The infrastructure is so similar."
So similar, in fact, that when someone called her for a picture of the Frederiksted Strand, she accidentally emailed them a picture of St. Louis Street in New Orleans instead.
"The historical and cultural parallels between here and New Orleans are uncanny," Cox-Dawson says. "Even the cuisine has simliar ingredients -- both creole and Cajun. The seasonings may be a little different, but the vibes within the cities are so similar. I believe with my whole heart that when all our visitors get here, and when all our New Orleans artists get here, they are just going to be astounded."

Donald Harrison Jr.

Alto sax player Donald Harrison Jr. probably won't be surprised. A smooth jazz performer billed as "the king of nouveau swing," he has noticed plenty of African and Caribbean connections to New Orleans in his quarter century as a performer.
"We have a big carnival -- I think that's the strongest influence of African culture," Harrison says, speaking from his home in New Orleans during a recent phone interview. "You see the same thing in St. Croix. I know in New Orleans that influences all the music that we have here. And being a person who is actually in one of the tribes here in New Orleans, I really see the connection."
Like his father before him, who was big chief of four different Mardi Gras tribes, Harrison is a big chief who spends a lot of time every year "preparing tribes to meet other tribes and keeping the culture alive -- all aspects of it," he says. Harrison felt a strong African connection to New Orleans when he performed in Guyana recently.
"I invited some traditional drummers from Guyana on stage with us, and I was dancing," he says. "The most interesting comment was people started saying, 'You're doing the same dances we have here.' One of the percussionists was playing the same rhythm we play here in New Orleans. We have the same thing going on in different parts of the world."
Harrison's father -- "a great folk and blues singer" -- got him started on alto sax.
"My father brought home an alto saxophone, completely unbeknownst to me," Harrison says. "He said, 'This is for you.' I was 10 years old. I figured I didn't like it, so I quit." But a hit record by Grover Washington Jr. rekindled his interest. "When I got to high school, my father said, 'You need to play that,'" Harrison says. "I guess he knew."
In the years since, Harrison has played with a number of jazz legends, joining Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers at 21. His band with Terence Blanchard helped drive a movement toward neo-traditional jazz. Though known primarily for smooth albums such as Nouveau Swing, Harrison defies easy categorization, also recording with an electric band and drawing on his family Mardi Gras heritage for the album Indian Blues.
His reach even extends to hip-hop. Harrison lived in Brooklyn during the 1990s, and while there he met a young rapper named Christopher George Latore Wallace -- better known as the Notorious B.I.G., AKA Biggie Smalls. Before Biggie's rise to fame and violent death, Harrison served as a musical mentor.
"He was my neighbor, just like the rest of the young people," Harrison says. "I was able to teach him. The things I taught him he was able to put into practice -- a lot of jazz and music principles. Ideas about telling stories with the music. They were already keepin' it real -- I've always thought of hip-hop as the modern version of the blues, the folk perspective of telling stories from an everyday viewpoint, even if you don't agree with everything they're doing. Just to be able to te ll a story and make someone see it. Enunciation, learning rhythms, using musical hooks -- all those things that he was able to put into play."

Christian Scott

Harrison also served as a mentor to his nephew, Christian Scott, a 24-year-old trumpet player and rising star in the jazz world. Scott started playing with Harrison at age 14, and will probably join him onstage during the Blue Bay Jazz Fest. A "New Orleans Trumpet Summit" at 6 p.m. Nov. 16 will feature a rare joint appearance by Scott, Kermit Ruffins, James Andrews, Marlon Jordan and Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews.
But Scott has refused to be pigeonholed as a New Orleans player since leaving Harrison's group at age 21, and graduating from the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2004. Where Harrison specializes in smooth jazz, Scott plays more aggressive music featuring electric guitar by Matt Stevens, shot through with echoes of the classic Miles Davis fusion albums Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson.
"I listened to all types of music growing up," Scott says, speaking by phone from New York recently. "My grandfather played me a lot of Miles Davis. My mother was a big Prince fan, so I heard a lot of Prince growing up. I ended up playing with Prince recently -- he's one of the warmest people I've ever had the pleasure of being around. He's like the greatest all-around American musician of the past century."
Like his uncle, Scott has also had an impact on hip-hop and modern soul music. He has performed on records by rapper Mos Def and singer Jill Scott, and recently collaborated with pianist David Benoit on some of the classic songs written by pianist Vince Guaraldi in the 1960s to score Charlie Brown and Peanuts television specials. For his latest album, Anthem, an homage to post-Katrina New Orleans, Scott brought in rapper Brother J from X-Clan.
"Was it genocide by drowning or homicide by clowning with time?" Brother J raps.
For a detailed schedule and more information about the Blue Bay Jazz Fest, call the Frederiksted Economic Development Association at 340-773-3332, email Bridget Cox-Dawson, or visit frederiksted.org or the festival's MySpace page.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.