This year, in celebration of friendship and good music, a group of jazz musicians that played together regularly from 2000 to 2009 will reunite for one night only on St. John, and everyone is invited.
Steve Simon and the Jazz Islanders will perform in a benefit concert for the St. John School of the Arts at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 24, at the school. Doors will open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25, and 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of tickets and drinks will go to the school to support arts education programs. There will be a cash bar.
Simon, who moved away from St. John in 2009, was known for bringing together some of the best jazz musicians on St. Thomas and St. John for Sunday afternoon jazz jams at the Beach Bar in Cruz Bay.
The owners of the Beach Bar were dubious when Simon first pitched the idea almost two decades ago. “They said Sunday [was their] slowest day. Most of the musicians were professionals and already had regular gigs on Friday and Saturday nights, so it was their only chance to get together on a weekend.”
To convince the owners of the Beach Bar that there was an audience for jazz on St. John, Simon offered for the band to play for free for a month. It soon became a wildly popular weekly attraction.
Many of the musicians who played there will be performing at Beach Bar on Friday, Nov. 23, including Roan Creque on piano, Dion Parsons on drums, Cliff Finch on bass, Joe Ramsey on saxophone and Abou Springette on percussion. Sherman Williams, a young rising star on saxophone, will be playing with the Jazz Islanders although he was only a kid when the band last played 10 years ago.
Also joining the Jazz Islanders for the benefit performance are guest artists Louis Taylor on piano and Marty Beecher on vocals.
“It’s so joyful for me to come back to visit the islands I love and put together the Jazz Islanders again,” said Simon. “I’m excited, honored, humbled and thrilled.”
Asked to describe their style of jazz, Simon said, “It’s a sound that combines the funkiness of George Benson, the soulfulness of Ray Charles, the smoothness of Diana Krall — all wrapped up together in Count Basie-style arrangements of American and Latin jazz classics.”
Simon said the concert is planned in honor of the memory of Ruth “Sis” Frank, a co-founder of the St. John School of the Arts and a supporter of the Jazz Islanders from its earliest days.
In the 25 years that Simon lived on St. John, he launched the annual St. John Blues Festival and the Jazz in the Moonlight concert series. After moving to Charleston, South Carolina, in 2009, he formed another band, Steve Simon and the Kings of Jazz. But he says he can’t wait to return to St. John for a ten-day visit and the reunion of “the hottest jazz band on the coolest island.”
To purchase tickets, call 779-4322 or go to www.stjohnschoolofthearts.org/special-event