Home Arts-Entertainment Things to do 21ST CENTURY: JAZZ WITH CARIBBEAN SEASONING



When St. Thomas sons and now successful New York musicians Ron Blake and Dion Parson formed their own band a couple of years ago, they picked a name with staying power: 21st Century. And they undertook its creation with the idea of promoting a kind of music that is almost certain to grow in popularity in the next hundred years — an integration of straight-ahead jazz with the calypso, reggae, soca and even scratch band rhythms of the Caribbean.
For Parson and Blake, this music comes comfortably, reflecting the roots of their Caribbean culture. ("We wanted to celebrate the richness of the Caribbean music as a vehicle for improvisation," Blake says.) Their first CD, titled simply "21st Century," and a couple of appearances the band has made on St. Thomas are impressive evidence that they're on to something. On Wednesday, Dec. 29, they get the opportunity to bring it all home again when the New York-based group performs at the Reichhold Center for the Arts.
Saxophonist Blake and drummer Parson have invited another St. Thomian making a name for himself internationally as a jazz musician, bassist Reuben Rogers, to play with the band for this gig — and on St. Croix at Island Center the night before and back there again on New Year's Eve for a private party hosted by Jeffrey Prosser.
The rest of the band for the Virgin Islands tour consists of James Weidman on piano, Alan Burroughs on guitar and Robert Thomas Jr. on percussion. Joining the off-islanders as special guests on the Reichhold stage will be jazz chanteuse Cynthia Saunders, a regular vocalist with the Louis Taylor Trio; and the Caribbean Chorale Youth Choir under the direction of Lois Hassel- Habteyes.
The program is bound to include a number of tracks from the CD, which features as guest artist saxophonist Gary Bartz, who met Blake and Parson in 1987 when he was a headliner at the Premier Virgin Islands Jazz Festival and the St. Thomians were college students sitting in on every gig at the fest that they could.
The album includes three original compositions by Parson ("Down de Road," "21st Century" and "D's Blues") and three others by Blake ("Avocado," "The Appointment" and "Grace-Ann"). The audience can also look forward to some previews of music on the band's second CD, "A Promise to the Future," recently recorded but not scheduled for release until next fall.
Concert time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in the covered section and $18 and $12 in the open air. For ticket outlets, charge-card purchases and more information, call the Reichhold box office at 693-1559.


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