Dec. 26, 2002 – The season's second free Jazz in the Moonlight concert on St. John, which takes place on Saturday at the Westin Resort, will be a reunion of top Afro-Cuban artists.
The "historic evening of Latin jazz reunites Cuban jazz greats Hilario Duran on piano and Ernesto Simpson on drums for the first time since they and [trumpeter] Arturo Sandoval left Havana," publicity states.
The concert is being presented by producer, recording artist and St. John resident Steve Simon and The Moonlight Foundation. It follows a November jazz event also presented by Simon and the foundation at the resort that featured St. Thomians Roan Creque on piano and Dion Parson on drums, and big bands veteran Bill Saxton on saxophone.
Another top Latin jazz musician, Roberto Occhipinti, the Grammy-nominated and Juno Award-winning bassist with Oscar Peterson, Jane Bunnett and the late Tito Puente, will be a featured artist. Special guests will include local musicians and others from New York.
The evening of Afro-Cuban jazz is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. under the tent near the beach at the resort. There's a dress code for the evening – "island fancy" – and a light a la carte menu and full beverage service will be available.
Duran, internationally acclaimed as one of the top Cuban jazz pianists, is now a Canadian citizen living in Toronto. During nine years he spent in a group led by Sandoval, he met and jammed with some of the greatest names in jazz, including Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, and Michel Legrand.
Jazz critic Robert Palmer has said that Duran is gifted with "what old-time barrelhouse and boogie players used to call 'a left hand like God' and a fertile harmonic and melodic imagination." Duran is, according to Palmer, "simply one hell of a modern jazz pianist."
Duran's own Web site states that he is ranked "as one of the most important contemporary Cuban pianists." Also a noted composer and arranger, he has performed at many of the world's most prestigious jazz festivals – including those of Montreux, Paris, Nice, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Chicago and Havana.
According to Internet biographical information, Simpson, from Camaguey, Cuba, spent a lot of time listening to V.S.O.P., Miles Davis's quintet with Tony Williams on drums, Ron Carter on bass, Freddie Hubbard on horn and Herbie Hancock on piano. He performs with guitarist Leo Quintero and bassist Nicky Orta as the Q.O.S. band – which takes its initials from the trio's last names.
Occhipinti, who is of Sicillian descent, also lives in Toronto. His Latin jazz album "Tinacria," released last year, features Duran on piano and includes compositions by such legends as Thelonius Monk and and Herbie Hancock as well as works by Duran ("Waiting for the Float," "Nueva Generacion") and Occhipinti himself ("El Negro" "Tinacria").
For jazz fans on St. Thomas, there's free transportation to Saturday's concert, too. Complimentary round-trip passenger ferry service will be provided from Red Hook to the St. John resort on the Westin ferry, courtesy of The Moonlight Foundation. The boat will depart Red Hook at 7:15 p.m. and leave the resort for the return trip at approximately 11 p.m. There's no reservation procedure; just show up at the dock, a concert spokeswoman said.

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