Home Arts-Entertainment Things to do SOON-TO-BE SENATOR HEADLINES JAZZ VESPERS



Jan. 2, 2002 – For the first Jazz Vespers concert of the new year, guitarist Ronald Russell will be making his last appearance as a musical artist before taking his seat in the 25th Legislature. The program will feature some of his original compositions and his "family band" that includes brother Eddie and niece Diane.
The concert, this Sunday, begins at 5:30 p.m. at the St. Croix Reformed Church in Estate La Reine above the Kingshill Post Office.
The ensemble, which performed at the November "Sunset Jazz in Frederiksted" event as the Diane Russell Quintet, consists of Ron on guitar, Eddie on trumpet and flugelhorn, Diane on flute and family friends Lenny Larsen on bass and Bobby Richards on drums.
Ron Russell, a St. Croix attorney by day who will become a legislator next week, began teaching himself to play music at the age of 11 and was performing professionally by the time he was a student at Central High School. He majored in chemistry with a music minor at the then-College of the Virgin Islands, then transferred to Rutgers University, where he earned a second B.A. degree in music.
He returned to St. Croix to teach in the school system. He has been and continues to be a major factor in the development of many young people's musical careers. He was a major player in the advent of the musical ensemble Onyx and was co-founder of the groups Basic Design and Gemini II. At one point, he was opening for most of the major off-island acts that came through St. Croix.
Jazz horn-man Eddie Russell began playing professionally at age 15 and formed his first group, Eddie & The Playboys, in 1964 on St. Croix. He went on to earn his B.A. degree in music from City College of New York and his master's from Queens College.
He has studied and played trumpet and flugelhorn with top artists of Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean, including Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Garrison, James Moody, "The Mighty Sparrow" and Sam & Dave. He can be heard on Ron Carter's "Mr. Bow Tie" CD.
Flautist Diane Russell, Eddie's daughter, Ron's niece and also a St. Croix lawyer, says that no matter what the stresses of her day job, "I know I can always go home, pick up the flute, play a sonata, and feel all is right with the world."
Growing up on St. Croix, she studied music with Felipe Garcia for many years and attended Northeast Music Camp in Massachusetts. She double-majored in political science and Spanish at Wellesley College, then got her law degree from Georgetown University.
"I have always had a love affair with the flute," she says, citing memories that go back to the age of 4. "I remember how excited I was when I heard beautiful music coming out of what looked like a silver pipe. I was at my grandparents' home with all my relatives, during the Christmas season, when Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights came to serenade my grandmother, Edna Petersen. My grandfather, Pierpont Petersen, played guitar in the group.
"Stanley let me hold the flute, and I was hooked."
Bass player Larsen is a multi-talented instrumentalist and vocalist. He has played bass since 1975 but also is adept at guitar and piano and studied saxophone with jazz legend Jimmy Hamilton. He has performed with numerous groups including the Brothers Four, Onyx and Gemini II. His styles encompass straight-ahead jazz, jazz fusion and contemporary rhythm and blues.
Drummer Richards, like Larsen, grew up with Diane Russell. The three have been friends for most of their lives.
Jazz Vespers is a family-oriented opportunity to enjoy live jazz by accomplished local artists in a setting that is alcohol and smoke free. Concerts are held on the first Sunday of each month. It's open seating and there is no charge, although a freewill offering is taken to help defray costs. Everyone is invited to stay after the program for a reception with complimentary refreshments and an opportunity to meet the artists.
Coming up next on the 2003 Jazz Vespers calendar are programs featuring Claudette "Adjoa" Young-Hinds and Friends on Feb. 2, a guest artist to be announced on March 2, and Anysa with "The Billie Holiday Story" on April 6. To learn more, call Willard Fields at 719-3672 or Pastor Rod Koopmans at 778-0520, or e-mail to Jazz Vespers.

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