Jan. 21, 2006 — It's easy to tell Ron Blake and Reuben Rogers are old friends.
At a table on the deck at the Marriot Frenchman's Reef Friday morning, the two St. Thomian musicians, who are playing at the Reichhold Center for the Arts Saturday night, swapped tales about school.
"Did I ever tell you that story?" Rogers asked Blake between bites of goat water he picked up from Ashley's Restaurant near the airport. Rogers then launched into a long story about how he made first clarinet chair at Addelita Cancryn Jr. High in the early 1990s. Blake attended the same school in the 1980s. Both attended Charlotte Amalie High School, though Blake finished his high school career in Michigan.
Reuben and Rogers will play with Grammy-winner Diane Reeves Saturday night in a concert that will benefit the United Way of St. Thomas-St. John. Proceeds from the concert will benefit all 13 local United Way agencies. The concert is scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday at the Reichhold Center for the Arts.
Rogers plays bass in Reeve's band, and Blake, who plays saxophone, has recorded with Reeves. The idea for the United Way concert came from Roger's uncle, United Way President Raymond Green. Rogers asked Reeves to come to St. Thomas for the benefit concert, and Rogers said "I couldn't even finish the sentence and [Reeve's] said 'Whatever you need, I'll be there.'"
Blake said Diane Reeves is "at the top of her game," and she has won several Grammy awards for her work.
"It's an incredible opportunity we just couldn't pass up," Thyra Hammond, St. Thomas-St. John United Way executive director, said earlier this month.
Reeves has won Grammy Awards for Best Jazz Vocalist for each of her last three recordings, a first in any Grammy vocal category. She has performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and more. She is also featured in the recently-released movie "Good Night and Good Luck."
Rogers is a member of Reeve's touring group, and Rogers is working on his own solo career. Blake will join them on stage and play pieces from his recent solo album, "Sonic Tonic."
Rogers and Blake met in the early 1990s, when Blake, already a professional musician based in Florida, helped with a summer program at Charlotte Amalie High School.
"It really influenced me," Rogers said.
Both are now working in New York City, actively recording and touring, but they return to St. Thomas sometimes for friends and family. Blake's parents still live on St. Thomas, and Rogers has friends and relatives here as well. They're trying to visit people, but they're schedule this weekend is packed. Friday, they had two radio interviews, rehearsal, and were scheduled to speak to music classes at CAHS. Saturday will be filled with more rehearsal time and the concert.
Tickets for the event are currently available through the Reichhold Center for the Arts box office. For tickets, call 693-1559.
The event's sponsors are the West Indian Co. Ltd., VIGAS Insurance Services, Subway and Guardian Insurance. Hammond said a number of other businesses are offering services in-kind for the event.
United Way St. Thomas-St. John provides funds for community services on St Thomas. The organization supports the V.I. American Red Cross, V.I. Catholic Charities, V.I. Boy Scout Council, Civil Air Patrol, V.I. Institute for Teaching & Learning, Downstreet People's Youth In Action, Ebenezer Gardens, Yellow Cedar Group Home, Dial-A-Ride St. Thomas, Dial-A-Ride St. John, Legal Services, and two summer programs.
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