Wynton’s Blog

The community welcomes and embraces the movement for better music education and quality performance

We arrived in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands shortly before 9 in the morning. Having left the hotel at 6 am for what had to be the shortest flight In the world, 17 minutes, I’m going on about 2 hours sleep. We are here to play for the United Jazz Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by the great drummer, humanist and jazz ambassador from St. Thomas, Dion Parson and master architectural and civil engineer, Vietnam veteran and charter member of the spiritual aristocracy of the world, Roan Creque, with their own funds. JALC and the United Jazz Foundation has a very healthy educational partnership that is yielding wonderful fruit, young people who can play and understand the greater value of this music. They met us at the airport and we got down to it.

The island is lush and hilly. The roads sweep up and down making driving an intimate experience. I riding with Darryl Lewis Sr., father of 7 and grandfather of 13, and it seems like he knows everyone on this island from the pizza man to the senator.

According to Roan, the U.S. bought these islands from the Danes in 1917 to protect the Panama Canal. It is American but the culture remains English, Spanish, Free Gut and Sierra Leonean. Every island in the Caribbean has a dialect that was designed to disguise intentions. The architecture and feeling is so close to New Orleans (which is often called the northern capital of the Caribbean), I feel completely at home – we all do. Hospitality is on the general menu.

Marcus Printup leaves the airport and goes straight to a workshop at E. Benjamin Oliver Middle School to teach. Today however, he is joining his wife Riza. Here is his description: “I’ve seen my wife teach Webop at JALC and with the Harlem Children Zone in New York City. She has an incomparable drive, determination and love for the kids. Fate has made it that we are both in St. Thomas at the same time. She is here conducting a series of “Jazz for Young People” concerts with Dion. The physical appearances of these schools are quite meager but the attentiveness and openness for instruction is second to none.

Thank God for organizations like the United Jazz Foundation and the many supporters of education that bring jazz to communities that usually are left out of the equation. Thank God also for the dedicated teachers who have a true passion for planting the seeds of interest in continuing the art of jazz in our young people.”

Here are some words from Riza: “Working with the children here in the US Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. John & St. Croix) has been one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve had. I am moved by their openness, warmth and excitement to swing. Dion and Nicole Parson and the United Jazz Foundation are absolutely dedicated to bringing jazz to the islands and their efforts to elevate the youth are effective and inspirational. They are great to work with. Dion told me, ‘It’s great to see community come together. Everybody is connected. The community welcomes and embraces the movement for better music education and quality performance.’”

The evening performance was in the Reichhold Center for the Arts, an indoor/outdoor venue that was both intimate and spacious. The reception was extremely warm and participatory. The Virgin Islands Youth Orchestra played at the entrance of the venue and brought the type of energy and optimism that youth who are engaged in meaningful things always bring. They were well dressed, enthusiastic and excellent, and that youthful exuberance in the house connected generations and inspired us to play even better.

There were many musical highlights but some audience favorites were Sherman’s patient molasses drenched reading of ‘Big Fat Alice’s Blues’, Greg Gisbert’s solo on ‘Straight Up and Down’ and Vincent, Ted and Chris’ playing and singing on ‘Moody’s Mood forWe arrived in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands shortly before 9 in the morning. Having left the hotel at 6 am for what had to be the shortest flight In the world, 17 minutes, I’m going on about 2 hours sleep. We are here to play for the United Jazz Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by the great drummer, humanist and jazz ambassador from St. Thomas, Dion Parson and master architectural and civil engineer, Vietnam veteran and charter member of the spiritual aristocracy of the world, Roan Creque, with their own funds. JALC and the United Jazz Foundation has a very healthy educational partnership that is yielding wonderful fruit, young people who can play and understand the greater value of this music. They met us at the airport and we got down to it.

The island is lush and hilly. The roads sweep up and down making driving an intimate experience. I riding with Darryl Lewis Sr., father of 7 and grandfather of 13, and it seems like he knows everyone on this island from the pizza man to the senator.

According to Roan, the U.S. bought these islands from the Danes in 1917 to protect the Panama Canal. It is American but the culture remains English, Spanish, Free Gut and Sierra Leonean. Every island in the Caribbean has a dialect that was designed to disguise intentions. The architecture and feeling is so close to New Orleans (which is often called the northern capital of the Caribbean), I feel completely at home – we all do. Hospitality is on the general menu.

Marcus Printup leaves the airport and goes straight to a workshop at E. Benjamin Oliver Middle School to teach. Today however, he is joining his wife Riza. Here is his description: “I’ve seen my wife teach Webop at JALC and with the Harlem Children Zone in New York City. She has an incomparable drive, determination and love for the kids. Fate has made it that we are both in St. Thomas at the same time. She is here conducting a series of “Jazz for Young People” concerts with Dion. The physical appearances of these schools are quite meager but the attentiveness and openness for instruction is second to none.

Thank God for organizations like the United Jazz Foundation and the many supporters of education that bring jazz to communities that usually are left out of the equation. Thank God also for the dedicated teachers who have a true passion for planting the seeds of interest in continuing the art of jazz in our young people.”

Here are some words from Riza: “Working with the children here in the US Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. John & St. Croix) has been one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve had. I am moved by their openness, warmth and excitement to swing. Dion and Nicole Parson and the United Jazz Foundation are absolutely dedicated to bringing jazz to the islands and their efforts to elevate the youth are effective and inspirational. They are great to work with. Dion told me, ‘It’s great to see community come together. Everybody is connected. The community welcomes and embraces the movement for better music education and quality performance.’”

The evening performance was in the Reichhold Center for the Arts, an indoor/outdoor venue that was both intimate and spacious. The reception was extremely warm and participatory. The Virgin Islands Youth Orchestra played at the entrance of the venue and brought the type of energy and optimism that youth who are engaged in meaningful things always bring. They were well dressed, enthusiastic and excellent, and that youthful exuberance in the house connected generations and inspired us to play even better.

There were many musical highlights but some audience favorites were Sherman’s patient molasses drenched reading of ‘Big Fat Alice’s Blues’, Greg Gisbert’s solo on ‘Straight Up and Down’ and Vincent, Ted and Chris’ playing and singing on ‘Moody’s Mood for Love’. We ended with Dion coming up to play. He introduced steel pan wizard Victor Provost and we grooved on home to a second line beat with Victor’s ‘Down on the Bayou’. The festive street beat with Mr. Provost’s individualistic and soulful singing pans provided the proper spirit of place, we were swinging in the Caribbean. It was a fitting end to a great day.

The next day I got a haircut at Ron’s Barbershop, definitely downhome. There I met the great Oscar ‘Chips’ Rawlins who told me, “Our home is your home and I get to hear you every Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning.” Well, Chips didn’t know when I met him that Darryl was driving around playing a CD of them singing lead vocals on songs like ‘I Did it My Way’ and ‘Always and Forever’ and ‘Write a Letter’ to various types of orchestral karaoke accompaniment. Darryl was in tune, but Chips? Look out.

Love’. We ended with Dion coming up to play. He introduced steel pan wizard Victor Provost and we grooved on home to a second line beat with Victor’s ‘Down on the Bayou’. The festive street beat with Mr. Provost’s individualistic and soulful singing pans provided the proper spirit of place, we were swinging in the Caribbean. It was a fitting end to a great day.

The next day I got a haircut at Ron’s Barbershop, definitely downhome. There I met the great Oscar ‘Chips’ Rawlins who told me, “Our home is your home and I get to hear you every Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning.” Well, Chips didn’t know when I met him that Darryl was driving around playing a CD of them singing lead vocals on songs like ‘I Did it My Way’ and ‘Always and Forever’ and ‘Write a Letter’ to various types of orchestral karaoke accompaniment. Darryl was in tune, but Chips? Look out.

Wynton

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  1. Hello Wynton.
    Looks like little “copy paste” errors in the text.
    Cheers
    Thierry

    Thierry Noufele on Mar 9th, 2015 at 1:19am