Monday, November 06, 2006

Jazz Vespers and More

On the first Sunday of every month at 5:30 p.m, the St. Croix Reformed Church hosts an event called Jazz Vespers. Talented local musicians play jazz for an hour and in between there is a short scripture reading and a simple prayer. It has become one of our favorite events on the island because it is a wonderful showcase for some of St. Croix's impressive musical talent. Last night's group, the V.I. Art Ensemble is a perfect example.

Freddie Williams, the founder, plays bass and has performed with the likes of Ornette Coleman. He has also completed a music textbook entitled "Our Heritage" for elementary school. Dimitry "Pikey" Copemann plays tenor saxophone and has performed with Mighty Duke and Lord Nelson. He is also an art teacher at a local elementary school. Afra Dailey plays drums, has toured with Grover Washington, Jr. and comes from Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, where the "Philly" sound originated. Rene Encarnacion plays the conga and has worked with Tito Puente. His son, Mark Encarnacion, plays some mean bongos and looks like he following in his dad's footsteps. And lastly Tony Richards plays the keyboards and is also the principal at Central High School here in St. Croix. And how do they sound? Wonderful. Their rendition of My Favorite Things, syncopated with congas and bongos, would have done John Coltrane proud.

When the performance ended, Bob and I left the church truly "jazzed up" and headed west to Frederiksted to the full moon beach party with Kurt Schindler. Despite a bout of laryngitis, Kurt had the place in full swing, and I was dancing with Kim and Adele about three minutes into our arrival. The moon was so lovely that I instigated a moon-howling session at the beach with Bob and our friends John and Larry. Things got even nuttier after that. When Kurt finished his performance, we went up the road to Sunset Grill for a late dinner, but we were still so hyper that Kim and I finally dashed off to a secluded corner of the beach and went skinny dipping. Although it was about 11 at night, the water was warm and so clear that we could see our feet in the water. We managed to come out of the water and dress before getting caught by our fellow diners, and only our sopping wet hair and our sandy clothes gave us away. I must point out that all this howling and skinny dipping was inspired by pure musical and full-moon euphoria, and not the two beers I had the entire evening. Alcohol flows freely at these fun parties, but the aftermath is not fun, so I've learned to enjoy everything else and keep the drinks to a minimum.

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