Frederiksted, on St. Croix, largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, with a population under 55,000, was boldly shaken out its tranquility for the first Blue Bay Jazz Festival. Exuberant and freewheeling musicians from New Orleans, which the islanders feel embodies a collective spirit and artistry similar to their own, enacted the frivolity of Mardi Gras and JazzFest. In second-line fashion, the opening Trumpet Summit generated excitement, initially playing and marching through the audience. They congregated in the picturesque park-like shoreline area, bordered by boats, shops, restaurants and bars. Once onstage with the sunlight serenely fading away, brothers James “12” and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (featured playing mostly trombone the next day), Christian Scott and Marlon Jordan dynamically interacted in unison and for scorching solos.
In response, the normally laid-back crowd, with a small percentage of vacationing visitors, danced to the distinctive Crescent City rhythms. Traditional jazz and R&B were melded for the venerable classic “St. James Infirmary,” which showcased the Andrews brothers, playing and singing. Solidly backing them were supporting musicians, also from New Orleans. While playing the song, they competitively delivered high-flying solos and engaged in scatting, led by James, the older sibling. In contrast, Jordan and Scott, who showcased his own music and band the following night, coolly came together for a pulsating rendition of “Softly as in the Early Morning Sunrise.”