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An In-Depth Look At The Funky Side Of Jam Cruise 14 [Photos/Review]

Jam Cruise is a veritable smorgasbord of music, culture, food, costume, people and energy. A concept once native to the Crescent City, today it floats on the MSC Divina, and is descended upon from the four corners of the globe, In 2016, this was no different, as after-dark voodoo madness and a roster drenched in NOLA-funk infused an authentic vibe to the fantastic Jam Cruise 14 voyage.

Those who have been to Jam Cruise know that it’s extremely difficult to settle on what shows to see. Head-to-head, there is simply too much incredible music and rare treats to indulge in over the course of five days and nights. Therefore, there will be plenty of fantastic music NOT featured in this high-seas funky highlight reel. I’m covering a handful of my personal favorites each day, and naturally I chased my preferred players around the ship as best I could. Much of this article’s content is admittedly on the funkadelia tip. Somebody could write two more complete festival reviews about all the amazing music and collaborations that I missed. This is simply one boy’s adventure into the funky frenzy of this musical Mecca, and the theme is Gratitude. We are indeed so very blessed to Jam Cruise.

One of the more uniquely amazing aspects of Jam Cruise is the participation of the cruisers. I am not just talking about dancing, raging or imbibing. There are a plethora of avenues through which cruisers can get involved in the experience, be it elaborate cabin door and hall decorating, or dressing up in character for the various theme nights. You may enjoy a live music set from the comfort of a hot tub. How about sampling a variety of goodies through the Brews-at-Sea and Chef’s-at-Sea programs? Or sprawling out on the Pool Deck for Yoga practice with a live soundtrack? Or getting married in a Jam Cruise wedding, Ivan Neville’s Poker tournament (shout out to the victorious Heath Kearns)… and the list goes on. It really exists like a summer camp of sorts, for grown-up children, and, though some activities may appear cheesy from afar, once you surrender to the flow- and get up, get into it, and get involved-  it is a special, one-of-a-kind endeavor.

Day One

This writer started things off in a soulful style as Nigel Hall delivered an impassioned set of music in the bedazzled Atrium. Cruisers crowded the three-story makeshift venue that could be mistaken as a stairway to heaven, as the boat took off into the Atlantic Ocean. Hall mesmerized us with a few originals from his recently released masterpiece Ladies and Gentlemen, as he sang his heart out and tickled the ivories, all the while channeling the likes of Donny Hathaway and Sam Cooke. Assisted by Ryan Zoidis on saxophone and Eric Benny Bloom on trumpet, Hall absolutely captivated. After a gorgeous set, HCIC Julie McCoy asked the man for one more song, and she got one. Nigel had asked for a sign, and he got one too. Jam Cruise 14 was off to a righteous start. Key tune “I’ll Never Know” (by Eric Krasno).

While paying homage to far away heroes like Stevie Wonder, James Brown, and former boss Lenny Kravitz, it was clear from the beginning that Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews had come to represent. Marching his homeboys Orleans Ave. onstage with pomp, circumstance and remarkable confidence, Shorty set up shop on the Pool Deck like it was the French Quarter, and laid down a romp thru the Treme, a peek Uptown, before swinging around to the Backatown. Orleans Avenue benefited from the cool-hand of Pete Murano on lead guitar. Watching these fellas mature into such professionals has been to my immense satisfaction. Ivan Neville sat in for their entire set on keyboards, lending a new colorway to the Ave. Key tunes- “Aint No Use” (The Meters), “Hurricane Season”.

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, along for the ride on all fourteen Jam Cruises, took the Pantheon Theater stage by perfect storm. Playing to a smaller than usual crowd, the Diesel and Co. mixed in a series of new originals that were fleshed out for maximum impact by two newer additions: slide/steel player Seth Freeman, and returning drummer Alan Evans. The current brand of KDTU has a rockier edge, no doubt influenced by the emergence of lead guitarist DJ Williams. However, still omnipresent is the sexy R&B energy that made them famous. The set oozed with vintage soul, and dripped with the Tiny Universe’s sensual vibrations. The show saw sit-ins from former KDTU percussionist Mike Dillon, longtime friend and collaborator Zach Deputy, vocalist Nicki Bluhm, members of Brownout, and fierce six-string shredding from Eric McFadden, Key tunes: KDTU classic “Bag of Funk”, and a pair of choice covers-“Show Biz Kids” (Steely Dan), and “Fearless” (Pink Floyd).

I departed KDTU a little prematurely to ensure I could catch about an hour of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. The most exciting and invigorating of the post-Garcia incarnations, Almost Dead threw down during both boat appearances. What a joy it is to hear Russo and longtime foil Marco Benevento share the stage together again. Guitarists Tom Hamilton and Scott Metzger compliment each other, and make sweet love to the greatest American songbook. Nothing beats hearing Grateful Dead music on the Pool Deck, and nobody reimagines the material better than Russo’s contingent.  Key tunes:  “Shakedown Street”, a Spring-of-1977-styled “Dancin in the Street”, and a titanic “Viola Lee Blues” to close out.

Stanton Moore took over the Jazz Lounge with a lovely set of type-NOLA grooves. He was joined by many of the usual suspects, Mike Dillon, Skerik, Will Bernard, but the other star of this stage was without question David Torkanowsky on piano and keyboards. The dude was clearly on a spaceship, not a boat, and his playing was soaring through planets of jazz, fusion and freedom. Key tune- “Tchafunkta”

The cruise gods saved the best for last as far as day one was concerned. Soulive’s set to close the Pool deck, was in a word, gangster. The NYC dub-hop, soul-jazz heroes were in primed condition, and did not take names nor prisoners as they tore up nearly two hours. Different versions saw the classic trio, as well as the addition of The Shady Horns, A real treat for this writer was when Soulive brought out Soul Brother #1 Nigel Hall, once upon a time their secret henchman, now a superstar in his own right. The revue broke out a pair of long-lost gems born of the halcyon days at Bear Creek. Key tunes: “Too Much” and the Tears for Fears classic “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, both featuring Hall and The Shady Horns.

Day Two

Snarky Puppy is an unfiltered dose of the avant-garde, delivered in a language we can all easily understand. Their Grammy-winning ascent has been nothing short of meteoric. The Snarky Puppy set on the Pool Deck early Thursday evening was magnifico. Synth/piano wizard Cory Henry left jaws positively agape, as the band made their way through complex-yet-danceable music that was both rooted in the classics and a nod toward the future. This band has so many styles and approaches in their arsenal that each selection played was a master-class in progressive jazz funk. Snarky Puppy swings, they tease, they scream, and groove, all as cool as the other side of the pillow. Key tune- “Shofukan”

Let it be known that this writer’s favorite band is Lettuce. Naturally, I did not miss a note of their fan-freaking-tastic voyage on the Pool Deck. With bassist Jesus’ older brother Tyler Coomes on percussion, the well oiled machine absolutely destroyed the massive with ninety minutes of pure, uncut crunkalogic science. There was nary a weak moment in the entire performance, and the reemergence of Eric Krasno on guitar, talk-box, and synths only added to the mayhem. A choice sit-in from bassist Oteil Burbridge was mouth-wateringly juicy. Atypically, drummer Adam Deitch led the charge and unleashed furious styles on the radiating audience. A perfect setlist was imagined by tenor sax maven Ryan Zoidis, the selections were a long-brewing stew, each song shining a spotlight on their vast array of influences, before culminating in what can only be described as ‘a new frontier of sonic exploration’. Key tunes: opener “Dr. Digglesworf”, “The New Reel”, “Breakin Bread” (a song by, and featuring, legendary JB’s/Parliament trombonist Fred Wesley) and the gargantuan, psychedelic closer “Phyllis’.

Galactic, also veteran of all fourteen Cruises, showed the Pool Deck exactly why they are invited back each and every year. This particular set was catered to this writer’s favorite side of the gumbo funksters. Reaching into their bottomless bucket of NOLA-fied stomps, Stanton Moore and company threw down patented dirty grooves with authority. The boys were joined by guitarist Will Bernard, Mike Dillon on percussion and vibraphone, Skerik on sax and vocalist Erica Falls. The most exciting sit-in was no doubt from the inimitable Bernie Purdie on drums, as seen from the elation on the grill of bassist “Babyface Bobby Mac”. Key tunes: “Balkan Wedding”, “Boban”, and “Hard Times” (Baby Huey), a song made famous to my generation as the sample to Ghostface Killah’s “Buck 50”.

Sadly, I missed JRAD in the theater, later finding out that they delivered the goods even stronger than on the Pool Deck the evening before. But I more than made up for it with the midnight engagement in the Jazz Lounge. The Shady Horns’ Eric “Benny” Bloom  took command of the stage and displayed his skills as bandleader, as he chatted up the crowd, cracked jokes and all-around entertained the people with hilarious vocals, and luscious, sultry trumpet work. The boy Benny was an ozone lovechild of Miles Davis and Don Rickles, delivering a Vegas-styled variety show. It was a ever-changing cast of luminaries, as Borahm Lee joined on a rarefied piano performance, NOLA icon James Singleton held down the bass, and father and son Bobby and Adam Deitch ruled the drum kit. Many other musicians took to the lounge stage, as Benny cultivated a revolving door of performers, each one bringing their tools of trade to the a sonic bloom-at-sea. Again, it was the sui generis styles of pianist David Torkanowsky that wowed the room most, as he maintained his post with panache. Key tunes: Pretty much the entire two hours.

I stepped into the theater for about half an hour of Philadelphia’s Lotus, and was grateful I did. The band is a seamless marriage of songcraft and electronic leanings, and over the years they have smoothed out the edges and created a unique lane for themselves, as well as a fanatical following. The dance floor was moving swiftly as drummer Mike Greenfield laid down laser-precision beats, and guitarist Mike Rempel floated melodies and harmonics toward the heavens. Unpredictably, the crew welcomed pedal-steel minister Roosevelt Collier to the mix, an unusual detour from their norm. This brief dose of Lotus was a reminder that when tastefully done, jamtronica can be a tasty delicacy. Key tunes: “Philly Hit”, “Spiritualize.”

The concept of the Jam Room is in its essence what makes this boat sail. Lettuce guitarist Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff had hosting duties on night two, and it was a gluttonous, rowdy affair; the funk and grooves were massive, and the sound was gargantuan. Ably assisted by members of Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk, Jans Ingber, Todd Stoops, Eric McFadden, Tyler and Jesus Coomes, Oteil Burbridge, among others, the first two hours of this Jam Room was maybe the best of the week. Alvin Ford Jr, drummer of Dumpstaphunk, showed everybody why he is a fucking cyborg. Word on the street is that Ford was created in a lab, fed only the highest grade supplements, and trained twenty hours a day for twenty years. He is now a veritable Terminator. built to destroy any drum kit or drummer, at any given moment in time. The ‘Boy Wonder’ Adam Deitch, and the new kid on the block Isaac Teel (Tauk) both sat down to double drum with Ford, and for a while they each pushed along and rode the train as best they could. In the end, Ford took them both down, as Deitch playfully gave up and threw his sticks in the air, signifying “defeat”, while Teel took it in stride, as he definitely had the most God-given steez of any player on the Divina. Daps go to Shmeeans for leading this ensemble through some of the heaviest funk on Jam Cruise. Key tunes- an uplifting, bouncing “Don’t Change for Me” (Nigel Hall),  a raging “Hang Up Your Hang Ups” (Herbie Hancock), and “Thank You for Lettin Me Be Mice Elf, Again” (Sly Stone).

Day Three

Another remarkable side-street in the city of Jam Cruise was the unveiling of the brand new Lettuce documentary  film Let Us Play, produced by Live for Live Music founder Kunj Shah and directed by Jay Sansone/Human Being. A couple hundred heads showed up in the theater for a beautiful peek inside the lives of the world’s most dangerous band. Detailing their history, the recording process for Crush, as well as a little taste of each band member’s personality and musical vision; the movie was tastefully executed and downright enjoyable- a testament to the band and its Royal Family. The band, Shah and Sansone then sat down for an engaging, if silly, Q&A session before everyone hustled to catch some Dr. John.

Dr. John and the Nite Trippers was a Crescent City gift, and performance that lent authenticity and respect to the lineup and event. Mac seemed to be in a slower gear on the Pool Deck, but that didn’t stop him nor his well rehearsed band from delivering a substantial performance. The Doctor looked positively regal, if fatigued, with his huge uni-dread, flowing scarves and feathers, and trademark fedora. He led his krewe through classic songs and infused a certain  a Cajun flavor. The simplicity of the songcraft, his lazy drawl and swagger were a welcome respite from the punishing funk or noodling jams found every day on the boat. Stanley Jordan and Fred Wesley both took the stage with Mac for what was likely their only collaborations in this lifetime. I am grateful to Cloud 9 for inviting Dr. John on Jam Cruise.  Key tunes-“Walk on Gilded Splinters> Gumbo Gris Gris”, “Right Place, Wrong Time”, “Such a Night”.

Marco Benevento had already blessed the people with his talents for two JRAD sets, but his solo performances are an entirely different beast. Having recently introduced prominent singing to his trio gigs, Marco’s songwriting and approach has evolved over the years. Still tinkering with a assortment of pedals and toys, Benevento pushed the proverbial envelope with tracks from his forthcoming album Swift, as well as selections from 2012’s Tigerface. With bassist Dave Dreiwitz (Ween, JRAD) taking vocals for a turn, the vibe punked aggressive, only to be lightened by the carnival sounds of the obligatory “Real Morning Party”. Drummer Andrew Borger remained the consummate professional, balancing himself within the disparity of Keith Moon and Andrew Barr. Benevento welcomed the likes of Eric McFadden, Will Bernard, and the ubiquitous Mike Dillon to the stage. Key tunes: “Atari” (with Will Bernard) and “Greenpoint” (featuring Karl Denson).

Brownout does Brown Sabbath was a tremendous booking by the powers that be at Cloud 9. This performance was unlike any other, and the blissful environs of the Pool Deck at night allowed for evil to infuse the Jam Cruise Red Night. John Speice was nothing short of herculean behind the drum kit, providing Bill Ward bombs as he set the foundation for the band to murder unsuspecting persons who had come to beg the Sabbath altar. Percussionist Alex Marrero assumed the iconic role of Ozzy Osbourne, and more than represented for the Prince of Darkness. Gigantic, sludgy, Iommi grooves were deposited on the domes of screaming, mystified dancers. Already possessed, Mike Dillon joined the sacrifice on percussion, and appropriately, Skerik provided satanic saxophone alongside Brown Sabbath’s already bulbous horn section. Those who chose to worship were fully satiated, air guitars littered the Pool Deck, devil horns were thrown, and heads were banged. Key tunes:  “N.I.B.”, “Hand of Doom”, “The Wizard”, “Snowblind”, “Children of the Grave”.

After Soulive played an enjoyable set in the Pantheon Theater that featured choice sit-ins from Karl Denson (flute), the Snarky Puppy horns, Oteil Burbridge, and Anders Osbourne (on CSNY’s “Ohio”), the stage was set for what would be the standout performance for this cruiser, Lettuce’s nearly two hour late night rage indoors.

Here I am nearly three thousand words into this narrative, and I am not sure I have vernacular to adequately describe what went down in that room. Lettuce is already leading the charge toward the new frontier; evolving, growing and exploding into a genre all their own. In the Pantheon Theater, twas a mixture of the hour, the elements, and environs. Riding the high of their film screening, this was a focused band on a mission. The willingness to dive headfirst into pure, free-form Type II jamming, as an eight or nine piece ensemble, was astonishing. That they are delivering these excursions to the netherworlds is enough; yet the physicality of their sound is a historical discovery, a breakthrough on the search for new land. Infinitely more bass gymnastics from the crooked cross became an assiduous assault. This was sonic ammunition for a frenzied dance-rage deep into the ocean waters, never mind thousands of leagues beneath.

From bombastic trap-thunderclaps, with humongous bottom end from the man they call Jesus, the question wasn’t bass, it was how low could they go. The sounds emanating from Neal Evans were grandiose; downright imperial in their psychedelia. The same can be said for the synth-rig Ryan Zoidis pumped through his alto, drenched in the dankest in dub arkology. Furious percussion grooves from Deitch, augmented by Tyler Coomes, created opulent hip-hop temples of boom, This new soundwave enabled their wide-open improvisations to be created with colors native to Tipper, or Thriftworks, yet the textures are in the late 70’s Bootsy Collins zip code, Benny Bloom was the G-code personified, blowing his bitch’s brew atop the wave. There is simply no other music being made like this. Period. On this night, Lettuce would drop no less than THREE of these magnum opuses, snowflake adventures bursting at the themes. The first two were Neal Evans’ creations; dude is a mad freaking scientist, imagining post-apocalyptic galaxies and manifesting them in song. This was the spirit of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure,’ set to psychedelic crunk. Throw in a Nigel Hall and Shmeeans-led D’angelo tease (“Chicken Grease”) in the middle of “Do It Like You Do” and Lettuce officially shut down Jam Cruise. We have glimpsed the future. Get some shades, yo. Key tunes: “Mr. Yancey” (maybe some of their best art ever- somewhere, Dilla is geeking out, smiling), the still untitled new Neal Evans song, and “Trillogy”.

Day Four

After Wednesday, I needed rest and relaxation before I could embark on another evening filled with musical madness and magic, so my personal place slowed down just a tad. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe took over a packed Pool Deck, and dropped some Prince covers off the Purple One’s classic Dirty Mind, with Con Brio vocalist Ziek McCarter, and members of Brownout. The remainder of this set was along similar lines of the theater two nights before. Early in the evening, Dr. John and the Nite Trippers treated revelers to a different song list, much to the delight of Jam Cruisers. Mac pulled out a few numbers from his Spirit of Satch collection, as well as a couple from Locked Down, his record co-piloted with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys.

Worship My Organ, born as a NOLA Jazzfest engagement, set up shop in the Black and White Lounge, ready to do business. The collaboration of Robert Walter, Skerik, Adam Deitch and Marco Benevento is a maniacal one. For one hour and fifty-seven minutes, the fearsome foursome did not relent, and the music never stopped. The sounds arrived in a series of waves cloaked in frightening darkness; kicking down heady vamps and joints from the most demonic places, Walter, Benevento, Adam Deitch and Skerik unleashed a lesson in sonic bondage and tourniquet terror. Skerik’s inimitable notes serenaded with sadistic intentions. Drummer Deitch brought out the best in his collaborators, and he channeled a particular personality of his foil that suits the moment’s need. On this night, Deitch was baiting and surrendering to the flow, playing loose and lyrical. Adam, utilizing a garbage can and its lid to augment his floor tom, began to unveil the classic hip hop knock with his lead right foot. Commandeering the ship, Deitch set the table for Skerik get diabolical, and unleash his patented spastic shrieks, the torrid response to the Walter/Benevento duality. Each keyboard player found a lane to drive, be it Hammond, Rhodes, or Wurlitzer, and Skerik needed not a reason to get weird. The drummer remained the anchor and the captain of this beautifully nightmarish séance of complete improvisation. Worship My Organ was simultaneously progressive and danceable. This was trip hop and free-Jazz, on steroids. The key tune was the performance itself.

[Video by Funk It Blog]

Bernie Purdie in the Jazz Lounge was a can’t miss booking. The man is a soul/funk drumming legend in his own right, and dozens of the musicians who were not playing at the time turned out to help pack the lounge to the gills. New Mastersounds bassist Pete Shand curated the core group who would join Purdie for a two hour tour of authentic funk and groove. Todd Stoops, Karl Denson, Eddie Roberts, Mike Olmos, Will Bernard, Bobby Deitch, and a host of others all joined hands to assist the Hall of Famer in delivering a workout that enabled cruisers to unleash their inhibitions on the dance floor. The countless musicians sidestage were either head bopping, shooting phone video or lost in the touch of the man they call Pretty. Everybody had one thing in common, and that was a smile from ear to ear. This was a journey deep into the annals of groove. Towards the end of the set, Purdie came to the front of the stage and addressed the masses on what the groove means to him, and how we were carrying on the funk tradition, which makes him a very proud man. He made it clear to all that soul is, indeed, Pretty Purdie. The drummer then proceeded to drop a song he wrote as a tribute to Aretha Franklin, before slipping into a fatback take on the Queen of Soul’s anthem “Respect”. Key tunes: “Heavy Soul Slinger”, “Mister Magic” (Grover Washington Jr.)

[Video by Funk It Blog]

I managed to catch a peek at Snarky Puppy’s theater set at 2am; however we were made aware that the first segment of Nick Daniels’ Jam Room session would be a long-sought-after reunion of the mighty Dr. Klaw- for this writer, another can’t miss appointment. Daniels, Ian Neville, Eric Krasno, Nigel Hall, and Adam Deitch formed this krewe about six or seven years ago, and generally only come together at special events like Bear Creek and New Orleans Jazz Fest. The squad took the tiny Jam Room stage and burnt it down with authority. With Daniels steering this ship, the chunky, strapping NOLA-fied stomps were relentless. Krasno in particular seemed inspired, as he attained a tone and groove that highlighted some of his finest playing on Jam Cruise. Nigel and Nick’s vocal tandem is a special blend of screamin’ soul, and to see them back at it again was exhilarating. As the room began to fill up, the sea of dancing became more and more fierce, and before long Tyler Coomes and the Shady Horns joined the fray. For roughly seventy-five minutes, the Jam Room broke out in pure NOLA bedlam, and all was right in the world. Key tunes: “Leave Me Alone”, “Lost Rager”

Day Five

The final day of Jam Cruise began with a lovely treat on a sunny Carribean day, Reggae Brunch. Ashish “Hash” Vyas, Congo Sanchez, Todd Stoops and Zach Deputy lead a swollen troupe through an hour of irie vibes as people started (or ended) their day. I treated the last hurrah a bit differently, as I chose to try and catch a little bit of several bands, as opposed to seeing large chunks or full sets as I had thus far.

Roosevelt Collier’s SuperJam on the Pool Deck was nothing short of phenomenal, and different from much of the music we were treated to on board; the same could be said for Everyone Orchestra, as a broad range of players from all-world styles converged on Matt Butler’s Pantheon stage, improvising live art while we all were dancing on the water. If bluesy southern styles was your speed, both JJ Grey and Mofro, and Anders Osborne delivered early evening, star-studded casts and grimy, authentic tales from beneath the Mason Dixon line.; vintage Gibson and Fender axes were shredded and somebody sang the blues.

 

Ivan Neville provided another of his annual tear-jerking solo piano sets in the Atrium, unveiling a  take on Don Henley’s timeless longing “Boys of Summer” that was chock-full of the feels.  Meanwhile, Trombone Shorty was holding court in the Pantheon Theater, dropping more Crescent City crunk on the masses, busting loose and shaking asses. Shorty and Co. really put a permanent stamp on their JC14 with a bombastic reinvention of Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade” to close out their set.

At this point, after five days I was fiending some proper dance music, and to our delight, The Floozies were raging the Black and White Lounge. This duo, the brothers Hill from Lawrence, Kansas has amassed a large and dedicated following, most of whom are in the habit of demolishing dance floors. Their sizable, block-rocking beats sounded swollen in the tiny lounge, and the whole vibe was a sweet departure of sorts from the other options on the boat. Interestingly, Karl Denson arrived on the scene and asked someone “Is this the Floozies?” After this was affirmed, he offered the fact that he had recorded on their album but had never actually met the duo. Denson then took the stage and blessed us all with a tremendous flute-down that levitated the lounge. This was followed by a prodigious pairing of KDTU’s Chris Littlefield and The Shady Horns’ Eric Benny Bloom, doubling down on trumpets and quadrupling the fun.

Though I did catch a bit of Electron’s “Fearless”, a laser-drenched homage to Pink Floyd that closed out the Pool Deck, I could not miss Brownout’s set of original material in the Black & White Lounge. We were rewarded with a solid, aggressive run of Texas-baked, Latin-flavored groove that was powerful to bear witness to. The combination of John Speice’s vigorous skin-bashing with subtle flourishes within, and bumping baritone sax bombs made this a particularly hardcore brand of funk. Coming out the gates like a raging bull with “FS1” and “Flaximus” off their most recent record Oozy, Brownout did not drop the voltage at all; instead they overdosed on it. For the unreleased “Arabeesh”, Spiece’s Hairy Apes BMX cohort Mike Dillon got in on the ruckus, and the romp was on. Skerik joined in from jumpstreet, making their horn trio a quad squad, before Chris Littlefield got into the mix, and it became a five-alarm fire. The cruisers that made this set a priority got hooked up proper, and Brownout was without a doubt, asphyxiating the lounge with billowing plumes of smoke on the water.

Per tradition, I made sure to get to the theater to bring the big room home with Galactic. But we really got lifted to a cruise crescendo in the Reed Mathis-hosted Jam Room. The bassist, along with Deitch and the virtuoso jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan, mixed psychedelic jamming and fusion grooves in a fit of high grade improvisation for well over an hour. Soon enough, one by one new faces got onboard for a final time, and eventually the tiny Jam Room stage became atypically packed as we pulled in closer to the Port of Miami. San Francisco party starter Motion Potion deejayed the Disco rage until the wee hours, the sun rose and another epic Jam Cruise excursion was in the books.

Some other treasured facets of Jam Cruise 14: seeing firsthand how far Michael Weintraub’s Instrumenthead photo exhibit has grown, a tremendous idea that has blossomed into a historical artistic statement. Sharing a one-on-one breakfast and introspective conversation with Karl Denson at the crack of dawn. Geeking out about Adam’s Modern Drummer magazine cover (and forthcoming world domination) with parents Bobby and Denise Deitch. Watching Carol Bloom beam with pride as son Eric Benny Bloom held the Jazz Lounge in the palm of his hand. Stumbling onto the endless pickin’ parties that raged at The Spot all night and into the mornings. Getting hip to new players on the scene that are destined for greatness, like Isaac Teel (Tauk) and Rob Chafin (The Werks). Witnessing the pure joy that would overcome both audience and band each and every time percussionist Weedie Bramaih (The Nth Power) would take the stage. Late night/early morning dance parties and gut-splitting silliness in the Disco or the Fiyawerx Productions suite, to the sounds of DJ OTTO or DJ Logic. And nothing beats the majestic back-boat sunrises on the Zen Pool deck, swimming in old revelers and new friends- where inevitably each morning, somebody in an MSC blazer is trying to sell control to a bunch of smilers.

Finally, I’d like to extend an enormous thank you to Annabel Lukins Stelling, Cloud 9 Adventures and the people behind the scenes that staff and facilitate Jam Cruise. To borrow a turn of phrase, we have no complaints.

[Words by B. Getz, Photos by Dave Vann]