On Wednesday, January 17th, Jam Cruise 16 set sail from Miami, beginning a five-day musical excursion that will detour through Roatan, Honduras, and the Grand Cayman Islands before returning to port on January 22nd. Yesterday offered up an exciting start to the week, with performances by headliners Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood as well as Lotus, Maceo Parker, Naughty Professor featuring Chali 2na, The New Mastersounds, Con Brio, The Marcus King Band, Antibalas, and more.
With three or four sets of music running simultaneously throughout the night and into the early morning, it was impossible to catch everything. However, here’s a list of six of our favorite moments from Wednesday, day 1, of Jam Cruise 2018. Enjoy, and stay tuned for more coverage from the Norwegian Jade.
1. The New Mastersounds’ “Sail Away” Set On The Pool Deck
Around 6 p.m., The New Mastersounds took to the Pool Deck with the monumental task of performing Jam Cruise’s inaugural set this year. Following a celebratory toast and warm introduction led by Director of Artist Programming Annabel Lukins, The New Mastersounds wasted no time, immediately dropping into their characteristic high-octane funk. For their set, the British quartet was joined by trumpeter Mike Olmos and Turkuaz saxophonist Greg Sanderson, who brought an added depth and vibrancy to the band’s sound.
Their set also saw cameos by Pimps of Joytime singer Kim Dawson as well as percussionist Mike Dillon, making for the perfect start to an event that emphasizes collaboration. Some of our favorite moments from the set were the group’s cover of The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” (which featured insanely powerful vocals from Dawson and which was dedicated to Eddie’s wife, Ashley, on their anniversary) and guitarist Eddie Roberts‘ original tune “Green Is Beautiful”, which was inspired by and pays tribute to legendary jazz guitarist Grant Green.
2. The Marcus King Band’s Debut Jam Cruise Show At The Stardust Theatre
The Marcus King Band is one of the biggest up-and-coming names on the scene right now, and there was undoubtedly a huge buzz about the group’s debut set on the boat this year (we spotted Lettuce’s Jesus Coomes, Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman, and Robert Randolph during the set). For the performance, frontman Marcus King was fully dialed in, showing off both his insanely soulful voice and immense guitar shredding abilities. However, the group of musicians he’s collected is nothing to scoff at, as they easily held their own against the star power of the band’s young namesake.
The Marcus King Band’s set showed off the group’s versatility, as the band easily navigated more hard-and-heavy rock stylings and heartfelt takes on the blues. One of the standout moments of the set was the band’s use of Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young’s iconic “Ohio” as a springboard into a shred-heavy guitar solo.
3. Holly Bowling’s Stirring Solo Piano Set In The Atrium
As the first night of Jam Cruise unfolded, as other bands were raging the various stages on the boat, magic was happening in the ship’s atrium. Holly Bowling‘s solo performance was a master course in the beauty of simplicity, with her emotive arrangements of Phish and Grateful Dead tunes easily being a highlight of the entire night. Her set was refreshing, heartfelt, and particularly welcome as a musical palette cleanser before the evening’s festivities transitioned in full to the night. Stand out moments from her set included her triumphant cover of Phish’s “Free”, her new original tune “Proxima B” that was debuted in October of 2017, and her encore featuring Artist-At-Large Dan Lebowitz on acoustic guitar for a powerful rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Bird Song”.
4. Maceo Parker Makes It Funky In The Stardust Theatre
Maceo Parker is a funk legend, so having his set go up against Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood was certainly a tough call for many. We caught the first half of Maceo’s set, and we’re glad we did, because it was truly a treat to behold. Parker’s vocals were energetic and crisp, his stage presence was charismatic and commanding, and the band was truly top-notch. Mixing the old with the new, during his set, Parker also invited out Maurice “Mo Betta” Brown for a dramatic trumpet solo. The major highlight of the set was the band’s take on Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”, featuring pristine guitar work from Bruno “Tattaglia” Speight.
5. Medeski, Scofield, Martin, & Wood Headlining Set At the Pool Deck
Many folks were beyond excited for Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood’s headlining set on the pool deck, and for good reason. The quartet is coming up on the 20th anniversary of their first collaborative album, A Go Go, which was released in April of ’98. In the years since, the group (and its respective members) have continued to collaborate—most recently, John Medeski and John Scofield teamed up for HUDSON, a quartet also featuring Jack DeJohnette and Larry Grenadier.
Together, the foursome showed off their improvisational talents, quickly running the gamut of familiar tunes from originals like “Miles Behind” off 2006’s Out Louder to takes on everyone from The Doors to Jimi Hendrix to Bob Marley and more. To close out their set, the band invited out the energetic and infectiously enthusiastic Antibalas Horns to help out on some more dubby numbers.
6. Lotus’ Late-Night Set At The Stardust Theatre
After Medeski, Scofield, Martin, & Wood, ended their set around 1 a.m., attendees scrambled around the boat before the late-night festivities commenced. Many folks headed straight to the Stardust Theatre, where the jamtronica favorites, Lotus, were poised to keep the party going until nearly 4 a.m. with their two-hour late-night set. Lotus was in truly fine form for last night’s show, as the band frequently pulled from their somewhat-older catalog and offered up choice cuts that exemplify the group’s slinky, electronic-tinged grooves. Much to the delight of fans, the band also really milked their jams and took the time to stretch them to their fullest potential. Our favorite song of the evening was the group’s extended take on “Greet The Mind”, off 2004’s Nomad, which had the entire crowd grooving along with them.
[photo: Jam Cruise Facebook]