Greetings from Jam Cruise 18 aboard the MSC Divina! The five-day musical voyage continued on Friday after the ship’s final port stop in Costa Maya, Mexico.
Once Cruisers returned to the ship, they enjoyed a busy day four schedule featuring performances by Tank and the Bangas, Original Garage A Trois, Circles Around The Sun, Cris Jacobs Band, SPAGA, moe., Turkuaz & Friends, Grateful Shred, Ghost Light, and Chali 2nd & Cut Chemist as well as a Jazz Lounge session led by bassist Kevin Scott, a Jam Room run by guitarist Joe Marcinek, a “Really Tacky Show” in the atrium led by trumpeter/funnyman Eric Benny Bloom of Lettuce, and more.
With multiple sets running simultaneously throughout the day, night, and into Saturday morning, it was impossible to catch everything that went down onstage. However, here are just a few of the most memorable moments from day four of Jam Cruise 18. (You can also head to Live For Live Music‘s Instagram and Instagram stories to follow along in real-time or check out our recaps of the festivities on day one, day two, and day three).
Eric Benny Bloom Puts On A Delightfully Tacky Show In The Atrium
After his highly amusing Jazz Lounge session on day two, Jam Cruisers flocked to the Atrium for what promised to be a highly entertaining set prior to the ship’s departure from Mexico: Eric Benny Bloom’s Really Tacky Show.
While Benny’s playfully insulting crowd banter and curmudgeonly onstage antics were highlights once again, it wound up being the music that shined brighter than the schtick for this part-standup comedy, part-jazz cabaret performance. With a dynamite jazz backing band comprised of drummer Stanton Moore (Galactic), guitarist Charlie Hunter (Original Garage A Trois), bassist Kevin Scott, and keyboardist Kevin Gastonguay (Cory Wong), Bloom lead the way through energetic jazz classics. All the while, he seemed in fine form, showing love to the talented musicians onstage and giving them each some time to shine.
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@ericbennybloom’s Really Tacky Show in the Atrium in @jamcruise day 4 w/ @charliehunter67, @stanton_moore, Kevin Scott, and @kevingastonguay. We laughed, we groaned, we drank wine, we listened to beautiful jazz music… . #jamcruise #jamcruise18 #ericbennybloom #charliehunter #kevinscott #kevingastonguay #stantonmoore #liveforlivemusic
Tank and The Bangas Transport The Divina To Bangaville At Sunset
The sunset performance while the ship sails away from a port is always a spiritual experience. As Mayan ruins disappeared in the distance and the sun dropped below the horizon, Tank and the Bangas transported the floating festival to “a place in New Orleans called Bangaville.” The band’s set in the Pantheon Theater on day two was no doubt enjoyable, but there was something genuinely special about watching their unique séance in such a breathtaking setting.
After a dancehall style DJ intro, the rest of the band took the stage to share their mystical jazz/hip-hop/soul/R&B stylings with the Pool Deck crowd. Frontwoman Tarriona “Tank” Ball eventually took her spot at center stage where she guided the performance like the musical shaman she is. Part spoken word, part fierce intensity, part sugar-coated, wide-eyed wonder, Tank’s vocals and undeniably powerful presence quickly showed the Jam Cruise 18 crowd that she is a true star in the making.
Original Garage A Trois Showcases Master Musicianship On The Pool Deck
Original Garage A Trois was the next act to take the Pool Deck stage following Tank and the Bangas’ sail-away set. They turned out to be the last act to play the open-air stage on the evening, as the visible flashes of lightning in the distance and high winds on the deck forced Jam Cruise to push the moe. and Dumpstaphunk sets scheduled there the rest of the night.
The all-star project featuring Skerik (sax, organ), Stanton Moore (drums), Charlie Hunter (guitar and bass on his hybrid guitar) and full-set special guest Mike Dillon (percussion) wowed the gathered Cruisers with their tight funk grooves and stunning musicianship. In addition to Dillon, OG Garage A Trois welcomed various special guests like MC Chali 2na and trumpeter Phil Lassiter to add some extra layers to the relatively rare performance by this iteration of the group.
While all of the band members and guests played admirably, it was Hunter who captivated our attention throughout the set. How many artists do you know that can handle bass, guitar, and vocal duties at the same time? Seated nonchalantly on one of his amps, Hunter’s right hand remained in constant motion as he simultaneously held down the low end, accented the progression with rhythm guitar strumming, and layered in tasteful lead guitar lines.
Skerik seemed to share the collective amazement that exuded from the crowd. Following Hunter’s vocal/guitar/bass number, the saxophonist joked, tongue in cheek, “Hey, all you other guitar players. Have fun playing your instrument. Music is good for you.” In other words: You may be good, but nobody else is Charlie Hunter-good.
Just shy of their scheduled end time, inclement weather forced the rest of the evening’s programming below deck, but that didn’t stop Original Garage A Trois from continuing to dole out fantastic music until the last possible minute.
Circles Around The Sun Becomes One With The Waves In The Pantheon Theater
As Original Garage A Trois defiantly welcomed the storm on the Pool Deck, Circles Around The Sun seemed to embrace the ensuing rocking and rolling the caused by the weather in the Pantheon Theater. A more relaxed outing than their high-octane Pool Deck performance on day two, this set saw the band slow things down to “collaborate” with the rhythm set by the bobbing ship. Whether or not that was the intention, this Circles Around The Sun set proved to be the perfect soundtrack to a rocky evening on the boat. With Eric Krasno on guitar and frequent collaborator Jeff Franca (Thievery Corporation) on percussion throughout the set, Circles Around The Sun showed once again why they’re still one of the most intriguing instrumental acts on the road.
SPAGA Levels The Jazz Lounge
Just as the Pool Deck was shutting down, SPAGA—the “mostly acoustic” jazz trio comprised of keyboardist Aron Magner (The Disco Biscuits), drummer Matt Scarano, and upright bassist Jason Fraticelli—took the stage at the Jazz Lounge for their day four performance. With the Pool Deck patrons forced inside by the weather, SPAGA’s set quickly became the most crowded show at the Jazz Lounge all week.
SPAGA responded in kind, offering up a danceable, high-energy performance for the packed-out room. The mix of originals, jazz improv, and instrumental covers like Led Zeppelin‘s “Black Dog” was received with excitement by the packed room. Much like at Magner’s piano set in the Atrium on day three, the trio continued to show that they’re more than just a “side project”—they’re a band to be reckoned with. [Note: You can catch SPAGA‘s special Grateful Dead tribute set on March 21st at Brooklyn Comes Alive].
Turkuaz & Friends Recreate Classic Parliament Album In The Pantheon Theater
Throughout the week, Jam Cruise 18 guests have speculated about the Turkuaz & Friends “Surprise Album” set. Fans packed the Pantheon Theater early on Friday night in anticipation of the secret “costume.” Before getting into the album, Turkuaz and full-set guest percussionist Nate Werth (Ghost-Note) ran through an hour’s worth of originals old and new, from fan-favorites like “Tiptoe Through The Crypto”, “The Mountain”, and “Percy Thrills, the Moon Dog” to new material like Kuadrochrome‘s “The Ballad of Castor Troy”.
Eventually, a video began to play on the stage screen introducing the album of the night: 1977 funk masterpiece Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome by Parliament. As the video finished, a swarm of funky guests descended upon the stage including Karl Denson, Ivan Neville, Casey Benjamin, and a number of costumed Ghost-Note members including drummer/pianist Robert Sput Searight, guitarist Peter Knudsen, baritone saxophonist Sylvester Onyejiaka, alto saxophonist Jonathan Mones, keyboardist Dominique Xavier Taplin, and more.
Karl Denson handled frontman duties on a rowdy rendition of “Bop Gun (Endangered Species)” to kick off the album. Everyone but Turkuaz, Knudsen, and Sput cleared the stage next as Robert Walter and drummer Nikki Glaspie entered the for “Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk (Pay Attention – B3M)” while Sput moved over to keys. The various guests continued to rotate in and out as Turkuaz worked their way through the six-track record before the show culminated with a celebratory “Flashlight” complete with a massive, synchronized confetti cannon blast from the audience. What a party!
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A swarm of guests including #KarlDenson, @ivanneville, @casey_benjamin, and members of @ghost_note_official join in to help @turkuaz kick off their full-album cover of #Parliament’s ‘Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome on @jamcruise day 4 . #jamcruise #jamcruise18 #funk #turkuaz #ivanneville #ghostnote @karldensonstinyuniverse #georgeclinton #liveforlivemusic
moe. Rocks The Atrium
With the Pool Deck closed for the rest of the evening, moe.‘s scheduled outdoor set was moved into the Atrium, a much smaller, more intimate venue than the veteran band is used to playing. The results were nothing short of spectacular, as fans lined both levels of the balcony as well as the stairs, the Atrium floor, and even the clear, “Disco Express” elevators that overlook it to catch this special performance from a variety of angles.
If you read my recap from day two, you’ll remember how the band’s Pantheon Theater set was my “getting it” moment for moe. That experience helped me appreciate this unique, top-notch performance for how special it really was. From a Mike Dillon sit-in on “Zed Naught Z” to fiery jams out of “Kyle’s Song”, “Seat of My Pants”, and “Recreational Chemistry” to a lyrically appropriate bustout cover of “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” (its first appearance since 4/13/16), moe. made lemonade with an Atrium set that no one in attendance will soon forget.
Chali 2na & Cut Chemist Bring The Party To The Galaxy Disco
When we walked into the Galaxy Disco for Chali 2na & Cut Chemist‘s late-night set, Chemist was warming the crowd up with a DJ set of funk, disco, and old-school hip-hop classics. A transition into Parliament’s “Flashlight” was particularly well-received by those fresh off a Parliament evening with Turkuaz & Friends. “They call this the Disco,” he said with a smile, “So I thought I’d play some disco sh*t.”
After getting the crowd dancing, Chali 2na stepped to the mic to once again dazzle Jam Cruise with his one-of-a-kind voice, clever rhymes, and unf*ckwithable flow. The two old friends and founding Jurassic 5 members looked at home together in the raised DJ booth. While their excellent Pool Deck set on day two had the feel of a bigger stage production, their Galaxy Disco performance called back to the pre-J5 years they spent playing house parties as they cut their respective teeth in the L.A. hip-hop world. This was a Jam Cruise get-down for the ages.
With one day of music remaining and the long, sobering journey home from Miami looming tomorrow morning, you’ll have to wait until Tuesday for our full coverage of the final day of Jam Cruise 18. Until then, you can tune in to Live For Live Music’s Instagram stories to follow the action in real-time and check out our highlight recaps from day one, day two, and day three.