Jam Cruise: Can’t Get Enough (of That Funky Stuff)

As always, we are indebted to Jam Cruise and Cloud 9 for use of their photos. Thanks to photographers Jason Charme, Michael Emanuele, Jesse Faatz, Chris Monaghan, Dave Vann, Josh Timmermans / Noble Visions, Roger Gupta, John-Ryan Lockman, and Christopher Baldwin.

Well, we’re back. MSC Divina has returned to port, and 3000 of us reluctantly debarked (or disembarked — take your pick) after five astounding days at sea, with 50+ bands and musicians on Jam Cruise 18.

George Porter Jr. & Ivan Neville – Jam Cruise 18 – Michael Emanuele

Not by choice. Most of us would have stayed aboard indefinitely. Because there were at least eight venues to hear music (not counting Lee Rissin’s impromptu shows), that means I missed at least 40 performances and only got drive-bys on some others. On the other hand, I did hear at least 50 sets during the five days on board. If we were making Venn diagrams, your experience and mine might overlap a lot or only occasionally.

Miami – Jam Cruise 18 – Michael Emanuele

Your mileage, of course, may vary. I saw only six or seven complete sets; most often I split as many as four sets in the same time frame. This is my chronological look at Jam Cruise 18. We’d love to hear about your travels!

Jam Cruise 18 Official Recap Video

#JamCruise forvever on our minds! Relive some of our favorite moments with the official Jam Cruise 18 recap video courtesy of our friends DubEra.com.Music: Lettuce – "Ready to Live"There is still time to book for our next adventure! Head to https://jamcruise.com/pre-book-411/ and reserve your cabin for just $250 down!

Posted by Jam Cruise on Thursday, January 23, 2020

Annual safety drill – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

 

TUESDAY

On the list of things you never expected to happen, at the top of the list would be TWO cranes breaking down during the process of moving all of the equipment up to the pool deck to create the main stage and the Brews at Sea stage. We left Miami later than planned, although that really didn’t matter, since we were only traveling 65 miles to Ocean Cay in the Bahamas.

Sail-away toast – Jam Cruise 18 – John-Ryan Lockman

What it did do was push set start times back. All pool deck sets were moved back 90 minutes, those in the theater an hour. They did an incredible job of keeping us informed about schedule changes throughout the cruise.

The Atrium on MSC Divina is on Deck 5, but it is viewable from Decks 6 and 7, from the sparkly stairways, and from the two elevators which turned into rage dance booths. As with the Norwegian ships, those decks are also passageways, meaning that there was often background noise from people passing through, but generally the sound was great. The sets scheduled there were primarily acoustic in nature, but that would change completely by Saturday night.

Ivan Neville – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

Robert Walter, long on the scene with his jazz fusion on keyboards, especially Hammond B3, was first up on grand piano, joined by Andy Coe on guitar and Stanton Moore on drums. It was a joyous set and a proper kickoff for the 2020 adventure.

Robert Walter – Jam Cruise 18 – Dave Vann

Lettuce baptized the Pool Deck stage with a killer set including some new material. As was the case on several occasions, the sound on the deck was too loud and too muddy, but they sounded superb nonetheless. As was often the case, a band’s theater set naturally sounded better than outdoors, but the excitement on the deck was always electric (too much so Friday, in fact).

Lettuce – Jam Cruise 18 – Michael Emanuele

In the Pantheon Theater, Dumpstaphunk was really tearing it up. The dance floor on MSC Divina was much larger than the ones on the Norwegian Cruise line ships, which really turned those into massive dance parties. Of course, there was tiered seating and also balconies. The trumpet and trombone players with the band — Ryan Nyther and Alex Wasily respectively — add a great dimension to their sound, and they also sing.

Dumpstaphunk – Jam Cruise 18 – Michael Emanuele

The “Up for the Down Stroke > bass jam > Flashlight” sequence brought the house down, and Nick Daniels and Tony Hall went at it on bass again later. The power of the vocals from Daniels, Hall, and Ivan Neville cannot be overstated. When they invited ALL The Soul Rebels to join them for “Do Ya” and “Right Place, Wrong Time,” it was certainly NOT the wrong time!

Dumpstaphunk – Jam Cruise 18 – John-Ryan Lockman

The Claypool Lennon Delirium delighted everyone with a superb set on the pool deck. Sean Lennon showed himself as a fine guitarist and vocalist, and Les Claypool is, well, Les Claypool. There’s only one. The set was a remarkable mix of originals and some brilliant covers, including “In the Court of the Crimson King,” replete with Mellotron (or a perfect synth rendition thereof), and “She’s a Rainbow” (from Her Satanic Majesty’s Request) with Claypool on upright bowed bass.

Les Claypool – The Claypool Lennon Delirium – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme
The Claypool Lennon Delirium – Jam Cruise 18 – Dave Vann

The Jazz Room, on Deck 7, doubled as a passageway from fore to aft for those not wanting to walk on the outside deck. This meant that there was almost constant commotion for every set there, and there were no sightlines, so if patrons were standing in front, nobody else could see much of anything. Fortunately, we could hear. Steve Kimock had the first night, and it was wonderful. Robert Walter was on keyboards, George Porter Jr. on bass, and John Kimock on drums as they worked through a number of Kimock compositions, including “Ice Cream.”

Steve Kimock | Jamcruise 18 | Day 1 | Photo © Roger Gupta 2020

When I walked into the theater to see Lotus, I had to do a double-take. There was incredible horn-driven funk pouring from the stage. Sure enough, it was the livetronic quintet with Cory Wong’s jaw-dropping horn section.

Lotus with the Cory Wong Horns – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

After they left, Lotus moved back to their signature trance-dance with some beautiful pairings, sometimes twin guitars with Luke Miller and Mike Rempel, sometimes Luke on synths and brother Jesse Miller on bass and samples, all propelled by Mike Greenfield on drums and percussionist Chuck Morris.

Lotus – Jam Cruise 18 – Dave Vann

For this show and others, there were different sorts of video projections on the screen behind the band and then wider shots displayed on the area across the top of the stage and on the sides. When the projection was of the band performing, sometimes a head (or two) would appear very large on the part above the stage much like the Wizard of Oz face flashed in the movie. It was surreal!

Caught just the tail end of Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers on the small Brews At Sea Stage at the opposite end of the pool deck, impressed enough to make sure to catch them later in the week.

Turkuaz – Jam Cruise 18 – John-Ryan Lockman

Turkuaz then threw down their Pool Deck set, all decked out in their new color scheme and sounding great. The set really picked up momentum three songs in, and from there they romped.

Turkuaz – Jam Cruise 18 – Dave Vann

I am by no means the only person who will say this to you:

“If I’d had to leave Jam Cruise Wednesday morning after hearing Bastard Jazz, I would have gotten my money’s worth.”

Jaw-dropping, face-melting, [pick your own over-the-top description] — nothing comes close to relating how astounding this was. Col. Les Claypool, who had already delivered a great performance earlier in the evening with the Claypool Lennon Delirium, was having a blast, and we could tell. Mike Dillon and Stanton Moore were incredible together, and Skerik reminded us of his amazing saxophone prowess.

Les Claypool’s Bastard Jazz – Jam Cruise 18 – Dave Vann

Almost an hour into the set, Claypool turned it into a funk fest with the most — again, adjectives fail — bass-slapping demonstration I’ve ever heard, with the boys in complete lockstep. That 15 minutes provided the highlight of my Jam Cruise, although there were many more amazing peaks over the next four days.

Les Claypool’s Bastard Jazz – Jam Cruise 18 – Dave Vann

George Porter Jr. was the first Jam Room host in the Black and White Lounge all the way aft on Deck 7. They were playing that venerated Grant Green composition so often selected, “Jan Jan.” Nikki Glaspie was at kit, Marcus Rezak on guitar, Tommy Shugart on Hammond B3 and other keyboards, and Chris Sgammato on alto sax. No doubt there were numerous additions and substitutions throughout the early morning.

George Porter Jr. Jam Room | Jamcruise 18 | Day 1 | Photo © Roger Gupta 2020

Meanwhile, Ghost-Note was on the Pool Deck, starting at 3:45 a.m.! They sounded fabulous, especially when Sylvester Onyejiaka, Jonathan Mones, and Mike Jelani Brooks all locked in on flute. And Dominique Xavier Taplin was beastly on keyboards!

Ghost-Note – Jam Cruise 18 – Dave Vann
The Spot – Jam Cruise 18 – 1/8/20 – MSC Divina and the Caribbean – photo © Dave Vann 2020

 

WEDNESDAY

When we awoke, we were docked at Ocean Cay, the MSC-owned tiny island in the Bahamas. And there was reggae music coming from beneath a grass hut far below (we were on the island side). Well, the tune was reggae, but the words? The song itself never changed as they sang “Hotel California,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” and dozens of other songs from our general songbook. No emotion to it, just the reggae song with different lyrics.

ALL of Ocean Cay! – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme
Oean Cay – Jam Cruise 18 – Michael Emanuele

As we made it outside to go to the beach, Sam commented that it sounded like “Ya Mar,” an obscure 1974 Cyril Ferguson song completely adopted by Phish. Sure enough, as we got to the beach, they began singing “Ya Mar”! As we were boarded, they actually played a different song altogether: “Hot Hot Hot.” So, two thoughts. One, we would sure like to have heard them play some authentic reggae music, covers or not. Two, somebody did an amazing job providing them dozens of song lyrics for them to read/sing as they played. Hard to imagine any other MSC ship stopping there would have patrons interested in those songs.

Ocean Cay beach – Jam Cruise 18 – Jesse Faatz

Ryan Montbleau was performing at the lighthouse at one tip of the island. Those of us at the beach could hear it a little bit. It would’ve been great if had been set up at the beach instead.  Artist-at-large Brock Butler played a pop-up show there as well.

Ryan Montbleau – Jam Cruise 18 – Roger Gupta
Brock Butler – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme
Leaving Ocean Cay – Jam Cruise 18 – Josh Timmermans

Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass was scheduled to play an island show after Montbleau, but weather concerns got all of us back on board by 3 (well, in line, at least), and Keller’s set landed on the pool deck instead. Keller and his crew were wonderful, as always, working through songs such as “Samson and Delilah” and “Friend of the Devil.” Montbleau came out to play a duet with Keller as well.

Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass – Jam Cruise 18 – John-Ryan Lockman

There was a lot of excitement for the pairing of Chali 2na and Cut Chemist, and they delivered on that promise, crushing all sorts of tunes. Of course, there were lots of Jurassic 5 hits, and Cut Chemist blew out a great “Intergalactic,” too.

Chali 2na & Cut Chemist | Jamcruise 18 | Day 2 | Photo © Roger Gupta 2020

The most prized set every year on Jam Cruise is the Ivan Neville Atrium set, and this one measured up in every way. Joining him, among others were Robert “Sput” Searight (Ghost-Note), Karl Denson, Tony Hall, and Marcus King. A very interesting song choice was “Boys of Summer.”

Ivan Neville – Jam Cruise 18 – Josh Timmermans
Ivan Neville – Jam Cruise 18 – Jesse Faatz

Tank and the Bangas played their first set in the Pantheon Theater, and it was a psychedelic visual display, as lead singer Tarriona Ball and background vocalists Anjelika Joseph and Tia Henderson were spectacularly attired. The band featured two keyboard players and a turntablist. This was an authentic R&B review, and they rocked. Problem: the vocals for this set were far too low relative to the band. Ball’s voice has an upper-register squeak to it that she might use just a little less often, but the set was dynamite.

Tank and the Banga – Jam Cruise 18 – John-Ryan Lockman

Circles Around the Sun, now with Eric Krasno on guitar, had a glorious set on the pool deck. The sound was great and the vibe absolute perfection. Nailed it.

Circles Around the Sun – Jam Cruise 18 – John-Ryan Lockman

The instant Circle finished their set, a band back at Brews At Sea threw down this absolutely stunning funk tune — for about four minutes — catching almost everyone’s attention. Then Thumpasaurus leader Lucas Tamaren announced that was their soundcheck and that they’d be back at 12:15. It was a deluxe marketing ploy, as they did gather a crowd later.

At the Pickin’ Lounge (a.k.a. Golden Jazz Bar), Jay Starling had a big crowd, joined by a drummer and upright bass.

We went aft to catch Cory Wong at the Black & White. The frequent Vulfpeck collaborator had greatly impressed at Suwannee Hulaween 2018, and we were optimistic. Alas, this was the Cleaners in the Spinnaker moment, so slam-packed you could barely get in the room, with no chance to see or hear anything. The next opportunity would be much more successful.

Cory Wong | Jamcruise 18 | Day 2 | Photo © Roger Gupta 2020

Up on the pool deck, Galactic was showing off fine vocalist Angelika “Jelly” Joseph (also one of the Bangas). The sound was sub-par, and it just seemed logical to keep moving, knowing that they would have the last word Saturday night in the theater.

Galactic – Jam Cruise 18 – John-Ryan Lockman

moe. had the theater, and they were brilliant. After a beautiful “High and Low,” the jam exploded through “Big World > Ricky Martin > Jazz Cigarette” before Al Schnier sang “House of the Rising Sun”! The “Bullet > Bearsong” pairing was metal moe. at its best, Schnier and Chuck Garvey blazing. Jim Loughlin was magnificent on vibes and percussion throughout.

moe. – Jam Cruise 18 – Roger Gupta

Speaking of later…

People told us this Los Angeles sextet (Thumpasaurus) would be fun. They just didn’t say how MUCH fun! They call their music funk-punk-outerspace. Think old-school new wave. They were maniacal and spacey and just a blast: metal karate. As it hadn’t already been crazy enough, the band, with Henry Soloman on baritone sax, were joined by two from Too Many Zooz: Leo P. on baritone and Matt Doe on trumpet (if King of Sludge was there on drums, we couldn’t see him).

Thumpasaurus – Jam Cruise 18 – Josh Timmermans / Noble Visions

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong were on their second Jam Cruise and making the most of it. Fan favorites such as “Porcupine” and “Julia” filled the set, closing out with signature tunes “Upfunk” and “F.U.” Sound was adequate but not great.

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong & Lebo – Jam Cruise 18 – Josh Timmermans

Benny Bloom (Lettuce) commanded the Jazz Lounge, positively stuffed to the gills with fans and joined on stage by Mike Dillon, Eric Krasno, Aron Magner, and others. They knocked out a great “Jan Jan.” As players shifted, there was a great reading of Monk’s “I Mean You,” and later, as Joe Marcinek sat in on guitar, Benny crooned “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

Benny Bloom – Jam Cruise 18 – Josh Timmermans / Noble Visions
Mike Dillon & Benny Bloom – Jam Cruise 18 – 1/8/20 – MSC Divina and the Caribbean – photo © Dave Vann 2020

Other than the Bastard Jazz set, the ones I was looking forward to the most were OGAT (Old-guard Garage A Trois), featuring Skerik (tenor sax), Charlie Hunter (guitar, vocalese), and Stanton Moore (drums). DAMN! They were brilliant Wednesday. My notes are largely unintelligible, but they were sit-ins early on. There was an adapted Coltrane melody that worked its way into “Who Knows.” Hunter sang/scatted on a shuffle blues, and they offered the title track for their upcoming album, Calm Down Cologne.

OGAT – Jam Cruise 18 – Josh Timmermans

Sput was holding down the Jam Room. Didn’t make it there OR The Spot (not until the last night).

The Spot Night 2 – Jam Cruise 18 – Christopher Baldwin

 

THURSDAY

Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, who sounded good during the very brief time I heard them Tuesday night, were providing meditative music while Jenna hosted yoga on the pool deck. At some point, they were joined by a young lady vocalizing wordlessly along with the music, almost a chant. I discovered shortly thereafter that she was Kanika Moore, singer for the riveting “synthwave beast” Doom Flamingo who had stunned us at Hulaween. She shared that she would be part of Everyone Orchestra Saturday and would sing with Shira Elias later that evening in Elias’ unplugged set.

Kanika Moore, Joe Hertler & Jenna | Jamcruise 18 | Day 3 | Photo © Roger Gupta 2020

Grateful Shred had the early set outdoors, and it was a blast. The L.A. band brought a rollicking country lilt to the Dead’s catalog, especially on songs such as “Big River.” “They Love Each other” was a nice read as well.

Grateful Shred – Jam Cruise 18 – Josh Timmermans

For whatever else I did or didn’t see or hear, my biggest failing was in NOT getting back to the Garden Pool for the intimate acoustic sets. This day I missed Lebo and Tom Hamilton.

Lebo – Jam Cruise 18 – Jesse Faatz

Another Jam Cruise first-timer was rocker Samantha Fish, and she rocked it for certain. It’s impossible NOT to discuss her fabulous outfits and hair. For the pool deck set, she had a great silvery jacket, black latex pants, and hot pink stilettos. The set was drawn from her new album Kill or Be Kind. She started on cigar box guitar and played a variety of guitars throughout the set, most effectively when using that down and dirty slide.

Samantha Fish – Jam Cruise 18 – Josh Timmermans / Noble Visions

One of the best comments of the festival turned into a catchphrase. We were swaying a bit side to side. At one point, between songs, Fish took a big step right, then said, “I’m drunk; it’s not the boat. No, wait. I’m NOT drunk; it’s the boat.” Huge laughter, and for the remainder of the cruise, as we rocked down hallways looking like a Star Trek episode, we’d say, “It’s you, not the boat!”

Samantha Fish – Jam Cruise 18 – Chris Monaghan

Speaking of Lee Rissin, he had more costumes than several floors worth of rooms, we hear. One of our favorites? His Uncle Pecos costume based on the Tom & Jerry cartoon. In fact, I was the guilty party taking this video of Rissin’s rendition of “Froggy Went A-Courtin’ (Krambone).”

As promised, Uncle Pecos delivered in his secret Jamcruise elevator set

Posted by Lee Rissin on Sunday, January 12, 2020

We made it back to the pool deck for Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, with Andy Coe on guitar in the band. Chris Stillwell and Zak Najor from Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe sat in for a tune (they used to play together in The Greyboy All-Stars). George Porter Jr. guested, and things got hot when they decided to “Turn On Your Lovelight.”

Robert Walter’s 20th congress ©Josh Timmermans | Noble Visions
Typical elevator ride – Jam Cruise 18 – Christopher Baldwin

Aron Magner (The Disco Biscuits, Electron) had the Atrium set with his Spaga bandmates Jason Fraticelli (upright bass) and Matt Scarano (drums). It got a nice start with “Down by the Riverside.” Several other guests joined in as Magner played that grand piano and several other keyboards.

Aron Magner – Jam Cruise 18 – Chris Monaghan

Electron member Tom Hamilton joined on guitar and vocals for “Down by the River.” Then Biscuits compatriot Marc Brownstein jumped up. It was magical.

Marc Brownstein – Jam Cruise 18 – Chris Monaghan

The unplugged set from Shira Elias (Turkuaz) featured DJ Williams (KDTU) and bass and percussion. Elias was in her element: soulful and funk-filled. The Turkuaz horns joined her for “I’m Crying Because I Love You.” Sammi Garett (more Turkuaz!) joined her for Alanis Morissette’s “You Learn.” Chris Jacobs took the guitar and sang “Ooo Baby Baby” with Elias.

Shira Elias – Jam Cruise 18 – Christopher Baldwin

The singular most spectacular moment of Jam Cruise for me occurred next.   Kanika Moore joined Elias, and hers was the only performance on Jam Cruise to bring me to tears when she hit that note — THAT NOTE — while singing “I’ve Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You).” ASTOUNDING

Kanika Moore and Shira Elias – Jam Cruise 18 – Chris Monaghan

Ghost-Note played their second set in the Black & White. Given our experience attempting to see/hear Cory Wong, we decided against it.

Ghost-Note – Jam Cruise 18 – 1/9/20 – MSC Divina and the Caribbean – photo © Dave Vann 2020

The other Ghost on board, Ghost Light, were up on the pool deck, and their set was the perfect definition of Jam Cruise: a beautiful, uplifting performance from Holly Bowling, Tom Hamilton and company.

Holly Bowling of Ghost Light – Jam Cruise 18 – Chris Monaghan
Ghost Light ©Josh Timmermans | Noble Visions

Meanwhile, Lettuce was blowing up the theater, and the sound was impeccable. Benny Bloom and Ryan Zoidis were tearing it up, and Nigel Hall sang a soaring version of Benny Latimore’s “Let’s Straighten It Out” (a song everybody should hear).

Lettuce – Jam Cruise 18 – 1/9/20 – MSC Divina and the Caribbean – photo © Dave Vann 2020

When Ghost Light was done, Too Many Zooz unloaded their brasshouse madness on Brews at Sea stage, absolutely raucous. They invited Mihali to sit in, and that sent the set even higher.

Too Many Zooz – Jam Cruise 18 – Chris Monaghan

It was time to give Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers another listen. This Michigan band kept the Black & White dancing. Hertler’s falsetto is effective, and the quintet played great originals and covered “One Headlight.”

Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers – Jam Cruise 18

Saxophone player Casey Benjamin owned the Jazz Lounge. He is a member of the Robert Grasper Experiment. He was joined by Sput, Mono Neon, and others for a great set.

Lotus had their second set on the pool deck, and once again they CRUSHED.

Lotus – Jam Cruise 18 –

In the theater, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe was deep in the funk. Eric McFadden was there on guitar to compliment DJ Williams (Seth Freeman has gone solo). Denson always has a long rap that leads into “What If You Knew (I’d Let You Down).” McFadden played some nasty slide on a cigar box guitar.

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe – Jam Cruise 18 – Chris Monaghan

Another song from their new album Gnomes and Badgers, “Something Sweet,” featured sweet clavinet from David Veith and then Denson on alto. And the house always rocks when they play “Front Money.”

Karina Rykman, great bass player for Marco Benevento, had the Jam Room, but I check out Galaxy Disco, where DJ Brownie was spinning. Until I melted into a puddle.

DJ Brownie – Jam Cruise 18 – 1/9/20 – MSC Divina and the Caribbean – photo © Dave Vann 2020
Karina Rykman and Tony Hall – Jam Cruise 18 – Chris Monaghan

 

FRIDAY

We had cruised to Costa Maya, Mexico. Many participated in the Positive Legacy program, some visited Mayan ruins, others kicked around the Costa Maya village, and others stayed aboard. Our Choccoban ruins experience was wonderful. The Positive Legacy folks got a performance from some of the moe. boys and others.

Positive Legacy – Jam Cruise 18 – Dave Vann
moe. – Jam Cruise 18 – Chris Monaghan
MSC Divina – Jam Cruise 18 – Jesse Faatz

Back on board, it was extremely windy. It had been previous to this, but now it was difficult to walk on Deck 15 above the pool deck and not easy below. Tank and the Bangas delighted again, opening the pool deck (but not for long, we would discover).

Tank and the Bangas – Jam Cruise 18 – Christopher Baldwin
Tarriona Ball – Tank and the Bangas – Jam Cruise 18 – Christopher Baldwin

I was even more pumped for this OGAT show (Garage A Trois) as it became Garage A Quatre when Mike Dillon, also a member of later iterations of GAT, joined them on the pool deck. The magic that occurs when Dillon and Stanton Moore connect is magnificent. They locked horns often, huge smiles on their faces.

Mike Dillon & Stanton Moore | Jamcruise 18 | Day 4 | Photo © Roger Gupta 2020
OGAT – Jam Cruise 18 – Jesse Faatz

Chali 2na was invited up for a collab. To my ears, this was one of the best performances I’ve ever heard from him (a second would come Sunday).

Chali 2na & OGAT – Jam Cruise 18 – Jesse Faatz

Charlie Hunter then scat/sang a blues, followed by a great fusion tune with Skerik in the lead. Hunter scatted another very jazzy tune, and next up: rain and lightning. Drizzle, really, but lightning in the sky and the wind was playing havoc on the roof and walls of the pool deck stage. It was determined that the set would be cut short, and all subsequent pool deck sets (main stage) would move indoors.

– Jam Cruise 18 – Chris Monaghan

How Annabel Lukins and her incredible staff rearranged the schedule to get almost everything in was nothing short of magical, befitting the vibe of Jam Cruise. They did a remarkable job communicating all the changes so that we could find the music we loved.

Circles Around the Sun – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

We had been blown out at Hulaween by the set from Spaga, Aron Magner’s band, who had a smokin’ hot set in the Jazz Lounge. We were squozed in tighter than sardines, and nobody wanted to leave. “Black Dog” will never sound the same again. Magner and his trio (double bass and drums) kept a packed jazz lounge riveted the entire set.

Spaga. Courtesy of Jam Cruise 18. Photo Credit: Dave Vann

Freshly back from the happiest place on the planet, Jam Cruise. One of the many moments that knocked the wind out of me on Jam Cruise 18 this year – Spaga in The Jazz Lounge doing “Black Dog”Like you’ve never heard it.

Posted by Dalia Jakubauskas on Sunday, January 12, 2020

Dan Brandwein and Turkuaz had teased that they would perform a mystery album Friday night in the theater. After warming up with some of their original music, music over the speakers played an old ad (I think) for Parliament’s 1977 masterpiece Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome. To say they did this album justice would be a gross understatement, from the opening “Bop Gun” (“endangered species!”) through the long, jammed-out title track, with tons of guests, ending inevitably with a mind-blowing “Flashlight.”

Turkuaz – Jam Cruise 18 – Jesse Faatz

Passing through the Jazz Lounge, Bret Peretz grabbed me and said, “Do you know Kevin Scott? He’s the hottest thing in Atlanta.” (Well, something like that.) I said no, then realized I had seen him with Jimmy Herring’s Invisible Whip on their tour with John McLaughlin’s Fourth Dimension. It was a good set, but this one was WAAAY too loud to enjoy. Fortunately, Scott would make a huge appearance later.

Kevin Scott – Jam Cruise 18 – Chris Monaghan

moe.’s pool deck set was moved to the Atrium. It was difficult, at first, imagining a band that powerful in this intimate setting. Kudos to the sound engineers for pulling off every band performance there through Saturday with stunning clarity. And moe. CRUSHED their relocated performance. “Crab Eyes” and “Threw It All Away” were just two of the highlights, but the energy level during the closing 21-minute “Recreational Chemistry” was off the charts in that intimate setting.

moe. – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme
moe. – Jam Cruise 18 – Jesse Faatz

Dumpstaphunk’s pool deck set was rescheduled for the Black & White, and again there was no chance of hearing or seeing.

Chali 2na and Cut Chemist were scheduled for Galaxy Disco at 2 a.m., but they were nowhere near ready at 2:30, so I headed to the Black & White.

Chali 2na & Cut Chemist ©Josh Timmermans | Noble Visions

Our pal Joe Marcinek had his very first Jam Room host slot, and he killed it. They went more than three hours with dozens of guests, opening with George Porter Jr., Marcus Rezak, Tommy Shugart, Bob Feckner, and others. Bravo, Joe!

 

SATURDAY

The Kitchen Dwellers opened the small stage on the pool deck with their bluegrass, newgrass, and more. The Bozeman quartet got the party started on Day 5 in fine style.

The Kitchen Dwellers – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

Cory Wong’s first set was in the Black and White Lounge, a room with no elevation, no sightlines, and approximately eight bazillion people. His Saturday set, another moved to the Atrium, was hands down the best horn-driven funk show of the cruise. Wong is so engaging as a frontman, and he brings out the best in his bandmates.

Cory Wong – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

Matt Butler always puts together an incredible lineup to honor Positive Legacy with Everyone Orchestra, and this one followed suit. There were more than 20 performers during the hour and a half. Of note were Holly Bowling on keyboards and guitarists Samatha Fish (some of her best playing on the boat), Steve Kimock, and Lebo. Karina Rykman held down the low end. There was a great tune at the end suggesting “Meet Me at My Cabin Later (We’ll Have a Rendez-Vous).” Butler was masterful.

And for me, Kanika Moore would steal the show vocally on “If You Got Love in Your Heart.”

Matt Butler – Everyone Orchestra – Jam Cruise 18 – Josh Timmermans
Everyone Orchestra – Jam Cruise 18 – Dave Vann

After a break to get some packing down (sob), it was time for the Marcus King Super Jam. King is amazing, and he has shown us before his depth of musical history, but this set was so very deep in old-school soul, covering William Bell, William DeVaughn, the Average White Band, the Isley Brothers, Kool & the Gang, Heatwave, Leon Russell, the O’Jays, and Tower of Power.

Marcus King Super Jam – Jam Cruise 18 – Dave Vann

He put together a great band and had amazing guests. There were tons of horns, Nigel Hall on keyboards, and Kevin Scott on bass. Rezak, Rykman, Dumpstaphunk horns, Stanton, Tony Hall, Sput, Glaspie, Roosevelt Collier and more paraded through the course of the amazing set.

Marcus King – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

There must have been a dozen horns or more on stage for the final “What is Hip?” with Adam Deitch on drums. Two other things. During a break between songs midway through the set, somebody called out “Jackstraw.” Uh, no. Also, one of the baddest performances onboard was the bass line Kevin Scott laid down on “Boogie Nights,” the Heatwave hit. (Seriously. Hoping this one shows up on video. You’ll see.)

Marcus King Super Jam – Jam Cruise 18 – Dave Vann

There was a wedding in the Jazz Lounge with Cut Chemist providing the sounds. Later, the wedding over, we passed through to discover Cut Chemist jamming with a half-dozen horn players. It was awesome!

Cut Chemist with horns | Jamcruise 18 | Day 5 | Photo © Roger Gupta 2020

Samantha Fish ended up in the Atrium and sounded tremendous again!

Eric McFadden & Samantha Fish – Jam Cruise 18 – Michael Emanuele
Samantha Fish – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

The Jazz Lounge was packed again for Charlie Hunter, who started solo, playing jazz, blues, and funky soul, often scatting on top of his playing. there was a lovely “California Soul” early on. It got ridiculous during a sequence of (really) “You Can’t Do That (Beatles) > Ode to Billie Joe > Controversy” with other teases, as he was joined by a drummer, then Skerik, Casey Benjamin, Cory Wong, Nigel Hall, and a trumpet player.

Charlie Hunter ©2020 ShowLove Media || All rights reserved || Photo by John-Ryan Lockman

Karl Denson’s pool deck set was shifted to the tiny Brews at Sea stage, and somehow they all fit in there and tore it up. They really lifted us with “Mighty Rebel.”

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe – Jam Cruise 18 – Josh Timmermans

Back in the Black & White, Too Many Zooz did their manic thing again, so much fun. Leo P. is one of the best dancing players you’ll ever see, a combination of Jack Lalanne and MC Hammer.

Too Many Zooz – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong had the benefit of the theater, and they delivered a great set, absolutely next-level stuff from the Baltimore boys, a great show, including a massive 45-minute sequence with “King Kong > Poseidon > Lightning,” Cory Wong in there at least for “Lightning.” Scrambled Greg and the troops were having a blast.

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong | Jamcruise 18 | Day 5 | Photo © Roger Gupta 2020

I passed through the Atrium while Holly Bowling was performing but did not stay. That is rarely a wise move; she is wonderful.

Tom Hamilton with Holly Bowling | Jamcruise 18 | Day 5 | Photo © Roger Gupta 2020

Sylvester Onyejiaka was in charge of the Jazz Lounge with many of his Ghost-Note bandmates, and it was again crammed… and superb.

Thumpasaurus had the Black & White and put smiles on everyone with their zany antics, more new wave punk [other stuff…].

Thumpasaurus – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

Electron had the last set on the pool deck, meaning the Atrium. It started out great and exploded all over the Atrium, putting the punctuation on Jam Cruise! DJ Brownie on bass and Mike Greenfield on drums pushed the pace the entire set. Magner was amazing, and Tom Hamilton was, too.

Electron – Jam Cruise 18 – 1/11/20 – MSC Divina and the Caribbean – photo © Dave Vann 2020

The incredible news that came out after we debarked was that Brownstein had been having vision problem. He knew there were difficulties but then began to lose sight in his right eye. He had surgery immediately after the cruise, and we all hope for a complete recovery.

Marc Brownstein – Electron – Jam Cruise 18 – 1/11/20 – MSC Divina and the Caribbean – photo © Dave Vann 2020

At some point, I encountered three young ladies, one with a guitar case, another with a huge double bass case. The tags on the cases said Rainbow Girls. So I asked, “Tell me about Rainbow Girls.” They explained that they — Caitlin Gowdey, Erin Chapin, and Vanessa May — are a “soulful, bluesy, indie-folk” trio from Santa Barbara. Like many musicians, they hit Jam Cruise for the experience and exposure and the opportunity to play. They were headed to The Spot.

Rainbow Girls – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

I made it to the closing theater set with Galactic, who own that slot by dint of the fact that they have been on every Jam Cruise. Chali 2na again guested and was brilliant. The band’s new vocalist, Angelika “Jelly” Joseph, did “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” a song closely associated with Galactic over the years. She also sang “Feelin’ Good.” Mike Dillon played the entire set, once again lifting Stanton Moore as the two of them engaged. 

Galactic Jam Cruise 18 shot by Dalia Jakubauskas
Stanton Moore – Jam Cruise 18 – Chris Monaghan

They offered one final ballad before Annabel came to thank us for another amazing year.

Annabel says THANK YOU! – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

Roosevelt Collier had the final Jam Room set, and it was slammed. Unless you were with Maddy O’Neal in the disco or at The Spot, you were at the Black & White. Tommy Shugart was on B3 and keyboards, Matt Lapham on bass, and Eric McFadden on guitar; those are the ones I could identify. Many guests sat in, including Deitch. In typical Collier fashion, they romped through a P-Funk vamp and Hendrix music such as “Manic Depression.”

Roosevelt Collier Jam Room – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

It was a fitting ending to Jam Cruise, except…

I made it out to The Spot, finally. Briefly. There were dozens of singers, several guitars, and the Rainbow Girls (bass players are always in demand), and it was glorious.

Rainbow Girls at The Spot – Jam Cruise 18 – Jason Charme

One day I might even make it to a sunrise. Might need different drugs. The blood pressure and cholesterol stuff isn’t cutting it.

Annabel Lukins Stelling ©Josh Timmermans | Noble Visions

 

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