Jam Cruise 18: The (very) Short Version
As always, we are indebted to Jam Cruise and Cloud 9 for use of their photos. Thanks to photographers Jason Charme, Michael Emanuele, Jesse Faalz, Chris Monaghan, Dave Vann, and Josh Timmermans / Noble Visions.
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.
Not by choice. Most of us would have stayed aboard indefinitely. We will have several reviews and interviews in the near future. In the meantime, here is a lightning-round list of 16 remarkable moments or performances as noted by editor-in-chief Scott Hopkins.
Your mileage, of course, may very. I saw only six or seven complete sets; most often I split as many as four sets in the same time frame. These are chronological, except for the last two.
LOTUS with horns
Lotus had two great sets on board (as did most artists), but the one Tuesday night in the Pantheon Theatre was superb, especially when the three-man horn section from [???] joined then for an extended funk jam. [Thanks to Spencer Storch of Shows I Go To for identifying them as Cory Wong’s horns, which makes perfect sense, given my observation about Wong below! Be sure to check out Storch’s website.]
People told us this Los Angeles sextet would be fun. They just didn’t say how MUCH fun! They call their music funk-punk-outerspace. Think old-school new wave. Best marketing plan ever: At the end of a set by Circles Around the Sun on the big pool deck stage, they immediately had a one-song soundcheck for their set hours later on the smaller Brews At Sea stage in the back. It was fabulous and created great buzz.
They played a great set in the theater Wednesday. When high winds forced Cloud 9 to move some big sets from the pool deck to the tiny Atrium, moe. CRUSHED their relocated Friday performance. The energy level was off the charts in that intimate setting.
OGAT (Old-guard Garage A Trois)
DAMN! Charlie Hunter, Skerik, and Stanton Moore were brilliant Wednesday. Their second time out was cut short by wind on the pool deck, but not before Mike Dillon joined them. The magic that occurs when Dillon and Stanton connect is magnificent.
BENNY BLOOM Jazz Lounge
Benny Bloom rocked his sets with Lettuce, and his Golden Jazz Bar set included Eric Krasno, Aron Magner, and Mike Dillon. WOW!
The pool deck performance Thursday was the quintessential Jam Cruise set: a beautiful, uplifting performance from Holly Bowling, Tom Hamilton and company.
TOO MANY ZOOZ
There is no grey area with this brass house trio from New York. They blew up both of their sets and had a brilliant sit-in with Thumpasaurus.
“Black Dog” will never sound the same again. Aron Magner (Disco Biscuits) and his trio (double bass and drums) kept a packed jazz lounge riveted the entire set.
Dan Brandwein and company 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.”
Cory Wong’s first set was in the Black and White Lounge, a room with no elevation, no sight lines, 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.
Matt Butler always puts together an incredible lineup to honor Positive Legacy, 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.
MARCUS KING SUPER JAM
Marcus 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. He put together a great band and had amazing guests.
The jazz lounge was packed again for Hunter, who started solo, playing jazz, blues, and funky soul, often scatting on top of his playing. 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.
They had the last set on the pool deck, meaning the Atrium, Saturday night. 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.
And then there were two:
MusicFestNews writer Dalia Jakubauskas mentioned that she had seen Moore, the vocalist with Doom Flamingo, as we were boarding. She appeared at Thursday morning’s yoga, vocalizing beautifully with the conscious music played by Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers. On Sunday, she would steal the show vocally at Everyone Orchestra on “If You Got Love in Your Heart.” However, 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)” with Shira Elias during Elias’ unplugged session. ASTOUNDING
LES CLAYPOOL’S BASTARD JAZZ
And speaking of astounding, there’s this. 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. As mentioned before, Mike Dillon and Stanton Moore were incredible together, and Skerik reminded us of his amazing saxophone prowess.
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 hear, with the boys in complete lockstep.
We will have much more to say, but we wanted to share a quick first look at Jam Cruise 18. Have you booked for 2021 yet?