We are now on Day four of the Smooth Jazz Cruise hosted by former Phoenix Suns basketball star turned bazz player, Waymon Tisdale. The music on this cruise has just been outstanding, including the Grammy Award winning vocal stylings of Peabo Bryson. The finale will be none other than singing phenomonon Chaka Khan with her original band Rufus. Other guests include Tom Braxton, Gerald Albright, Jeff Golub, Everette Harp, Jody Watley, Willie and Lobo and half a dozen more artists.
Not only that, the audience is almost as talented as the musicians. This is a musically intelligent crowd. The fans who come on this cruise are seeking the companionship of people who love the same thing, classic jazz melodies that warm the heart and soul. You won't find Ornette Coleman fans here, those of the Avant Garde school of multi-timbralism. You find people who can sing along to the most challenging melodies, and do. Songs like "How Deep is Your Love," or "Peg" by Steely Dan.
This cruise is sold out, as is the Playboy Jazz Cruise next week on the same ship (Holland America Westerdam). The Smooth Jazz Cruise scheduled for January 2010 is already 70% sold out, probably more by this afternoon since the incentives to book onboard for the following year are irresistable. For the majority of people we have met, this is their third or fourth Jazz cruise. One lady told us "You're the first people I've met who are on their first jazz cruise."
What does that tell you? Exactly what I have said before, that the marriage of cruises and music concerts transcends each experience combined. It is like nuclear fission, the energy released sparks new energy of twice the size, and soon you have a chain reaction of experiences that adds up to "it," as in, "this is it, this is living. That's jazz, man."
These musicians are so good that you wonder how they do "it." Not just the individual players but also the bands. There is professionalism and spontaneity at the same time. At times the improv takes you places you never would have dreamed a band could have planned to go, and at other times the planned arrangements go places an improv rarely could. That's talent talking.
The cruises are booked back to back not only to facilitate the rental and setup of all the special sound gear they need, but also so guests can book back to back cruises and see all different artists. To keep it interesting, the producers, JazzCruisesLLC, take over the ship and also vary from the normal itineraries. The two cruises do not repeat a port.
Not only are there concerts every night, but there are also other music-related activities. Day one had a session called "Sax-talk." Yeah, you read that right. Four famous smooth jazz saxophone players got on stage to open up about their craft, what it is like to be a professional musician and who their influences are. Another similar session is devoted to vocal styles.
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Nighttime brings the main shows, one for the early seating and another for the late seating. Every show is shown in the cabins, so you still get to experience what you don't see live, although every artist plays at least two shows so everyone gets a chance to see them play in person.
You do NOT see the regular cruise line production shows, or even the Holland America chef's special cooking classes. Instead, you get cooking classes by the wives of the Jazz artists, making some of their favorite downhome dishes.
As I have said repeatedly, if you have never taken a music-themed cruise, then DO SO! This is not an experience to be missed. There are music cruises all year long for everything from Bluegrass to Zydeco. But I have to say it will be hard to beat the professionalism of the JazzCruisesLLC offerings. By chartering the whole ship they make the entire experience about the music, and it is a total immersion with no distractions. Is there a better way to enjoy music?
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