The cruise departed Fort Lauderdale FL on Saturday, January 19 and returned a week later after brief stops in St. Croix, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Labadee, Haiti. Clearly, most folks aboard were there for the music. It was the 19th annual cruise, and more than a few passengers have been on most of them.
|Valdés, DeFrancesco, Shaheed|
This year’s personal treats:
- Pianist Chucho Valdés was aboard with his Cuban quartet. In addition to multiple performances with that band’s exotic polyrhythms, Valdés teamed up for the first time with organist Joey DeFrancesco (and Joey D’s drummer, Khary Shaheed). They dug deep into a half-dozen jazz standards, adding their own imprints and responding to each other’s solos.
- Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon’s annual Gospel Hour featured a blend
of players plus singer Niki Harris. After Gordon’s solo horn version of “The
Lord’s Prayer,” alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton told the audience to “Think of
God like an insurance policy. Whatever he is, whatever she is, whatever it is,
God will protect you.” This one is always a stirring program.
Rickey Woodard's Gospel Hour solo
- Australian trumpeter James Morrison, fondly dubbed “The Thunder from “Down Under,” pulled together an all-star group of musicians to explore the music from Dizzy Gillespie’s 1957 recording The Greatest Trumpet of them All. It was the first jazz recording Morris heard, at age 8, and he called it a life-changing moment. The album was arranged by Benny Golson. After digging into the Dizzy fare, the band also performed three Golson originals: “I Remember Clifford,” “Out of the Past” and “Killer Joe.” Golson was aboard the cruise with his own quartet, and turned 90 on Friday the 25th.
- Trumpeter Randy Brecker and alto saxophonist Eric Marienthal spent
one lively hour paying tribute to the music of the Adderley Brothers.
- Pianist Joey Alexander, now 15, made his first visit to The Jazz Cruise, boarding the ship for a few hours during its St. Croix stopover for a Sirius XM radio taping with pianist/host Shelly Berg. He also performed two shows of original material with his trio with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland.
- Bassist John Clayton, who led the ship’s all-star big band during its three
performances, also was featured with the Clayton Brothers band. At the first
show by the quintet, John Clayton called the 2019 edition “our most important
cruise.” Even a few weeks
The Clayton Brothers band
- Singer Veronica Swift performed in a variety of contexts all week:
a concert with pianist Shelly Berg, who was one of her mentors at the
University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, several sets with
Swift, Brecker, Hamilton
- The SFJAZZ Collective performed its members' arrangements of
material from Antonio Carlos Jobim’s extensive bossa nova repertoire, as well
as originals commissioned by the SFJAZZ organization for this
season. The band included tenor saxophonist David Sanchez, trumpeter Etienne
Charles, trombonist Robin
John Pizzarelli, Ken Peplowski
The many other musicians aboard included clarinetist Ken Peplowski, pianists Bill Charlap, Eliane Elias and Renee Rosnes, trumpeter Sean Jones, drummer Tommy Igoe, saxophonists Ada Rovatti, Jimmy Greene and Houston Person, guitarists Graham Dechter and Grant Geissman, singer Cyrille Aimée, Mary Stallings and Steve Tyrell.
Even on the final night, when passengers needed to get their luggage ready to disembark early the next morning, some were getting in one last musical treat for their ears. The mid-ship Rendezvous Lounge was packed for evening sets by the Jeff Hamilton trio and Veronica Swift with Emmet Cohen's trio. It was standing room only, with more than a few sitting on the floor in the aisles.