Jam Cruise Portrait Series

Dennis Cook's Jam Cruise 8 Review Here.

All Photos and Intro by: Michael Weintrob

Three years ago I wanted to do a portrait project on Jam Cruise. I came on board with my camera gear, a backdrop, and a lighting rig. By the end of the cruise I had taken studio portraits of most of the artists that performed. The images came out really well, but they could have been taken anywhere. For the following couple years on the boat I wanted to tell the story of Jam Cruise in some way, and I realized that I needed to find a creative way to capture this unique event.

While attending the Caribbean Holidaze festival I was speaking with my friend Seth Weiner, who also works on Jam Cruise. We came up with the crazy idea of dressing up the musicians like crewmembers. Over the next month we brainstormed how we were going to make it happen. Seth was the point man who connected me with Eugenio Manfredi from MSC Cruise Lines. Eugenio helped us set up the locations and arrange the costumes for the artists.

With more help from Eugenio, I compiled a list of all the different jobs and workers that make the ship run. I then went around to all the different musicians and asked them what role they wanted to be. With the help of Brad Hodge, who handled the lighting, we wound up shooting over 20 individual portraits on the ship. The result is what can be seen in the 2009 Jam Cruise Calendar that was used as a benefit for the New Orleans Musicians Clinic.

Based on the wonderful response and overall success of our portrait project, the next year we came on the boat and continued to shoot unique portraits of artists dressed like cruise workers. The end result is a complete body of work called the Jam Cruise Portrait Series. All of the photos from both years are now available for the fist time right here on JamBase.

-Michael Weintrob

Al Schnier - moe.

As a performer, what makes Jam Cruise special for you?

Jam Cruise sets itself apart in many ways, the obvious one being a festival at sea on a ship. The key factor that I didn't get until I went was just how pro the whole thing was - from all sides. Even the fans on Jam Cruise are at the top of their game. The atmosphere is pretty amazing.

What specifically can you tell us about the photo shoot?

It was actually Michael's idea. We had been trying to get together all weekend and kept putting it off because we were both busy. The original plan was for me to do a photo shoot in the pool, amongst all of the chaos, in my scuba gear, as I'd been diving every day on the trip. It just never worked out. The uniform was borrowed from the ship's crew. They were very gracious. The funny thing is that I worked in a commercial dish room like this when I was in high school (in a local nursing home). It was a great time, but there was some pretty gross stuff that came through there. It didn't take too long for me to get "in character." It started off fairly tame, but by the end I was soaked and covered in food (and quite ashamed). It reminded me a lot of my teen years.

What do you think of the final product/photo?

I think I look just slightly sexier than Grace.

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"There's nothing like floating around with a bunch of musical hooligans." -Grace Potter

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"Jam Cruise has a lot of great artists assembled in one place." -Warren Haynes

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Jeff Raines - Galactic

As a performer, what makes Jam Cruise special for you?

What I have come to enjoy about Jam Cruise is the opportunity to see some of the up and coming bands that have been making waves on the scene. It's also a great opportunity to catch up with friends from other bands that I don't get to see as often as I would like.

What about the event lent itself to a photo shoot of this nature?

I think everyone on Jam Cruise finds themselves in the casino at one time or another. Michael Weintrob, in particular, seems to spend most of his nights on the cruise playing blackjack.

What specifically can you tell us about the photo shoot?

I remember that when we walked in Michael was on a first name basis with all the casino employees who were milling about preparing to open for the night. Conceptually this photo was Mike's baby. Possibly he was just waiting for the casino to open and thought he could save some time by shooting us there.

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"The bottom line for taking the cruise is the highest quality of music on board." -Col. Bruce Hampton

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Medeski Martin & Wood

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"Jam Cruise is the highest class party of the year." -Karl Denson

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Ivan Neville - Dumpstaphunk

As a performer, what makes Jam Cruise special for you?

It's a festival in the middle of the ocean where everybody is super close. You've got musicians hanging out with fans. You never know what's gonna happen.

What specifically can you tell us about the photo shoot?

The photo was pretty much Michael Weintrob's idea. He just came to me and said, "I got this idea; I want you in a janitor's uniform. Let's throw away that keyboard. Put it in the dumpsta!"

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Les Claypool

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Zach Gill - ALO

As a performer, what makes Jam Cruise special for you?

Jam Cruise holds a special place in my heart. I guess what sets it apart is that by its nature everyone is sort of forced to participate. Once it sets sail everyone is on the adventure together. Most gigs you are barely there - you arrive in the town or festival and you are gone the next day. With Jam Cruise everyone is more or less there for the entire thing and that's what makes it fun. I love the hang. As a musician and a fan I get to see and talk with some of my favorite musicians in the world. I love it.

What about the event lent itself to a photo shoot of this nature?

The fact that there are multiple uniform collections on board helps a lot. The vibe on Jam Cruise is so playful that when someone hands you a waiter's outfit and asks you to put it on, you don't question it.

What specifically can you tell us about the photo shoot?

I believe the costumes were Michael's idea, but it's hard to say. What I do know is that Steve and I used to work as bus boys at a restaurant when we were in high school. Steve was always better than me at folding silverware, and it's clear from this photo that he has retained his skills. Actually, Steve was much better at the restaurant business than I was. Eventually he was promoted to waiter/bar tender while I remained a busboy for my entire food industry career. It was easy to conjure the mood once we donned the outfits. And yes it was as much fun as it looks!

What do you think of the final product/photo?

I like it. I only wish they let us keep the jackets for future shows.

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Keller Williams & Martin Sexton

Keller Williams

As a performer, what makes Jam Cruise special for you?

I'm a fan before I'm a performer. So, the obvious is the most special for me: The music. The bands; The energy; The big beautiful theater rocking back and forth (literally); funky music in the middle of the night in a low ceiling club. Also special: Being high as a banshee on the top deck, cruising fast in the middle of the ocean, the moon casting shadows, a band like Jazz Mandolin Project with Jon Fishman and Oteil Burbridge playing sheer perfection on the outdoor stage below. Mmmmmmmm good. That's special.

What specifically can you tell us about the photo shoot?

The theme behind this Jam Cruise photo - which was Michael Weintrob's idea - was me and Marty in a Chinese restaurant as waiters. The mood was easy to set for this picture since it was real - we were really fighting. You see, not only are Martin and I 9th degree black belts in Kung Su (a cross between Kung Fu and Jujitsu) but the Sexton and Williams family have been feuding for many generations, something about a great great great great great grandfather hitting on a great great great great great grandmother. I can't remember whose. But the possibility of us being related exists, and each time we meet we battle. Just as our fathers before us did and theirs did before them, and so on. Just like the way our sons shall battle each other to defend family honor. The shot was taken when I was delivering the ancient Williams signature throat-poke, which shifted his trachea and ended the battle. I had to perform an immediate tracheotomy (with a scalpel that I carry for such an occasion) to bring Martin back to life so he could fight again one day.

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Mike Dillon & Skerik

"Where else can you jog around a ship deck with Motorhead on your iPod, see Cuba, and discover The Lee Boys?" -Skerik

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Ian Neville - The Funky Meters

As a performer, what makes Jam Cruise special for you?

The fact that all the musicians hang for basically the whole cruise. Usually we are all scattered out (sleeping arrangements and what not), or just leave after the gig. The boat is a perfect communal musician hang. You get to jam with different guys than normal or just catch other bands you wouldn't normally have the opportunity to see.

What about the event lent itself to a photo shoot of this nature?

I guess we didn't look like deck hands or chefs that day. Always funny sitting around anywhere with the four of us. There is really no telling who will drag the conversation into the realm of insanity.

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Mark Mullins - Bonerama

As a performer, what makes Jam Cruise special for you?

Jam Cruise is an amazingly unique and special experience unlike anything I ever get to do. Many people say it's like Jazz Fest on a boat but I didn't see any Shrimp Creole or Crawfish Bread in the buffet line. And if I did, well, I'd probably run away! It's basically the coolest cruise I can imagine being on with all these great musicians everywhere and non-stop, solid, non-cruise ship music everywhere you turn. Perhaps the best thing is sharing it with people that truly respect the music we do. [It's] just the greatest vibe mingling with everyone in the stairwells to the elevators to the side stage areas. Awesome!

What about the event lent itself to a photo shoot of this nature?

We cornered off an area of the buffet seating area at like 6 p.m., (perhaps not the best time of day to try this) and were borrowing clothes off the restaurant crew while they were working. It all began to attract attention as we got into it. People are trying to eat at these tables right next to us and we're pulling out our horns, spit dripping off of them fresh from the morning's jam room festivities. It was ugly.

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Walter 'Wolfman' Washington & Charles Walker

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Porter Batiste Stoltz

"I love Jam Cruise because it is a great time for Ara, my wife, and I to energize our love for each other and the music I love and live for. Is it too early to book for 2010? SMILE!" -George Porter Jr.

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Sharon Jones

As a performer, what makes Jam Cruise special for you?

It was my first time on Jam Cruise, and I thought it was a one of a kind concert experience. There's more bonding with fans, festival staff, and other performers then there is at a regular show or even a festival. Because your spending a much longer amount of time with everyone. I really liked that aspect of it. And the Jam Cruise audience was one of my favorites that I have performed for. Everyone was really enthusiastic and enjoyed themselves. It made performing a lot of fun for me and for the Dap-Kings.

What specifically can you tell us about the photo shoot?

I was a stewardess. I'm pretty sure that was suggested to me. Next time I want to be the captain!

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Ryan Stasik - Yacht Rock

As a performer, what makes Jam Cruise special for you?

Jam Cruise is special to me because it is a very intimate voyage, where all the musicians and fans hang out and rage as hard as possible together as one. No one wants to retreat to their tiny cabin. They want to be part of the magic that surrounds them. No one knows what is lurking around each corner, whether it's two of your favorite artists jamming together or a new lifelong friend to be made.

What specifically can you tell us about the photo shoot?

Our band Yacht Rock did not have a photo so this made perfect sense since it was our first gig!

What else can you share about Jam Cruise?

I will never forget the sun setting as we jammed [George Benson's] "Breezin'" on the pool deck while people sipped piƱa coladas, dancing to the smooth sounds in their captain hats and linens. Ahhh, yacht rock, so smooth, so good!

Continue reading for some more thoughts from photographer Michael Weintrob...

I wanted to personally thank everyone who was involved in the Jam Cruise 6 and 7 portrait projects. Annabel Lukins, Jon Heinrich, Brad Hodge, Mark Brown, Kelly Viau, and Seth Weiner all played a key role in helping me bring my concept to life. Most of all, thanks to all the great musicians who participated in the project. I had such an amazing time working with all of you.

-Michael Weintrob

There are still a very limited amount of cabins available for Jam Cruise 8. Set to sail January 3-8, 2010 with stops in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and George Town, Cayman Islands. This is a once in lifetime trip designed for live music and travel fanatics.

For more on Jam Cruise, see our coverage of JC7 here.


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