Words By: Scott Bernstein
Jam Cruise :: Day Five :: 1.8.14 :: Miami, FL
Read Scotty B’s take on Day Five after the photo gallery…
Wednesday’s final day of Jam Cruise 12 saw many changes from the scheduled program due to weather and high seas, but the Cloud 9 and MSC staffers made sure the show went on for the most part despite the challenging conditions.
The day began with a set from Warren Haynes and Friends we described in detail earlier that contained Wednesday’s first sit-in from 10-year-old guitar phenom Brandon Niederauer. By the time the day was through Brandon would wind up guesting with Lettuce and Anders Osborne and also was a featured performer in the Jam Room late in the evening. Each time Niederauer appeared, he blew minds with his quick and nasty riffage leading to huge rounds of applause.
Following the Warren and Friends set as well as a surprise Zach Deputy solo set, John Popper and his supergroup of George Porter Jr., Stanley Jordan, Adam Deitch and DJ Logic delivered their second performance of the trip. Popper and the gang were supposed to play as the boat sailed away from the Bahamas, though the MSC Divina headed for home soon after Warren departed the ship. The jams from the Popper group’s second set were more song-oriented than the improv free-for-all of their first performance. Wind and rain enveloped the boat as Popper’s set continued. The wind became so ferocious that it knocked one of the moving lights off track. Quick thinking crew member Bryan Holroyd grabbed a ladder and jumped up it to fix the light in what seemed like five seconds garnering cheers from the crowd. Guests for the quintet’s afternoon set included Dumpstaphunk drummer Nikki Glaspie, Ivan Neville, Cyril Neville and Bill Evans.
Ivan Neville’s solo piano atrium sets are always Jam Cruise highlights and this year’s performance was no exception. Neville told many stories behind his songs, focusing on his big move from New Orleans to Los Angeles when he was young in an attempt to “make it” in the music biz. Ivan brought up Nick Daniels to sing a number of tunes with him including Neville’s Top 40 hit “Not Just Another Girl.” The keyboardist discussed how there are some songs he wish he had written such as Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me.” You wouldn’t have expected the DMB classic to work as a solo piano track, yet Neville’s version fit his voice like a glove. Ivan also reprised his version of “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, which he had performed on a previous Jam Cruise.
Each Jam Cruise the Everyone Orchestra plays a set for Positive Legacy supporters. Jam Cruise 12 marked the first time the EO performance was open to all cruisers and was set to take place on the Pool Deck Stage. However, the winds and rain forced organizers to move the performance down to the much smaller Black & White Lounge. Unbelievably, the EO set only started five minutes behind schedule. I don’t know how the Jam Cruise production crew pulled that off. EO conductor Matt Butler was joined by the ridiculous lineup of Allie Kral, Steve Kimock, John Morgan Kimock, Jennifer Hartswick, Anders Beck, Mike Dillon, Carly Meyers, Bill Evans, Paul Hoffman, Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz, Zach Gill, Chris Chew, Joel Cummins, Victor Wooten and Kofi Burbridge for the set.
The EO treated the capacity crowd to four jam-heavy segments. A member of the troupe was picked to start off the improvisation and off they went. One segment fittingly included the lyrics to “Rock The Boat,” while a Anders Beck-led sequence was based off the theme to Inspector Gadget. Hartswick sang lead on a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)” that was the high point of the set, complete with a powerful synth solo from Cummins.
New Orleans-based bands Bonerama and Anders Osborne were up next in the theater and Black & White Lounge respectively, showing off two completely different sounds from the Crescent City. Bonerama’s set included a nasty take on the Grateful Dead’s “West L.A. Fadeaway” featuring blazing guitar work and throaty vocals from Billy Iuso as well as a horn-driven cover of “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin'” by the Stones. As if three trombonists in the band wasn’t enough, Bonerama brought out trombonist Dan from MarchForth for a four trombone workout. Iuso quickly headed over to the Lounge to join Osborne and friends for an equally nasty “Shakedown Street.” Anders’s set was so impressive, the “Shakedown Street” wasn’t even the highlight, those honors belong to a raucous take on “Louisiana Funk” featuring Mike Dillon, Cyril and Ivan Neville and Billy Iuso.
The final set on the Pool Deck Stage was listed as “Masters Camp at Sea Allstars” and I was hoping we’d get to see the faculty members from the program such as Col. Bruce Hampton, Butch Trucks, Cody and Luther Dickinson, Victor Wooten and Kofi Burbridge perform together. Sadly, the set was called off, I believe due to weather and high seas.
Since Neal Evans didn’t make the trip, Nigel Hall held down the keys for the vast majority of both Lettuce sets. Hall oozes stage presence and drove the crowd wild during “Busting Loose.” Lettuce guests included Niederauer, Alecia Chakour, Cyril Neville and Glaspie. The Wailers’s second set of the trip featured many of the same Bob Marley classics as the Sail Away Set from Jamaica, though the “Exodus” finale was a nice treat.
Over in the Jam Room Anders Osborne drummer Eric Bolivar was the evening’s host. In addition to the previously mentioned appearance from Niederauer, highlights included a ridiculous “Whipping Post” > “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Come Together” combo. Will Bernard, Adam Deitch, George Porter Jr., Joe Tatton, JamBase contributor Andrew Bruss, Tony Hall and Carl Dufrene were among the guests in the Jam Room on its final night.
Outside of the Jam Room was the cozy confines of “The Spot,” where Nathan Moore welcomed the more song-based artists on the ship to folk out with him. On Jam Cruise 12, Moore brought along four musicians to hold down the fort each night until the sun rose. Nathan was joined by upright bassist Lex Park, multi-instrumentalist Ethan Hawkins, fiddle player Jay Austin and guitarist Bryan Elijah Smith, who was making his third Jam Cruise appearance. Word was out on “The Spot” in 2014 as many Jam Cruise musicians (both professional and amateur) made their way to Moore’s song sessions. Of particular note was Steve Kimock’s visit which included a memorable take on “Deal.” Greensky Bluegrass’s Paul Hoffman was a regular at “The Spot” and for me his version of “Dustbowl Overtures” is the song that will stay with me throughout the next few months. Zach Deputy stopped by “The Spot” late on Wednesday night and he made the best of the situation when he broke one of the strings on his guitar. Deputy, who was backed by Moore’s crew and Allie Kral, wrote an impromptu song called “Five-String Guitar” that showed off his freestyling ability.
Galactic received the honors of the final set of Jam Cruise 12. Though I was at “The Spot” and in the Jam Room, I’ve heard both Maggie Koerner and David Shaw stole the show once again during a set that featured more NoLA musicians than a typical episode of Treme. Mike Dillon wins the award for most time on stage during the trip as his appearance with Galactic for the majority of their set was one of many he made throughout Jam Cruise 12.
Reality hit hard when the ship returned to Miami. Jam Cruisers needed to vacate their quarters just a few hours after the music stopped as we re-entered the real world. I left the boat inspired and with my batteries recharged, hopefully my fellow cruisers are having the same experience. One guy I spoke with as I disembarked quipped, “what is it -only 360 days until Jam Cruise 13?” He’s not the only one counting down the days until we reach musical nirvana once more.
JamBase | Till Next Year
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