Capital Jazz SuperCruise VII

This year's Capital Jazz SuperCruise VII took place November 2-10, 2013 on the Carnival Freedom sailing from Fort Lauderdale and visiting ports La Romana (Dominican Republic), Curacao and Aruba (both Netherland Antilles). This was my third SuperCruise.

The SuperCruise is dedicated not only to smooth jazz and related jazz styles, but also to R&B and NeoSoul. It certainly features well known established artists, but also gives aspiring artists a chance to perform in the so called Underground Lounge, a venue which is dedicated to the newer generation of artists. This year, as expected, I heard some great music by people like Jeannette Harris, William Green, David P. Stevens, Jeff Bradshaw, Elan Trotman, Jarrod Lawson, Pete Belasco, Ty Causey, Rahsaan Patterson, Joey Sommerville, Jonathan Fritzen, Maimouna Youssef and others there. The same band supported all of those players and did a great job, playing everything from funk to r&b to jazz to deliver what was required.

On the big stage, we got Incognito (with singers Tony Momrelle, Vanessa Haynes and Natalie Williams, in addition Deborah Bond joined in for one song) which opened the cruise and were very well received. Richard Elliot and Rick Braun were in a playful mood and delivered a powerful show that was truly exciting. Take 6 and Chrisette Michele did a solid show. Another notable show was the one by Stephanie Mills, followed by Larry Graham & Graham Central Station, two classic acts that delivered some serious old school vibes. Other highlights were the show by Najee, Alex Bugnon & Phil Perry who provided two hours of musical bliss, while the Donald Byrd Tribute Show done by Spur Of The Moment plus a host of guests was just awesome. Other notable shows were by legendary pianist Bobby Lyle (who also played the Hammond B3) and saxophonist Paul Taylor, who is one of the mainstays of smooth jazz. A smashing fusion show was done by the Jeff Lorber Fusion (featuring Sonny Emory, Eric Marienthal and Jimmy Haslip). Last but not least, I would like to mention the gospel show done by Marvin Sapp and a powerful contemporary r&b show by Anthony Hamilton that concluded the cruise.

Bassist Gerald Veasley is one of the regulars of the Capital Jazz SuperCruise, doing his Bass Boot Camp teaching aspiring bass players (you don't even have to have a bass or any skills, you may just start on the spot). I love sitting in the back there and learning a thing or two despite the fact that I don't play an instrument. Gerald Veasley also led three (!) Midnight Jam Sessions that had anybody on the ship join in for some spontaneous jamming, which produced some serious highlights of the whole cruise.

Regarding teaching, in addition to the Bass Boot Camp, there were also a workshop with Bobby Lyle and a Songwriting Boot Camp with Eric Roberson.

On the lido deck, there were some great parties with concerts by violinist Ken Ford, the legendary Average White Band and Charlie Wilson, having people dance by the pool.

I also liked the Q&A sessions which give a lot of insight into the personalities and lives of our favorite artists, I went to hear Incognito, Richard Elliot, Jeff Lorber, Alex Bugnon and others, especially interesting was the Soul Music Panel with discussions about the current state of the music industry and how independent artists can become successful and a New School Of Jazz Panel about the current state of jazz, which I missed.

There were a number of DJs on the ship, I would like to single out Francis Jaye who spinned lots of indie soul and r&B, and DJ Kemit, who really knows how to deliver the right grooves.

I also found it cool that painters Jerry and Terry Lynn (aka Twin) were displaying their art on the ship, while painter Demont Pinder did his paintings one stage during several live performances, usually finishing his piece of art within the hour.

To keep us entertained, there was a lot going on, from Zumba classes to Pole Dancing (women only), card playing, Karaoke singing, dancing classes (various styles), a charity auction, fitness and the well attended Name That Bass Line with Gerald Veasley, which was great fun. On the last day, several music related films were shown (one dedicated to the late George Duke).

The piano lounge was taken care of by pianist/singer Jarrod Lawson, who did an admirable job, playing and singing every night there, supported by various artists that stopped by, often turning up the heat considerably in this intimate setting.

This cruise is really devoted to music, not only for consumption, but also for learning and preserving the art form. The spectrum of music is broad ranging from jazz to soul/r&b, programmed with an open mind and the willingness to give aspiring artists a platform to present themselves. The workshops, discussion panels and Q&As gave many insights, while the fact that so many artists were present on the boat allowed for many nice encounters between fans and artists, besides it served an important function in networking among artists, I am sure that several future collaborations will spring from players having met on this cruise. And above all, it was fun to immerse yourself one week into music, surrounded by music lovers and approachable artists, on a great cruise ship that provided everything to keep you comfortable (including a top-notch steakhouse). I have booked my cabin for next year already and look forward to the SuperCruise VIII, which will take place October 18-26, 2014 sailing from Fort Lauderdale to the ports of Panama, Costa Rica and Cayman Islands.