Capital Jazz SuperCruise 2015

The IX. annual SuperCruise sailed this year from San Juan, Puerto Rico from Oct 24 - Nov 1, visiting ports Martinique, Grenada, Tobago and Barbados. Despite the fact that those were all nice ports, offering shopping, excursions and other activities, what we came here for was the music, meeting fellow music aficionados and have plenty of fun.

Concerts were either held in the main concert hall, or on one of the various smaller stages around the ship. Most of the shows were done twice to allow everybody to enjoy their favorite artists. Still, due to the fact that some shows were taking place at the same time, one had to make tough decisions who to see and who to skip.

On the main stage, we got great shows by Gerald Albright & Norman Brown with special guest Maysa, a nice gospel show on Sunday featuring saxophonist Jackiem Joyner and CeCe Winans, sultry soul by Kenny Lattimore and Joe, some energetic smooth jazz by saxophonist Candy Dulfer (with special guest Chance Howard), an introspective set by singer/keyboardist Rachelle Ferrell, an impressing show by singer and multi instrumentalist Raul Midon, and a night of soul with Floetry and Musiq Soulchild. An absolute highlight was the "James Brown Tribute" show by house band Spur Of The Moment with an endless array of guest artists, doing JB's music ample justice. On the last night of the cruise, an "evening of classic soul" with the legendary Chaka Khan and the Whispers took place, providing one more highlight with their timeless songs.

Bigger parties were held on the Lido deck, very memorable was the show by hip-hop legends Curtis Blow, Doug E. Fresh and Kool Moe Dee that had everybody dancing by the pool, another nice block party was done by DC's own all-female band Be'la Dona providing some go-go music, plus a "sunset concert" by the legendary George Benson singing several of his hits.

Other notable shows were delivered by Japanese keyboardist Keiko Matsui, singer Gretchen Parlato who did an acoustic jazz set, some smooth sax by Marion Meadows (filling in for fellow sax player Walter Beasley who couldn't come due to health reasons), singer Bobby Caldwell, plus host and soul artist in its own right, Eric Roberson.

My personal favorite spot on the ship was the "Get Down Club" hosted by trumpet player Joey Sommerville, he had some great players like keyboardist Gregg Karukas, saxophonist Tom Braxton, guitarist U-Nam (supported by his wife Shannon Kennedy on saxophone), trumpet player Farnell Newton, saxophonist Marqueal Jordan and guitarist Matt Marshak.

Very nice was the "Underground Lounge" hosted by Eric Roberson, featuring upcoming soul singers, which is always a good place to learn about new talent. We heard artists like Tony Momrelle (of Incognito fame), Timotha Lanae, Karen Bernod, Joonie, Rhonda Thomas and George Tandy Jr.

Another personal favorite were the midnight jams, either hosted by bassist Gerald Veasley or soul singer Eric Roberson. Depending on the host, the jams featured more instrumental music or more singing, in any way, they were unrehearsed, full of surprises, and definitively fun. With the incredible amount of talent on the ship, both hosts could draw from a large pool of players, all ready to join in on the fun and have a ball.

In addition, just being members of the horn section and guesting on various sets, were saxophonist Marcus Anderson and trombone player Jeff Bradshaw. Holding it down at the "living room" was Frank McComb, who played and sang either alone at the piano or with various guests, providing his own magical moments.

A comedy night is a firm part of the cruise schedule as well, this year we were entertained by Tony Rock, Arnez J and Gary Owens. There also was a dance show with Step Africa on the opening night of the cruise.

On the last sea day, a film festival was held on the Lido deck, showing movies like a Marvin Gaye documentary or "Still Bill", a documentary on soul music legend Bill Withers, among others movies.

In addition to all the concerts and various shows, there were various DJ sets around the boat by people like NeoSoul Café's Frances Jaye, Kemit, Tra'Nicole and others, spinning everything from neo-soul to house.

Since this is the cruise for the true music lover, there were plenty of activities to learn more about the music we love so much. We got many interesting Q&A sessions with several artists present on the ship, listening parties with U-Nam and Kenny Lattimore, discussion panels touching on topics like "the joy of sax" and "women in jazz" and two "soul music" panels, giving us lots of insight and background information first hand.

Notable also was the "Bass Boot Camp" led by bassist Gerald Veasley, allowing aspiring bass players to learn directly from the master. Very interesting were a "vocal master class" provided by Rachelle Ferrell and a song improvisation class with Eric Roberson.

To keep us entertained, there were "Name That Tune" games, karaoke, open line dancing and other dance classes, plus several fitness classes early in the morning. There was constantly something going on on the ship, and it was simply impossible to catch up with all of it.

Next year's 10th anniversary cruise will sail from Miami on the Norwegian Getaway, from October 23-30, 2016. The cruise is already sold out, people interested may join a waiting list. So if you would like to attend a future SuperCruise, check the Capital Jazz website regularly and book early.