Capital Jazz SuperCruise 2017

This year's 11th annual Capital Jazz SuperCruise took place on the Norwegian Breakaway, sailing from NYC to Bermuda and back, from September 24 until October 1st, 2017. After last year's problems caused by having moved to a much larger vessel, my expectations were not too high, still I expected most problems to have been worked out in the meantime. It was interesting to note that a large number of guests were first timers with the SuperCruise, so these people just enjoyed what they got, while for me it was the 8th SuperCruise, being able to compare.

They returned to a simple system with all the major shows in the main theater being held four times, assigning people to particular shows, thus making sure that everybody had a chance to see those shows, no reservations needed. The rest of the shows that took place at various venues across the ship were on a first come first served basis, which forced people to stand in line without a guarantee to get a seat, which occasionally caused some grief and anger. I was unable to see the shows of Dave Hollister and violinist Damien Escobar due to the large demand, the limited number of shows, and my refusal to stand in line for hours. Things got a little better over the course of the week.

In the main theater, notable concerts were the Luther Re-Lives Tribute Show featuring William Wardlaw who eerily looked and sounded like Luther and was warmly received, the Robert Glasper Experiment, Chrisette Michele, India.Arie, Will Downing, Gladys Knight, plus a great Motown Tribute Show featuring a host a guest performers.

In smaller venues we heard performers like Earl Klugh, Jeffrey Osborne, Mindi Abair (with Randy Jacobs on guitar), Vivian Green, Kirk Franklin, Eric Roberson, Jonathan Butler and Daley. A special highlight for me were the midnight shows at the Atrium with people like saxophonist Mike Phillips, soul group The Hamiltones, Greg Adams & East Bay Soul, RC & The Gritz, saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin & Soul Squad and violinist Chelsey Green & The Green Project. This was the place to discover new talent and listen to music off the beaten path.

But my absolute favorite were the jam sessions that took place in the main theater past midnight, hosted by Robert Glasper or Eric Roberson, emphasizing either Jazz or Soul/R&B. There we heard people like Julie Dexter, Nao Yoshioka, Tracy Hamlin, Art Sherrod Jr. Jeff Bradshaw, plus tons of players that happened to be on the ship, taking the opportunity to have fun and stretch out a little bit.

One more highlight was the concert by Liner Notes, a band of singers and musicians providing a show that connected the dots between Jazz, R&B and Hip Hop, with short narrated parts, delivering an entertaining and enlightening show.

Apart from the music, people were flocking in droves to comedians like Michael Colyar, Tommy Davidson & Kevin Lee and Mark Curry & Earthquake.

There was an abundance of other things going on, with DJs Tra'Nicole, Nabs, Kemit, Francis Jaye and others, dance classes, "name that tune" games, poetry, card games, movie screenings (with special guest Pam Grier on the boat), Hip-Hop with Slick Rick, a Go-Go party with Rare Essence, several Q&A sessions, a costume party, and more. There was almost always something to do.

My final verdict still is rather positive, despite a few shortcomings, like the need to stand in line for hours and the inability to see a couple of shows. On the positive side, the music on the ship was first rate throughout, I discovered some new talent, the music is programmed with an open mind, aimed at the true music aficionado, with a desire to promote the culture of black music in all its various forms. I came off the ship satisfied and full of great memories.

The SuperCruise will continue with its 12th edition in January 2019 on the Royal Caribbean cruise line, sailing from January 17-25, 2019, which hopefully will allow it to regain its former glory. For me, this has been the last SuperCruise for a while because I cannot make it during the new time slot. I will miss my many music friends I have met over the years, but our paths will cross again one day.