[Photos by Dave Vann]
Jam Cruise’s signature Jam Room was still going at 7:45 AM Wednesday morning as the MSC Poesia pulled into Labadee, a resort village located on the coast of Haiti. Throughout the day, passengers relaxed on the beach or participated in a range of extreme sport activities including an above-water zip-line and an alpine slide roller coaster. Though fenced off from the rest of Haiti, Jam Cruise’s non-profit outreach arm Positive Legacy organized a beach party with numerous local teenagers and helped plant trees in the tsunami-plagued country. Positive Legacy also organized a massive shoe drive while both Zach Deputy and Toubab Krewe played for passengers and locals alike on a beach. During their set, the members of the world music/southern rock combo Toubab Krewe also brought out a troupe of local dancers to perform with them onstage.
As passengers made their way onboard in the late afternoon, Ozomatli performed on the ship’s pool deck stage. The LA hip-hop/Latin music combo brought out a few friends during their set like Karl Denson and Chali 2na, who is onboard Jam Cruise with Break Science but was actually an early member of Ozomatli. Meanwhile, Everyone Orchestra leader Matt Butler, Jessica Lurie and the members of Orgone backed a number of audience members in a game of Rock Star Karaoke, while Bruce Hornsby participated in a rare audience Q & A in the ship’s Jam Room. Between solo piano performances, Hornsby fielded a variety of questions about his techniques and unique career arch. He also revealed that many of his earliest hit singles were actually recordings of him and a drum machine since “he never beat” the demos he sent to his A& R rep, the late Paul Atkinson, a former members of iconic British group the Zombies. He also discussed his decision to re-arrange some of his biggest hits (he has trouble hitting the high notes), described his songwriting goal (he’s in search of the chills) and mentioned which musicians have an open invitation to play with him onstage (Steve Kimock, Jimmy Herring, Bela Fleck and Branford Marsalis).
For many fans onboard, the early evening’s marquee events took place on the ship’s pool deck stage. Umphrey’s McGee bassist Ryan Stasik and guitarist Brendan Bayliss united with New Deal drummer Darren Shearer and keyboardist Jamie Shields for a set of late ’70s and ‘80s covers with the Omega Moos. In addition to the side project’s usual crop of classic, cheese-rock songs like Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me,” Devo’s “Whip It” and Spandau Ballet’s “Know This Much is True,” the group invited out Yacht Rock singer John Oates to sing and play guitar on Hall & Oates classics like “Man Eater,” “Out of Touch” and “I Can’t Go For That.” Karl Denson sat in for the three-song segment while Phish lighting designer Chris Kuroda handled the boards for part of the performance. Oates described his Jam Cruise journey as “one of the greatest experiences we ever had” from the stage (the pop star has been a visible presence on the ship, sitting in with the likes of Karl Denson, Umphrey’s McGee and Ivan Neville’s Sly Stone tribute and eating in the ship’s cafeteria alongside fans).
After the Omega Moos’ pool deck performance, 7 Walkers played a two hour show for sprawling crowds. Mixing original songs from their recent studio album with Grateful Dead classics, the band appealed to both Jam Cruise’s funk/groove and jamband contingents. Greyboy Allstars keyboardist Robert Walter emerged for a cover of “Smokestack Lightnin’” and played alongside 7 Walkers’ Matt Hubbard for a bit. Later, 7 Walkers’ frontman Papa Mali brought out his 20-year-old son to play guitar on a few songs, including “New Speedway Boogie.” For the second show in a row, Steve Kimock also joined 7 Walkers for their entire show; a late show climax was a take on “Eyes of the World” featuring Karl Denson and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band horns.
Fans wandering through the ship’s lower levels had a variety of options too: both the always quirky That 1 Guy and Break Science with surprise guest Big Sam held court in the ship’s Zebra bar, Royal Family keyboardist Nigel Hall played a solo piano set in ship’s atrium with guests like George Porter Jr. Meanwhile, Ivan Neville and Soulive played to a packed house in the ship’s grand Teatro Carlo Felice. Though they mostly stayed clear of the super jam vibe, Soulive did bring out Big Sam and the Lettuce Horns. They also played a mini-set of material from their recent Beatles cover project Rubber Soulive.
As previously reported, Simon Posford was unable to attend the festival at the last minute. Filling in for the electronic artist during his pool deck set was DJ Logic, who offered a “DJ Logic & Friends set.” The outdoor performance kicked off with George Porter Jr. on bass and Logic behind the turntables and then later New Deal drummer Darren Shearer came out to beatbox for a bit. After Porter left the stage, Shearer switched to drums, String Cheese Incident’s Michael Travis joined in on percussion and Karl Denson and members of his Tiny Universe took the stage. The Kinetix bassist Josh Fairman—who is on the cruise as a fan—also participated in the freeform jam. A few floors down, but a world away stylistically, Keller & the Keels offered a set of bluegrass in the ship’s theater that included a reworked version of Foster the People’s indie-pop hit “Pumped Up Kicks” (a highlight of Williams’ recent New Year’s show). Both Greensky Bluegrass dobro master Anders Beck and Greensky mandolinist Paul Hoffman—another professional musician on the boat in an unofficial capacity—also joined in for the action.
Deep into their third day, the musicians onboard have started to socialize and that energy could be felt throughout the ship. In the ship’s official Jam Room, Col. Bruce Hampton—a cruise regular who rarely performs onstage—led George Porter Jr. and the members of his Runnin Pardners, Jessica Lurie, Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone and many others in a set of covers that included “Let the Good Times Roll.” Outside the Jam Room on a deck located below the ship’s tender 21, Surprise Me Mr. Davis’ Nathan Moore and Davis/Slip guitarist Brad Barr led their own, unannounced street busker session for a handful of fans. The intimate troubadour set featured originals such as “Sleepyhead” and a blues reworking of “Before You Were Born,” as well as covers ranging from the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” and an appropriate “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay.” Moore also offered up the original Jam Cruise song he wrote onboard last year. Some additional musicians also sat down on the ground to perform with the Davis duo like Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone, Greensky Bluegrass’ Paul Hoffman, longtime scene publicist/mandolinist Dave Weissman and Davis drummer Andrew Barr, who clapped along on the sidelines. After the set, Brad Barr moved inside to join the Dead Kenny G’s for a freeform jazz odyssey in the Zebra Bar that also featured Karl Denson and Jessica Lurie.
Jam Cruise will host the New Deal’s final show today, but last night the destination event presented a reunion of sorts: one of Perpetual Groove’s first shows with keyboardist Matt McDonald, who recently rejoined P-Groove after almost four years away from the band. The group closed the Teatro Carlo Felice with a two-hour show from 2-4 AM. Both the Lee Boys’ Roosevelt Collier and saxophonist Gary Palow emerged for an extended jam, while Perpetual Groove brought their show to a climax with a cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.”
As of press time, music was still going strong on the ship’s pool deck as Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave. played their second show of the cruise. Trombonist Big Sam, Galactic touring members Corey Henry (Rebirth Brass Band) and the Dirty Dozen horns are among the acts who have already sat in with the rising New Orleans star this evening. Likewise, Karl Denson was continuing his sprint in the Jam Room with a unique configuration that included members of The Heavy Pets, Ozomatli and Railroad Earth while The New Mastersounds’ Pete Shand was DJing a set of mash-ups in the disco. Later on, Nigel Hall also performed a solo soul set in the Jam Room.