Photo via Jam Cruise’s Facebook page
Jam Cruise docked in Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos early Wednesday morning. Throughout the day, passengers scattered across the 10-square mile island. Some busied themselves at the beach while others took part in activities like a trip to a mini-submarine. Jam Cruise’s outreach wing Positive Legacy also hosted a day of service with local children. Eric Krasno, members of the Burning Man-inspired MarchFourth Marching Band, Dumpstaphunk bassist Tony Hall and other Jam Cruise artists performed for the young children and even invited a 12-year old to play drums with them in front of the international audience.
The MSC Poesia arrived in Grand Turk just a few hours after Tuesday night’s musical offerings wrapped-up. Nathan Moore’s songwriter sessions in The Spot—the floor of an outdoor walkway where he’s posted up every Jam Cruise since 2011—swelled to include musicians like Tea Leaf Green guitarist Josh Clark and members of Greensky Bluegrass. Moore and his associates welcomed Wednesday’s first morning rays with a cover of The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” A few feet away in the ship’s grand Teatro Carlo Felice, jamtronica group Big Gigantic packed away their laptops at the end of the nights and invited out saxophonist Karl Denson, Lettuce bassist Erik Coomes, The Motet keyboardist Joey Porter, The Motet horn section and Trey Anastasio Band trombonist Natalie Cressman for a Herbie Hancock tribute. Big Gigantic’s set followed Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood’s final 2013 Jam Cruise performance (the group left the ship Wednesday). During their performance, keyboardist Ivan Neville sat in on an experimental jam that felt closer to MMW’s acid-jazz roots than Neville’s signature New Orleans sounds.
After all the ship’s passengers returned, music resumed on the MSC Poesia’s Pool Deck around 6 PM. Dumpstaphunk performed as the ship moved away from Grand Turk, and they invited out a horn section consisting of Skerik and Lettuce/Trey Anastasio Band saxophonist James Casey—this year’s sit in star—for an extended portion of their set. Group frontman Ivan Neville talked about the band’s forthcoming studio album, which he promised will be available in the coming weeks. One cover highlight included a funky reworking of David Bowie’s “Fame.” He also brought out Trey Anastasio Band trumpeter/singers Jennifer Hartswick, P-Funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell and Lettuce/Warren Haynes Band’s Nigel Hall for cameos at various points throughout Dumpstaphunk’s performance. Meters keyboardist Art Neville—whose son Ian plays in Dumpstaphunk—watched the entire set sidestage in a wheelchair.
Elsewhere on the ship, String Cheese Incident keyboardist and avid home brewer Kyle Hollingsworth participated in a brewing panel, Scott Law, members of Tea Leaf Green and ALO backed fans for some live karaoke and Femi Kuti officiated the ship’s public wedding (a member of Zooga had already gotten married on the beach in Grand Turk earlier in the day). After JJ Grey fell ill and was unable to play his scheduled piano set in the ship’s three-story atrium, Mofro guitarist Andrew Trube and keyboardist Anthony Farrell rallied and performed a few songs drawn from the catalog of their Austin-based group, Greyhounds.
Two very different acts occupied the ship’s early evening hours. In the Teatro Carlo Felice, Greensky Bluegrass tried for the record of the ship’s fastest song. They also reworked Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” to include several hipster references and invited Lee Boys pedal steel player Roosevelt Collier for a cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s “Midnight Rider.” In addition, they played “Demons,” a song inspired by a hang with Nathan Moore.
At the same time, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe performed for approximately 2,000 fans on the ship’s Pool Deck stage. Denson—one of the only performers to appear on all 11 Jam Cruises—opened his stage up to a parade of guests, including: Casey, Hall, Collier, Ivan Neville, percussionist Mike Dillon, Dave Matthews Band/Flecktones saxophonist Jeff Coffin, keyboardist Robert Walter, Galactic drummer Stanton Moore, most of The Motet and others. He described Jam Cruise’s sound as “modern jazz” music and closed his set with an instrumental reading of The White Stripes’ “7 Nation Army.” Since Denson’s current Tiny Universe includes his Greyboy Allstars bandmate Chris Stillwell on bass, when Walter took the stage the evening doubled as something of a mini-Greyboy Allstars reunion.
As Denson’s set wrapped-up, most of the ship’s passengers made their way downstairs to the Teatro Carlo Felice, where moe. drew a near-capacity crowd for a two-hour set short on lyrics but heavy on long, psychedelic jams. moe. opened up with “The Pit” before moving into an appropriate “Water,” an extremely stretched out “Recreational Chemistry,” “Where Does the Time Go,” “McBain,” “Silver Sun,” “Wind it Up” and the encore of “Godzilla.” Before “McBain,” Jam Cruise’s Annabel Lukins brought moe. guitarist Al Schnier a cake onstage for his 45th birthday and led the crowd in “Happy Birthday.” Dillon also added percussion and vibes to “McBain.” Schnier seemed excited to celebrate his birthday on the ship and the members of moe. were spotted drinking in one of Jam Cruise’s various bars after their show.
Several different funk flavors could be heard concurrently elsewhere on the ship. In the Zebra Bar, The Soul Rebels brought out Galactic saxophonist Ben Ellman during their set. On the ship’s pool deck, Lettuce showed off their jazzy side during their two-hour performance. They welcomed a few guests too, including Coffin, Tiny Universe guitarist DJ Williams and Dumpstaphunk drummer Nikki Glaspie. After The Soul Rebels’ set, Hot Buttered Rum took over the Zebra Bar. At one point, Hollingsworth emerged for his own “Let’s Go Outside” and Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime.” The Mike Dillon-led Jam Room also took off. One early combo featured Dillon, Moore and Meters bassist George Porter Jr., while the 24-person MarchFourth Marching Band performed with stilt walkers in the theater. Then, Dillon welcomed all of Lettuce to the stage for a bonus late night performance. Cressman and Dumpstaphunk bassist Nick Daniels also joined in for portions of the soulful stealth set.
Bringing the day full circle, at around 1:45 AM Thursday morning Moore returned to The Spot for another troubadour session. Moore has already written three original songs while onboard, including the ship-inspired “Sailor’s Lament.” During his all-night show he ran through those tunes as well as originals like “Damage” and a range of covers. At one point, Hot Buttered Rum’s Aaron Redner stopped by to play fiddle, too. As of press time, his set was still marching toward sunrise.