Jam Cruise 11’s last Jam Room performer left the stage around 5 AM this morning, shortly before the MSC Poesia pulled into Ft. Lauderdale FL. Hosted by Motet keyboardist Joey Porter, the jam session closed the scheduled part of the five-day destination event.
For Jam Cruise passengers, most of Friday was spent in Coco Cay, Bahamas, a private, cruise line-owned island. Singer/songwriter/Surprise Me Mr. Davis frontman Nathan Moore helped welcome passengers into Friday morning at The Spot, an unmarked space on one of the ship’s outdoor walkways where he’s hosted acoustic troubadour sessions since Tuesday night. Moore drew his biggest crowd yet to The Spot on Thursday night, with numerous fans and performers stopping by throughout the evening, including: Tea Leaf Green frontman Trevor Garrod and Umphrey’s McGee keyboardist Joel Cummins, who performed on melodica.
Jam Cruise arrived in Coco Cay at 8AM and an afternoon beach party kicked off at noon. Around 1PM, singer/guitarist Scott Law played an acoustic solo set on the beach. Later, Perpetual Groove guitarist Brock Butler—who first met Law on the boat from the ship to Coco Cay—joined Law for a few acoustic songs including Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes” and Butthole Surfers’ “Pepper.” Then, Butler offered an acoustic segment of his own that peaked during a cover of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones’ “Big Country.”
Once back onboard, Steel Pulse kicked off Jam Cruise 11’s final sail away on the ship’s Pool Deck stage. Although the members of Steel Pulse were new to Jam Cruise, they embraced the event’s collaborative spirit and could be found checking out music throughout the weekend. For their final Jam Cruise set, the band treated fans to a reworked arrangement of the Grateful Dead’s “Franklin’s Tower” and brought both Ivan Neville and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe trumpeter Chris Littlefield onstage for well-placed sit-ins. Soon after, MarchFourth Marching Band and members of the ship’s crew treated fans to a flashmob based around P-Funk’s ““Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker).”
As Steel Pulse’s show came to a close, a who’s who of Jam Cruise performers gathered in the ship’s Teatro Carlo Felice for The Everyone Orchestra’s lone event performance. Designed as a “thank you” to fans who participated in Jam Cruise’s Positive Legacy outreach program, the freeform jam session led by EO conductor Matt Butler, featured moe. guitarist Al Schnier and moe. percussionist Jim Loughlin , String Cheese Incident keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth, ALO keyboardist Zach Gill, Big Gigantic drummer Jeremy Salken, percussionist Mike Dillon, Trey Anastasio Band horn section staples Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman, bassist Andy Hess, Dave Matthews Band/Flecktones saxophonist Jeff Coffin, Tea Leaf Green bassist Reed Mathis, Lettuce guitarist Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff, Greensky Bluegrass’s mandolinist Paul Hoffman and dobro player Anders Beck, along with members of The Motet, among others. At one point Butler called out a “metal theme,” leading Schnier to play some hard rock guitar and Dillon to come to the stage to freestyle.
Meanwhile, JJ Grey made up his previously scheduled piano set in the ship’s grand three-story atrium. Grey had the flu for much of the trip and was forced to postpone his piano set earlier in the week. For his rescheduled set, Grey performed on an acoustic guitar while his Mofro collaborator Anthony Farrell played grand piano. The duo focused on material from their forthcoming studio album, which is due out in April, and brought out Butler for a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” After Grey’s set, Ivan Neville offered an emotional solo piano set of his own. Neville—the only person to play an atrium solo piano set two years in a row—focused mostly on sober ballads as well as covers like Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” He talked at length about his mother, who passed away when the keyboardist was on Jam Cruise a few years ago, and debuted a new song he wrote with The Bridge’s Cris Jacobs in her memory. At one point when Neville became emotional, Bernie Worrell took the stage to hug him. He also reminded the audience that Neville was his “nephew and protégé.” Dumpstaphunk bassist Nick Daniels sat in with Neville on a few songs too, first from the audience and later on the piano’s platform. At the end of Neville’s set, Worrell returned to play piano alongside his friend on Sly Stone’s “Family Affair.” As one encore, Neville, Daniels and Warren Haynes Band/Lettuce’s Nigel Hall offered Gerald Tillman’s “Padlock.” Ivan’s uncle Art Neville watched the entire set from the audience in a wheelchair, calling out songs and telling his nephew “it sounds good” from the crowd.
The Pool Deck stage’s final night was an official Bay Area evening, featuring three bands with long, intertwined history. Hot Buttered Rum started things off and brought out ALO keyboardist Zach Gill and ALO drummer Dave Brogan for portions of their set. At the end of the show, Lee Boys pedal steel player Roosevelt Collier and Tea Leaf Green’s Reed Mathis—who played percussion instead of bass—sat in on an extended version of “Turn on Your Lovelight.” Hot Buttered Rum also worked up an energetic, bluegrass-inspired cover of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name.” ALO was the second of three Bay Area bands to perform. A number of musicians sat in throughout their 90-minute performance, including Collier, Steve Kimock and his son John Morgan, as well as moe. guitarist Al Schnier, who joined in on the ALO original “Try.” The ship’s theme was This is Spinal Tap and ALO embraced this spirit by bringing out Mathis and Meters bassist George Porter Jr. for a bass-heavy version of Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom.” Everyone Orchestra’s Matt Butler, who played drums in ALO during their early days, also played percussion on the song. Mathis remained onstage as ALO bassist Steve Adams put down his instrument to front the band on “Falling Dominoes,” while Butler sat in for the remainder of the evening, including a take on Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” Finally, Tea Leaf Green closed out the Northern California-themed evening with Jam Cruise 11’s final Pool Deck set. They brought out all of ALO for a collaborative jam during “Zoom Zoom” and also invited out Worrell near the end of their set. Their performance climaxed with “The Garden Part III.”
Another super jam took place in the ship’s Zebra Bar. For his New York Hustler Ensemble set, Wyllys called upon a number of the ship’s performers to fill out his band. Those guests included Hustler Ensemble mainstays Jennifer Hartswick, Natalie Cressman, Joel Cummins, Jeff Coffin, Lettuce guitarist Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff and Lettuce bassist Erick Coomes, Tiny Universe guitarist DJ Williams and Dumpstaphunk drummer Nikki Glaspie. Wyllys also spun during the ship’s costume contest on the Magic Hat Wind Stage.
Fittingly, two Jam Cruise staples closed out the Teatro Carlo Felice. Karl Denson—who has appeared on each Jam Cruise—ran through a two-hour set with his band Tiny Universe. He also invited out a slew of guests, including his Greyboy Allstars keyboardist Robert Walter, Ivan Neville, Nigel Hall, Jeff Coffin, Skerik and members of Lettuce’s horn section. As always, Galactic—the only full band to play every Jam Cruise—closed out the theater’s festivities. For the second show in a row, percussionist Mike Dillon sat in throughout their entire performance. Rebirth Brass Band’s Corey Henry and Living Colour singer Corey Glover, both of whom are on tour with the band, also augmented the core Galactic lineup for a chunk of their set while Skerik sat in for a few songs. At one point, the power went out for a few minutes, and the members of Galactic brought out The Soul Rebels to help them perform during the interruption.
Porter’s Jam Room set kicked off at 1:30 AM and drew in many of his Motet collaborators. At one point, Nick Daniels, Nigel Hall, Ian Neville, Adam Deitch, Eric Krasno—who are collectively known as Dr. Klaw—all took the stage for stealth late night performance in the Jam Room. A few flights above, Orchard Lounge performed in the disco. Though the Jam Room hosted the evening’s final official music, Moore’s Spot jam session was still going strong as the clock ticked toward 6 AM.