Music fans from all over the country once again converged on Port of Miami on Friday to ship out on the 15th annual Jam Cruise, which is set to head off to Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Grand Cayman Island this year. While some stage construction on the Pool Deck cause a slight delay in departure, the Norwegian Pearl set off on its journey in fantastic Jam Cruise style.
As the skyscrapers of Miami floated by, Turkuaz took to the Pool Deck stage to kick off the first evening of music on the festival-at-sea, and the Brooklyn power-funk ensemble brought their A game will a set chock full of originals, like the appropriately themed “Desert Island” and the Sammi Garett-led “Tiptoe Through the Crypto,” plus a climactic cover of The Band’s “The Shape I’m In.” The Motet’s Joey Porter also helped out on keys during one of the tunes.
At the same time, former Kung Fu and current Electric Beethoven keyboardist Todd Stoops played a rare solo set elsewhere on the ship, showcasing his lesser-known vocal talents and also welcoming Twiddle frontman Mihali Savoulidis for a mashup of Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” and Tupac Shakur’s “Changes,” which samples the track.
New Orleans horn outfit The Soul Rebels kept the energy flowing in the Stardust Theater, riling the crowd up with nods to everyone from Steely Dan to Gloria Estefan, plus a short cover of Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky.” Back on the Pool Deck, The Revivalists countered with their own Crescent City flavor with a crowd-pleasing set that closed out with their recent single “Wish I Knew You.”
Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz injected some California sound into the first day’s offerings in the Spinnaker Lounge, joined by the likes of drummer Jay Lane, keyboardist Robert Walter, Motet bassist Garrett Sayers and vocalist Lesley Grant. The ensemble delivered several originals from Lebo and the group, including a song he wrote about the community spirit of the Bay Area and the lively musicians haunt of Terrapin Crossroads, along with covers like their upbeat, funky take on Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” which Lebo punctuated by saying “Take that, Inauguration Day.”
While Cris Jacobs brought his one-man blues machine to the Crystal Atrium, Kamasi Washington offered up one of the major highlights of the first day in the Stardust Theater, presenting his band of impressive jazz musicians—along with a guest spot from his father, Rickey Washington—and a set of original tunes and improvisation that included a drum battle “conversation” between the band’s dual percussionists, Ronald Bruner Jr. and Tony Austin
At the same time, moe. took to the Pool Deck stage for a euphoric performance with most of the band donning full animal jumpsuits, while trumpeter Gabe Mervine led the late-night Jazz Lounge and Beats Antique brought their live band to the Spinnaker Lounge.
As the early morning hours rolled on, BIG Something closed out the first-night festivities on the Pool Deck, while Borahm Lee and Adam Deitch turned the Stardust Theater into a dance party with their Break Science project. Over in the Spinnaker Lounge, Deitch’s Lettuce bandmates were helping guitarist DJ Williams lead the first Jam Room of the cruise, as the Shady Horns’ Ryan Zoidis and Eric Bloom filled out the horn section. Williams, who plays in Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, also welcomed his KDTU bandmate and Soulive drummer Alan Evans, along with Cris Jacobs and more for a set of originals featuring improvised flourishes from the horns and Williams leading the way. The guitarist would later bring on Denson himself to augment the horn section.
KDTU will return today for their own set, along with music from Benevento/Russo Duo, Lettuce, Kamasi Washington, Twiddle, Neville Jacobs, Dopapod, a Steve Kimock-led Jam Room and much more for day two of Jam Cruise 15.