Jam Cruisers spent Sunday morning and early afternoon on dry land in the port of Ocho Rios, Jamaica before being treated to another full night of music featuring a mix of legendary artists and newer faces still making a name for themselves.
As the Norwegian Pearl pulled away from port and the Jamaican shoreline began to fall away into the majestic Caribbean sunset, Colorado funk collective The Motet took kicked off the evening’s offerings on the Pool Deck. The newest member of the group, vocalist Lyle Divinsky, engaged the crowd throughout the set, announcing, “We’re on a boat—gotta do some yacht rock, right?” while inviting Turkuaz vocalist’s Sammi Garett and Shira Elias for Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgetting.” The set rolled on with mix of funk with some R&B tinges and spacey excursions, plus a nod to the late great Prince with a cover of his “I Feel For You.”
As some of the ships inhabitants were watching their favorite NFL teams either triumph mightily or get trampled in the last games before the Super Bowl, Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville took to the intimate Bar City stage, which allows musicians a venue to interact more with the smaller audience. Neville took advantage of the setting, talking to the crowd in between each song and giving some stories to go along with the tunes. The set opened up with a jazzy sit in from Skerik on saxophone, and later, Neville touched upon his hard-partying younger days and also played what he introduced as the first song he ever performed in front of a crowd when he was in high school, Earth, Wind & Fire’s “All About Love,” which featured a sit in from Lettuce trumpeter Eric Bloom and a soulful duet with vocalist Nigel Hall. The set also included the second Prince nod of the night with “Raspberry Beret,” which featured Shira Elias and Dumpstaphunk bassist Tony Hall, plus some later help from Neville’s collaborator Cris Jacobs.
Back on the Pool Deck, Reed Mathis was leading his Electric Beethoven project, whose live band includes keyboardist Todd Stoops, drummer Jay Lane and guitarist Clay Welch. Mathis and company presented their unique, modern reinterpretation of the music Ludwig van Beethoven’s compositions, taking his melodies and motifs and running with them to create appropriately complex and technically difficult improvisations honoring the master composer.
Exactly one day after Twiddle drew a lively crowd to the pool deck, the Vermont group returned for a Stardust Theater performance that proved to be an instrumental-heavy set that featured a guest spot from Dopapod guitarist Rob Compa. At the same time, the crowd for the sparsely seen supergroup Frequinox filled the Spinnaker Lounge to the brim, as Galactic drummer Stanton Moore and bassist Robert Mercurio, keyboardist Robert Walter and guitarist Will Bernard were joined by Skerik, who was filling in for regular Frequinox saxophonist Donald Harrison.
As promised, Jam Cruise got one of its all-time highlights last night with a rare show from the original four members of legendary New Orleans funk godfathers The Meters, who delivered an impressive two-hour set on the Pool Deck to an adoring crowd for their first of two performances on the boat. George Porter Jr. led the way, kicking off the show by hitting the first bass notes to “Funkify Your Life.” Drummer Zigaboo Modeliste handled most of the crowd banter for the night, the elder statesman Art Neville showed he wasn’t done showing the world how to play funk keys and guitarist Leo Nocentelli proved that age is just a number when it comes to ripping guitar solos left and right. The band rolled through favorites like “Hand Clapping Song,” “Cissy Strut” and “Fire on the Bayou” before Porter’s daughter Katrina came out with a surprise for her father.
In honor of both the 50th anniversary of Porter and his wife Ara’s marriage, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of The Meters themselves, the couple were brought together to renew their wedding vows on stage in a touching surprise ceremony, with all band members sipping glasses of champagne. The music then continued, and the quartet—who got some keyboard support from Ivan Neville throughout the set—welcomed out a horn section that featured Shady Horns duo Ryan Zoidis and Eric Bloom and Soul Rebels’ trombone player Paul Robertson, kicking off the latter part of the set with New Orleans staple “They All Asked for You.” “People Say” featured an extended jam that saw Porter and Modeliste face off, and later, Cyril Neville joined the party for a cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” After a run of “Just Kissed My Baby,” the collective closed out the set with an expansive “Ain’t No Use” featuring vocals from Erica Falls.
Meanwhile, in the Stardust Theater, Turkuaz were delivering their second set of the cruise, which closed out with a raucous cover of Dave Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright,” which featured lead vocals from bari sax player Josh Schwartz, along with solos and powerful vocal support from the rest of the power-funk outfit. Up in the Spinnaker lounge, the Shook Twins offered a mellow counterpoint with a beautiful, acousto-electric set of beat boxing, vocal effects, instrument looping, drum machines and more, including a haunting and percussive cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World.”
Back on the Pool Deck, Galactic kept the New Orleans flavor flowing, returning for their 15th Jam Cruise, as the funk icons are one of the only artist to have played each year of the festival-at-sea. The set kicked off with “Baker’s Dozen,” and the band would later welcome out frequent collaborator Erica Falls on vocals. Cyril Neville followed up with a guest spot, and Galactic got the crowd moving with songs like “From the Corner to the Block” to close out the Pool Deck for the night.
In the Stardust Theater, GRiZ’s live duo of saxophonist Grant Kwiecinski and guitarist/vocalist Muzzy Bear provided a late-night dance party with heavy bass drops and wild, screaming saxophone, while the Jam Room was lead for the night by The Revivalists’ lap steel player Ed Williams, who welcomed out a band that included Todd Stoops, Mihali Savoulidis, Nikki Glaspie, Kam Franklin, Steve Berlin and more for a run of extended and expansive improvisations.
Jam Cruise 15 continues today with an altered schedule due to the rerouting away from Grand Cayman Island. Added to the bill are a solo set from Savoulidis and one from The Brothers Comatose, along with a “Grateful at Sea” Dead set that will feature Steve Kimock, Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz, Reed Mathis, Jay Lane, The Motet’s Joey Porter and vocalist Lesley Grant. The evenings offerings will include music from Lettuce, moe., Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, The Soul Rebels, The Motet, Dopapod, Break Science and more, plus a Jam Room led by George Porter Jr.