Smooth sailing for funky jazz

Report by Mark Gilbert

David SanbornFusion, smooth jazz, jazz-lite - call it what you will - might be derided in the loftier echelons of the critical establishment but it's booming at sea, with names such as David Sanborn (pictured right), Marcus Miller, Kirk Whalum and Joe Sample finding safe ports of call in the Caribbean, courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions, LLC.

Jazz Cruises LLC (as it then was) began in 2000 as the successor to Norwegian Cruise Line which ran jazz cruises through the 80s and 90s (see reports in JJ, past months).

At first it operated the largely mainstream Jazz Cruise which is still a central plank of ECP's operations. But in the last couple of years interest in the company's Smooth Jazz Cruise, which started in 2004, has burgeoned.

Perhaps one key to its success is that the melodic, funky, sometimes Latin strains of the music fit well with the Caribbean setting. Another might be the shifting jazz demographic, as fans of 80s and 90s smooth jazz move into maturity with more leisure time and greater affluence. 

The Smooth Jazz Cruise 2012 makes two one-week sailings, January 15-22 and January 22-29, from Fort Lauderdale, calling at Nassau, St Thomas, Saint Barth's and Half Moon Cay.

Among the musicians are David Sanborn, Marcus Miller, Jonathan Butler,  Gerald Albright, Candy Dulfer, Boney James, Rick Braun, Brian Culbertson, Jeff Golub, Euge Groove, Patrice Rushen, Joe Sample, Kirk Whalum, Peter White and Michael "Patches" Stewart. Where else would you see an assemblage of such names in one place in the space of a week?

So confident are the organisers of the growth of the Smooth Jazz Cruise that they have started selling the 2013 event, featuring George Benson, David Sanborn, Marcus Miller, Candy Dulfer, Jonathan Butler, Rick Braun, Brian Culbertson, Richard Elliot, Jeff Golub and Bob James. A measure of its dance-driven entertainment value might that it's then to be renamed "The Greatest Party at Sea".

The standard Jazz Cruise 2012 sails a similar itinerary for just one week, 29 January to 5 February, and features a similarly stunning array of stars from the mainstream to modern field.

Among them are John Allred, Shelly Berg, Don Braden, Randy Brecker, Ann Hampton Callaway, Bill Charlap, Pete Christlieb, Anat Cohen, Freddy Cole, Jerry Dodgion, Kurt Elling, John Fedchock, Benny Golson, Scott Hamilton, Ken Peplowski, Houston Person and many more.

Details of artists, itineraries, costs (prices start around $1800) and so forth for both cruises can be found at The Jazz Cruise and The Smooth Jazz Cruise.

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