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Back Roads Beat

2007 North Sea Jazz Cruise Day 8: School Daze With McCoy Tyner, Amateurs And A 'Ship Pianist'

By Published: July 26, 2007
"I timed that and it lasts five minutes. You try it and try to last for five minutes," he said with another laugh, mop of the brow and sip from his glass.

One man in the audience puckered up, but abandoned the effort after about 30 seconds.

Requests from the crowd came after nearly every song and like most lounge players he seemed ready to handle most of them from memory (he claims a repertoire of more than 400). While other, more famous players, were putting in their 90 minutes or so and calling it a night, Nadeau showed no signs of leaving or tiring until the last listener departed. He said audiences have been only slightly lighter than normal during this cruise.

"I'm lovin' it," he said. "I can't believe I'm pulling them in."

The native of New Brunswick, Canada, said he hasn't seen any of the jazz performances ("I couldn't stand in line. I'd rather meet the passengers instead"). He said he's been a longtime entertainer after enduring misery as a life insurance salesman—"a cross between Bobby Short and Mel Torme" is how his Web bio describes him — but fulfilling his desire of getting a cruise ship gig took a long time.

"So many people told me I should be on ships, it sort of created a mystic, almost a vision, for me, but it wasn't something I had access to," he said. "I'm landlocked, I'm Canadian. So finally I booked myself with an agent...I only booked myself as far as I could drive."

Nadeau's first ship gig came in 1999 when he was hired for Holland America's Millennium Cruise To Hawaii and he has seen most of the world by sea in the years since. His gigs typically start around 7 p.m. or so, leaving him freer than most crew to participate in shore excursions as an escort.

"It's fun, it's an opportunity," he said. "You just behave on those things and they keep using you. All you do basically is tag along and you're the sheep dog. You make sure nobody gets lost, you count people and you report to the guide on the bus."

He has a wife and three grown daughters, but has only been home for three weeks during the past year.

"I tell people 'What's the point of her sending me away if she's going to come along?'" Nadeau said with another punctuating laugh.

"She's got a real job with the government. We consider it peace in the valley. The only problem is the dogs get used to sleeping in the beds, so when I get home..."

More laughter.

Individual members of the family have accompanied him on cruises, but they finally all participated together on this year's New Year's voyage he was working. He set them up with the full tour, exposing them to things like hot stone massages and parasailing in Half Moon Key.

"I told them they were going to start the New Year in the sky," he said. "It was freakin' incredible. They just died."

Laughter.

Nadeau has recorded two albums of mixed originals and standards that are sold in the ship's gift shop and available at his Web site (both can be streamed in full free of charge). Most songs are mellower than his lounge act, but "Yellow Blues" (download the MP3) is a strong example. His biography is a long, but captivating read about his music background, the history of his compositions and highlights of his travels.

Coming on Day 9: Land Ho! Friend or Foe For The Festival Natives?


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