All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Live Reviews

The 11th Annual Jazz Cruise: January 29-February 5, 2012

The 11th Annual Jazz Cruise: January 29-February 5, 2012
By Published: February 25, 2012
Tributes to saxophonist Benny Golson
Benny Golson
Benny Golson
b.1929
sax, tenor
and pianist Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
highlighted the 11th annual Jazz Cruise, January 29 to February 5, 2012. As well, stellar performances were turned in by an assemblage of over 80 musicians, onboard for the Holland America cruise of the Caribbean. The spacious Westerdam ship was christened in 2004 and is one of HAL's largest, with a capacity of 1,848; this year the ship was sold out for the cruise.
The ship decor is exceptional—from the colorful glass floral bouquet that fills the ceiling of Vista Dining Room to the glass ship sculpture that dominates the Atrium, a revolving piece that catches the eye from each level of the vessel.
While dining in the Pinnacle (the upscale alternative dining room), just off the Atrium, diners can admire a collection of lighted art panels that also provide room separation. This restaurant offered great steaks and chops, as well as troll-caught salmon, among other delectable selections. Appetizers include a jumbo shrimp cocktail and many salads, such as baby arugula with smoked bacon and chopped egg, and a tower of vine ripened beefsteak tomato with purple onion. Desserts were plentiful and delicious. Passengers paid a slight extra charge to eat here but it was worth it.
The Vista Dining Room, the ship's main restaurant offers additional lighter selections , in addition to the steak, chicken and baked potato that are always on the menu, as well as outstanding seafood dishes and international cuisine.

During the week, there were jazz events in the morning and evening, with as many as two to three shows going at one time. By careful choosing, fans could catch their favorites—more than once, if desired. Concerts took place in the spacious Vista Lounge, the smaller Queen's Lounge and the intimate Ocean Lounge and Crow's Nest. Bill Charlap
Bill Charlap
Bill Charlap
b.1966
piano
's Trio, Ann Hampton Callaway
Ann Hampton Callaway
Ann Hampton Callaway
b.1959
vocalist
's Quartet and two crack bands put together for the sailing—the 17-piece Anita's All Stars and small ensembles of rotating jazz stars who played in 12 different configurations—were amongst the standouts during the seven-day cruise.

Mornings and afternoons, there were jazz films shown, Q & A sessions with musicians and roundtable discussions. Of course, cruising is for relaxing, and, there was plenty of that onboard and on beaches during three port stops.

Anita's All Star Band

Most evenings Anita's All Star Big Band (named for Jazz Cruise founder Anita Berry) was featured during shows in the Vista Lounge, under the direction of trombonist John Fedchock
John Fedchock
John Fedchock
b.1957
trombone
.

It was a sharp ensemble and didn't have the under-rehearsed sound of bands brought together for special events. There were precision arrangements, including a whirling dervish version of a "Limehouse Blues" that, featuring Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
b.1945
saxophone
, set a high standard for the rest of the event.

Monday, January 30, the band was joined by guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli
John Pizzarelli
John Pizzarelli
b.1960
guitar
, who brought his rhythm section, relaxed swinging style and witty vocals to the party. He fronted particularly effective arrangements, borrowing from the Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
book, including an ingeniously combined "Lil' Darlin' " and "Our Love Is Here to Stay"—first played separately, and then merged. The popular Pizzarelli excelled in several venues during the cruise, with his regular quartet of pianist Larry Fuller, bassist/brother Martin Pizzarelli, and drummer Anthony Tedesco.

John Pizzarelli

That same night Carmen Bradford also sang with the band. Though, bothered with laryngitis, she delivered a lusty version of "No Easy Way to Say Goodbye," a song given heft by powerful tenor solos from Christlieb and Don Braden
Don Braden
Don Braden
b.1963
sax, tenor
—two stalwart contributors to the whole week.

The Benny Golson and Oscar Peterson Tributes

Golson's much-deserved tribute was hosted Tuesday by saxophonist Jeff Clayton
Jeff Clayton
Jeff Clayton
b.1954
saxophone
in the Vista Lounge. A procession of musicians played the celebrated tenor saxophonist's familiar compositions, including "Along Came Betty," "Whisper Not" and "Stablemates." If the entire audience didn't know the tunes by name, after a few bars, it soon became clear the majority knew the melodies; Golson is certainly one of the predominate jazz composers of his time.

Highlights in the set were trumpeter Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
b.1966
trumpet
's solo on "I Remember Clifford," and, once more, passionate contributions from Braden and Christlieb on "Whisper Not," accompanied by the peerless pianist Gerald Clayton (son of bassist John; nephew of Jeff).

In the finale, all the assembled sax players picked up their horns and had a cutting session on "Blues March," with the 83-year-old Golson and his wife beaming from the front row. At the finish they accepted a commemoration gift from Jeff Clayton.

Oscar Peterson's tribute came later in the week, also in Vista Lounge. Host/pianist Mike LeDonne
Mike LeDonne
Mike LeDonne
b.1956
piano
told of his personal relationship to the late pianist/composer, and brought in virtually every pianist on the ship to pay respects with a tune.

Jeff Hamilton Trio

Standing out once more, the young Clayton captured the honoree's essence as he played the first part of Peterson's "Canadiana Suite." In turn, pianist Larry Fuller did majestic justice to Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom,"while young Italian pianist Rosanno Sportielo sparkled in his Petersonesque rapid-fire treatment of "Lester Leaps In."

Drummer Jeff Hamilton
Jeff Hamilton
Jeff Hamilton
b.1953
drums
's trio—pianist (Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty—crowned the evening. Hamilton played with Peterson in the nineties, and his trio delivered Peterson's breadth, scope and swinging soul in their performance of the second and third parts of "Canadiana Suite." Hendelman, in particular, inspired the crowd with his dazzling solo on the "Place St. Mari" section.

Kurt Elling Scales the Heights

After Sunday's Sail Away party, the cruise started on a high note with Kurt Elling
Kurt Elling
Kurt Elling
b.1967
vocalist
in Vista Lounge. Reaching a new level of creativity, the singer has never sounded better. He began with "Stardust" that made this Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael
1899 - 1981
piano
classic sound fresh and new. He mingled verse, introduction and bridge, hitting soaring high notes and then sweeping to the bottom of the scale—like a great pianist improvising upon and then revealing the substance of a song.

Elling had outstanding accompaniment from pianist Laurence Hobgood, bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr.. Guitarist John McLean
John McLean
John McLean

guitar
came on later and stole his portion of the show, as the group went into Bruno Mardan's "In Summer," which featured a plaintive Spanish Saeta-style solo by McLean on his Fender solid body guitar. Elling continued on this elevated plane, putting a Dexter Gordon
Dexter Gordon
Dexter Gordon
1923 - 1990
sax, tenor
tenor solo on "Body and Soul" into vocalese. It was similar to King Pleasure
King Pleasure
1922 - 1982
vocalist
's "Moody's Mood for Love," a take on a Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
1904 - 1969
sax, tenor
' solo on "I'm in the Mood for Love."

Elling also performed in the Ocean Bar. His voice cascaded down the scales like a waterfall on "All Or Nothing at All" while, to indicate his eclecticism, he sang a Brahms lieder in German about a lover drowning in tears. His fervent improvising on this classic became like a complex John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
solo, with clarinetist Anat Cohen
Anat Cohen
Anat Cohen

sax, tenor
accompanying him with equal intensity. To fully display his virtuosity, Elling returned in the final night's show in the Vista Lounge with the big band, sharing the bill with Anne Hampton-Callaway. He bowed to Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
1915 - 1998
vocalist
with "I Only Have Eyes For You," and cranked up the band with a solid "More Than You Know."

Hampton-Callaway and Charlap

The Crow's Nest—where the versatile Broadway/cabaret/jazz star performed in the afternoon of January 30—was almost too small to contain Hampton-Callaway's big voice and even bigger personality. Blending jazz and traditional pop, her satisfying show was put together with the immeasurable help of pianist Ted Rosenthal
Ted Rosenthal
Ted Rosenthal
b.1959
piano
.

A diva in the best sense, she brought the shouting crowd to its feet in a program featuring her no-holds-barred versions of "All of Me" and "Blue Moon." A gifted improviser, midway in the set, she took words and phrases from the audience and created songs on the spot. Truly a fan favorite of the cruise, it was necessary to weave through the almost impassable hallway opposite the venue, with people packed into every conceivable area to see Hampton-Callaway.

Charlap brought the trio that most critics agree is one of the best groups on the road—bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington - Drums. From a stately version of Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
' "Little Rascal on a Rock" to the lickety-split sprint through "My Shining Hour," Charlap's Queens Lounge set on January 30 was riveting.

The next afternoon in the Ocean Bar, Charlap was even more impressive. His enthralling "Slow Boat to China," from the forties, started as a slow sail on a placid bay and then turned into a speedboat ride, few pianists as capable of such blinding speed. Later in the cruise he played a dual piano show with his wife, pianist Renee Rosnes
Renee Rosnes
Renee Rosnes
b.1962
piano
, who also was onboard performing with all-star groups.

Cruising on the Westerdam

Mid-cruise, February 1 and 2, were shore days in Aruba and Curacao. Many stayed onboard, reading and kicking back. And there was always some event, including a morning jazz movie and video presentations. There were also passenger jam sessions every day.

A big plus for these cruises is that fans get a chance to socialize with the musicians, meeting them in the halls and elevators, around the pool on the Lido deck and in the dining rooms. Amongst the many encounters was a chance to talk to John Pizzarelli about his father, jazz guitar veteran Bucky Pizzarelli
Bucky Pizzarelli
Bucky Pizzarelli
b.1926
guitar
, who was unable to be on the cruise for medical reasons. Pianist/vocalist Freddy Cole
Freddy Cole
Freddy Cole
b.1931
piano
was also onboard with his group—and his wife, Margaret. At 80, he still has a full schedule on the road, though his wife doesn't enjoy the road at all, preferring to stay at home in Atlanta. New Yorker Braden spoke of his university teaching job in Holland, which he balances with gigs around New York. As with most musicians who go abroad, he said he gets great response from Dutch fans when he makes club appearances.

Movie Music Celebrated

A Tribute to Jazz and Movies was also on the program in the Vista Lounge. Reed player Ken Peplowski
Ken Peplowski
Ken Peplowski
b.1959
clarinet
hosted the program in his usual witty manner, escorting patrons through a variety of films, using projections on side screens, while Anita's All Stars played songs from the movies. That night the soloists were trombonist Wycliffe Gordon
Wycliffe Gordon
Wycliffe Gordon
b.1967
trombone
, tenor saxophonist Ricky Woodard , and vocalist Nikki Harris. Songs spotlighted included an intricate, unusual treatment of the theme from Laura (1944) along with Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
's theme from 1959's Anatomy of A Murder, and, most compelling, Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
's "Ornithology," from Clint Eastwood's Bird (1988). An impressive finale, featured five flutists—Jerry Dodgion
Jerry Dodgion
Jerry Dodgion
b.1932
, Kirk Whalum
Kirk Whalum
Kirk Whalum
b.1958
saxophone
, Dick Oatts
Dick Oatts
Dick Oatts
b.1953
saxophone
, Braden and Jeff Clayton
Jeff Clayton
Jeff Clayton
b.1954
saxophone
—lined up across the stage, playing Golson's big hit "Killer Joe," used in Terminal (2004); it was a mighty sound.

A Mancini Movie Songbook show was celebrated with Peplowki and cruise musical director and pianist Shelly Berg
Shelly Berg
Shelly Berg

piano
. They took the audience through Mancini's film and television archive, including a a mesmerizing duet on "Dreamsville," from 1958's Peter Gunn.

Jazz, Jazz Everywhere—from Stern to Bow

There was jazz everywhere. Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton
Scott Hamilton
Scott Hamilton
b.1954
sax, tenor
brought back memories of Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster
Ben Webster
Ben Webster
1909 - 1973
sax, tenor
as he effortlessly swung through "Cocktails for Two" and a burning version of "Lover," while pianist Rossano Sportiello
Rossano Sportiello
b.1974
piano
's solo on "All My Tomorrows" recalled the lock- chord style of Erroll Garner
Erroll Garner
Erroll Garner
1921 - 1977
piano
and Red Garland
Red Garland
Red Garland
1923 - 1984
piano
. Another day, The Clayton Brothers Quintet, with brothers Jeff and John, on alto and bass, repspectively, brought back Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Julian
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
1928 - 1975
saxophone
and the sixties with "Big Daddy Adderley's."

Passengers were talking about piano prospect Emmet Cohen
Emmet Cohen
Emmet Cohen

piano
. At 21, he was a finalist in the 2011 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition, and demonstrated maturity and confidence while displaying technique with hints of Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
and Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
b.1930
piano
. His equally young trio delivered a fiery version of Cedar Walton
Cedar Walton
Cedar Walton
1934 - 2013
piano
's "Bolivia," and an original, the moody "Dark Passage." The audience perked up with his playful "Lot of Livin' to Do" from 1963's Bye Bye Birdie.

The Heath Brothers also had many fans, playing in the Queen's Lounge. At 85, Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
b.1926
sax, tenor
has reached legendary status and is still a formidable improviser as proven on his standby, Grofe's "On the Trail." Younger brother/drummer Albert Heath
Albert Heath
Albert Heath
b.1935
drums
was the power behind the group, while young pianist Jeb Patton
Jeb Patton
Jeb Patton
b.1974
piano
stood with out with a crowd-pleasing ragtime performance, the crowd clapping hard at the finish.

The small all-star groups played in two to three venues daily, and in different configurations —twelve in all. Thursday, February 2 featured Ken Peplowski, Wycliffe Gordon, Renee Rosnes, piano, bassist Tom Kennedy
Tom Kennedy
Tom Kennedy
b.1960
bass
and drummer Butch Miles
Butch Miles
Butch Miles
b.1944
drums
. This small format made it even easier to appreciate the performers' skill; the players came together with little or no rehearsal, following the designated leader who called tunes which everyone knew or, at least, understood. Musicians went from there, playing the refrains and, with a nod, picking up cues, exchanging licks, and knowing who would solo next.

The set began with a relentlessly charging "Scrapple From the Apple." Later, on "Gone With the Wind," Rosnes explained that the song was written for the famous movie but never used. It went on to become a jazz classic, and the group showed why. Another highpoint came when Gordon stirred the crowd with his raucous trombone on "I Found a New Baby." The set closed with the lovely "A Ship Without a Sail."

Anat Cohen stood out with Friday's all stars on all three of her instruments—soprano and tenor saxophones, and clarinet—most notably on Dexter Gordon's "Fried Bananas." Harris delivered a couple nifty vocals, first on Irving Berlin's seldom-heard "I Got Lost," and then a foot-stomping up-tempo "Something's Gotta Give."

People were also talking about drummer Tommy Igoe
Tommy Igoe
Tommy Igoe

drums
's festive shows, here performing at the Crow's Nest. At New York's Birdland club, Igoe has a large following for his band; here, he really delivered with a group featuring young trumpeter Nick Marichone and saxophonist Nathan Childers, anchored by veteran pianist Allen Farnham
Allen Farnham
b.1961
and bassist James Genus
James Genus
James Genus
b.1966
bass
. Igoe's special guest on the cruise was expert percussionist and exciting vibraphonist Roland Morales-Matos. Matos went all out with his vibes solo on Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
's classic, "Spain," with the patrons up and shouting. The horn players stood out on Luis Bonfa's bossa nova, "Menina Flor," which also gained a raucous reaction; they were real crowd pleasers.

Kirk Whalum's group really had its sea legs. The group had been onboard two weeks prior, also playing on the Smooth Jazz Cruise. Straddling the line between the two genres, Whalum proved his straight-ahead cred immediately in his Crow's Nest set by ripping through a hard-charging version of Coltrane's "Giant Steps," his tenor boldly in command. Later he went further back with the classic "Red Top," paraphrasing Arnett Cobb
Arnett Cobb
Arnett Cobb
1918 - 1989
sax, tenor
's classic solo. Whalum also sampled his Valentine's Day release, Romance Song (Rendezvous, 2012), a tribute to the classic Johnny Hartman
Johnny Hartman
Johnny Hartman
1923 - 1983
vocalist
/Coltrane recording, John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman (Impulse!, 1963). No one could replace Hartman's smooth baritone, but brother, Kevin Whalum's fresh tenor voice did a nice job, particularly on "You Are Too Beautiful."

All too soon it was time to go home, and with the dense programming, there were performers missed, including guitarist Bruce Forman
Bruce Forman
b.1956
's Cow Bop, bringing country to jazz, and virtuoso bassist Jay Leonhart
Jay Leonhart
Jay Leonhart
b.1940
bass
's solo excursion. All week, fans were lining up to reserve cabins for next year at the Jazz Cruise office. With this year's turnout, it might be wise for returnees not to tarry.

Photo Credit

All Photos: Larry Taylor


comments powered by Disqus