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Jam Cruise 11 Continues with funky Meters, Galactic, Greensky Bluegrass, Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers, ALO…
Jam Cruise spent the day at sea as the destination event’s 11th voyage moved toward Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos. Monday night and Tuesday morning bled together thanks to Jam Cruise veterans ALO.
As previously reported, ALO guitarist Dan Lebowitz hosted Monday night’s freeform Jam Room with the help of his side-band Magic Gravy. During the early hours of the morning, the Jam Room broke down into a few different combos. One group featured Lebo, Galactic drummer Stanton Moore and keyboardist Robert Walter. Another included Lebo, ALO bassist Steve Adams, Tea Leaf Green guitarist Josh Clark, Tea Leaf Green keyboardist Trevor Garrod and a horn section. The Tea Leaf Green frontmen arrived in the Jam Room after a late night set of their own which drew in Stockholm Syndrome drummer Wally Ingram, who is onboard as a member of Steve Kimock’s new band.
A few short hours later, Adams opened Tuesday’s Pool Deck festivities as a member of Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers. The Bay Area Americana group invited a diverse mix of collaborators onto the stage during their 12:00 PM spot. Steve Kimock added pedal steel to Stevie Wonder’s “I’ll Be Loving You Always,” and guitarist Scott Law—who plays with members of the Gramblers in the country music project Brokedown in Bakersfield—appeared on “Stick With Me,” “Burnt” and “’Till I’m Blue,” the latter of which he co-wrote with Grambler Tim Bluhm. The band also offered a choice cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Tumbling Dice,” and Nicki reminded the crowd that her husband Tim has been onboard with such diverse acts as The Rhythm Devils, The Mother Hips and Jackie Greene.
After the Gramblers’ set, Greensky Bluegrass entertained fans on the ship’s Pool Deck stage. The jamgrass outfit invited out two keyboard players, The String Cheese Incident’s Kyle Hollingsworth and Umphrey’s McGee’s Joel Cummins, for separate sit-ins. They also offered an Americana take on Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” that recalled The Band’s ‘90s cover of the song. The band described Jam Cruise as their “favorite week of the year.”
Jam Cruise’s early afternoon hours were also filled with a variety of artist-associated activities. Karl Denson led a Ba Duan Jin session on the ship’s sports deck while Cummins participated in a Moog workshop. Denson also MCed a round of “Jamily Feud” based on the popular television show Family Feud. Perpetual Groove guitarist and longtime Jam Cruise staple Brock Butler also offered an acoustic set on the intimate Magic Hat Wind Stage. While fans played in the pool, he delivered a 45-minute set on ukulele and acoustic guitar that involved his own material like “Live Let Live,” as well as Bon Iver’s “Holocene” and Paul Simon’s “Boy in the Bubble.” Other afternoon performances included a Pool Deck set from JJ Grey & Mofro that drew in special guests like Dave Matthews Band/Flecktones saxophonist Jeff Coffin and The Lee Boys pedal steel ace Roosevelt Collier as well as Wyllys and Cummins’ electro Space Disco project.
Two very different acts occupied Jam Cruise’s early evening hours. In the ship’s three-story atrium, Lettuce/Warren Haynes Band singer Nigel Hall entertained fans with a solo set on the ship’s grand piano. He ran through a mix of new material and covers, inviting out Lettuce/Trey Anastasio Band saxophonist James Casey for a few songs. Hall remarked how nervous he was several times but seemed confident as brought back Casey, Ivan Neville and Living Colour singer Corey Glover—who is onboard with Galactic—to play some Earth, Wind & Fire.
Meanwhile, on the ship’s Pool Deck, The Motet revisited their Funk is Dead Halloween tribute (the Colorado group had performed some material from their recent P-Funk Halloween tribute with the help of Hall on Monday night). The band played for a sprawling audience throughout their almost two-hour set. Their setlist included reworked Grateful Dead songs such as “Help on the Way,” “Slipknot!,” “Franklin’s Tower,” “New Speedway Boogie,” “Stella Blue,” “St. Stephen” and “Loose Lucy,” among others. Former Motet saxophonist and current Big Gigantic Dominic Lalli sat in throughout the entire set. It was the second show in a row this cruise where he rejoined the band.
While most of the audience was enjoying a short dinner break, Cummins, Coffin, New Mastersounds guitarist Eddie Roberts, drummer John Morgan Kimock and Lettuce bassist Erik Coomes played a surprise set for Jam Cruise “repeat offender” veterans in the ship’s disco space. Then, the electro-group BoomBox—a project featuring Russ Randolph and Zion Godchaux (Donna Jean’s son and this cruise’s closest tie to the Grateful Dead)—and Afrobeat heir Femi Kuti kicked off the evening’s festivities. Kuti brought a 10-person backing band and ran through a set of infectious dance numbers in the ship’s most proper venue, the Teatro Carlo Felice.
As the early evening slipped into late night, fans had several different options. Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood played their second and final Jam Cruise show in the Teatro Carlo Felice. They also led a conversation in the ship’s Jam Room where Scofield discussed his time with Miles Davis (“he was famous for stealing musicians from other bands”), Chris Wood described jamming as “spontaneous composition” and John Medeski revealed that he performs on his teacher’s piano, which he first played at the tender age of five. A few feet away in the sweaty Zebra Bar, ALO’s marathon continued, as they invited out Hollingsworth and members of The Motet for a few songs, including “I Love Music” and threw in hits like “Speed of Dreams,” “Maria” and “Girl I Wanna Lay You Down.”
Meanwhile, Galactic anchored a guest-heavy set on the ship’s Pool Deck stage. In addition to touring guests like Glover and Rebirth Brass Band’s Corey Henry, Mike Dillon played percussion throughout their set. Galactic also invited out fellow Jam Cruise staples like Walter, Coffin and Meters bassist George Porter Jr. as well as the Soul Rebels horns section. A highlight was Galactic’s cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” led by Glover.
Through Jam Cruise is the rare festival where members of the jamband scene’s San Francisco, New Orleans, Colorado and New York/New England communities converse, the ship’s Big Easy performers remain the ship’s bedrock. So it was a particular score for Jam Cruise to nab the funky Meters, the Meters offshoot featuring Porter and scene guiding light Art Neville. The funky Meters relied on their best known material with the help of Dillon on percussion and gradually segued their set into a super jam. Dumpstaphunk leader Ivan Neville—Art’s nephew—joined the group on vocals and tambourine for signature songs like “Hey Pocky Way,” “Fire on the Bayou” and “Iko Iko.” Then, numerous drummers including Dumpstaphunk’s Nikki Glaspie and Galactic’s Stanton Moore emerged for a percussion-heavy segment. At one point, Funky Meters drummer Russell Batiste Jr. moved to the front of the stage to banter with the crowd and his band. He asked Art Neville to come back next year so he could “pay his rent” and let Moore play drums with the funky Meters on the classic “Cissy Strut.” Members of the Soul Rebels also took the stage for a few solos.
Jam Cruise’s after hours offerings were equally diverse. Pimps of Joytime guitarist Brian J. hosted the Jam Room with an emphasis on marching music. Big Gigantic wrapped-up their whirlwind week on the boat—after appearing on Holy Ship! as well—and Medeski Skerik and Deitch performed in the Zebra Bar. Coffin, the Lettuce Horns and additional brass musicians joined in for a bit of improv as Skerik jokingly described Jam Cruise as the “festival you can’t leave.” Nathan Moore also hosted his first troubadour session on the ship’s outdoor walkway—known as “the spot”—with surprise cruise guests from Fruition, members of Greensky Bluegrass, Bryan Elijah Smith and other string players.