Mayday is the universal radio distress call when there is a life-threatening emergency on a ship, plane, or many other situations. The signal requires three blasts in a row to communicate the emergency. May Day is also the traditional English celebration that includes crowning a Queen and dancing around a maypole in a circle with ribbons. That the same words could have such disparate meanings is fascinating. May 1 is also one day after International Jazz Day.
Put them together and you have a pretty good synopsis of our jazz world today. COVID–19 is threatening our enjoyment of our music and we all long to be able to celebrate jazz as we have for years. So, how can we turn Mayday into May Day? A menacing threat into a joyful celebration? As of today, it will take a lot of work, imagination and spirit. Let me share what we, at Entertainment Cruise Productions, are doing.
Every day, without exception, we are working on the best possible plans for The Jazz Cruise, The Smooth Jazz Cruise and Blue Note at Sea. The Jazz Cruise and The Smooth Jazz Cruise are iconic programs. How else could they have continued for so many years and sailings! The spirit and aura of those cruises are unlike any other music event. Perhaps it is the shared space of the venues and the amenities. Perhaps it is the excitement that our world-class musicians bring to the ship. After all, many music cruises present nostalgias through performances by artists of a bygone era, ghost bands, tribute bands or other imitators. On our jazz cruises, we have today’s top stars performing the music. They may be playing traditional tunes, but they are doing so from their perspective and with their brand.
“More than any one thing, I miss listening to a group playing, a vocalist singing and hanging with folks who love music.”
We are sustained by the same purpose that has driven us for 20-plus years: presenting the world’s best music experience at sea to the most passionate jazz fans in the world. That is what our cruises stand for and that is what is keeping us going right now.
When we sail again, all of the elements of our cruise programs that you, our amazing guests, have come to expect must be on full display. There will undoubtedly be a new world order due to COVID-19, which makes holding onto the aspects of life that are rich in texture and meaning all the more important. When we talk about this, we are not trying to freeze our programs in time, but we are making sure that the underpinnings of what we offer remain intact.
In a world where “social distancing” is the rule, we will be seeking the intimacy of shared experiences, the interface between a musician and a fan, the freedom to move about as one feels and, most importantly, the opportunity to learn, grow and receive pleasure from the interaction with folks of like minds and tastes.
My God, do we miss hanging with our jazz fans. In working out the arrangements with our guests due to the cancelled cruise and questions about our next sailings, formal barriers have been lowered. People are sharing their thoughts, their concerns and their hopes in the most open and unfiltered way. We would like to think that we are a comforting ear to bend, but the outpouring that we see extends well beyond our purview. The pandemic may be the most compelling shared experience of our lifetime. As such, we are all comrades in arms, pen pals and brothers and sisters. In the face of tragedy, we are all a little closer and less defined by race, religion, gender, status or wealth.
How much of this will continue when we get to the other side of this mess is difficult to predict. How many suits or pairs of shoes do we really need? To what extent do we miss restaurants, the pulse of a shopping mall or downtown activities? Continuing to read books or going to the movies, instead? Having a drink on the patio or going to your favorite bar?
Each of us will find our own way and make our own decisions. But, for me, the choice between Pandora and live music will be easy. More than any one thing, I miss listening to a group playing, a vocalist singing and hanging with folks who love music. Throw in a scotch or a glass of wine and I am back to normal. So, that is what it will take for my next May 1 to be a May Day celebration and not a Mayday call for help.
Our Take is written by Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director of The Jazz Cruise, The Smooth Jazz Cruise and Blue Note at Sea. Feel free to express your views or pose questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Week’s Guide to
Great Music & Comedy Online
Tonight: Brian Culbertson’s
‘Live in Las Vegas’ Premier!
The immense multi-instrumental talent and dynamic performances you see and hear from Brian Culbertson on The Smooth Jazz Cruise year after year will be on full display tonight in your living room!
The full 2-hour “Colors of Love Tour – Live in Las Vegas” concert film premiers tonight on YouTube at 8 p.m. EDT / 5 p.m. PDT. Brian will be in the YouTube chat room live with everyone while watching the concert.
We’ll be there, too, as we await 3 sailings’ worth of performances and special events with the multi-talented Brian Culbertson on The Smooth Jazz Cruise in 2021.
Click here and you’ll be all set for tonight’s show!
Get Your Alonzo Fix on May 7
Just like musicians, comedians who also rely on touring for their living are finding fun ways to keep the creative juices flowing and the good times going. Our favorite comedian, Alonzo Bodden, is set for a live online show at 10:30 p.m. EDT / 7:30 p.m. PDT on May 7 in the Nowhere Comedy Club.
In this online comedy club, Alonzo will deliver the jokes, but it will be on you to handle the food and drink service. Tickets cost $10-15 and gets you access to the Zoom chat for the show. We’ll be there, just not in the front row.
Boney James, one of our hosts for The Smooth Jazz Cruise, has been regularly posting updates, chats and short performances to his Facebook page. Every Friday at 6 p.m. EDT he hosts a “Solid” session in which he chats, plays and also previews songs from his new album “Solid.”
Click here to pre-order, listen and download the album.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Goes Online
Our friends at Jazz at Lincoln Center had to really pivot during the pandemic. They not only had to reschedule performances in their three venues – the Rose Theater, The Appel Room and Dizzy’s Club – but JALC also had to reboot their numerous education programs and events, including the Essentially Ellington Festival.
The organization now has a host of online offerings, including archival videos of past performances, online chats with Wynton Marsalis, at home shows from various artists and virtual education workshops. Learn more at www.jazz.org.