Boo! Happy Halloween. Our first, and hopefully only, trick-or-treat event during a pandemic. I trust that everyone with little ones will find a way to make this holiday work for them in a fun, yet safe, manner. I must confess, however, out of all the holidays in the year, Halloween is my least favorite and has been forever.
Why the “hate”? The holiday took place right after the end of Daylight Savings Time and the resulting early darkness was too often compounded by rain, cold and wind. Prepared costumes were never sturdy enough to last the entire night and any homemade costumes looked like, well, like homemade costumes. That candy was never a big item for me was the topper, making Halloween more dreadful than fun. Now, had the neighbors been giving out chocolate cake and hot cocoa, the outcome may have been different.
Thinking about costumes and disguises led me to think about jazz. Actually, for me, jazz is no more than 3 degrees of separation from almost all topics. Seriously, name a topic and see how long it takes you to wind up debating what “fusion” really means or whether the flute is a legitimate instrument for jazz. The connection to jazz is right around the corner!
As an example, let’s start with our subject of the day, Halloween. Halloween is most well known for costumes and disguises. Almost every musical genre has a recognizable “look” — some style of clothing or appearance that shouts out what type of music they will play before the very first note is offered. Formal wear for classical music. Latest fashion for hip hop. Matching outfits for Motown. Cowboy hats for country music. Tie dye shirts for the bands of the ’60s. Lots of hair for ’80s groups. And, of course, almost anything in the world for Elton John and many of the funk groups.
A very successful funk group called Lakeside famously dressed up like pirates to perform. I had the opportunity to meet them and ask, “Why pirates?” Their answer was, “It was about the only thing left to be.” There is great wisdom in that statement, particularly if your goal is to stand out or you are not happy with what is around you. We will circle back to this comment later.
See how we have made it back to jazz? It took only 3 or 4 steps top to get there. Much closer than you would be to Kevin Bacon. The question for us is, “What costumes or disguises conjure up the image of a jazz band?” I would argue that the correct answer is “none.” Yes, you could make a case for the traditional jazz look of a suit, white shirt and tie. For many that is the “bandstand uniform.” But how is that different from a group of CPAs or attorneys? Remember, that question is limited to how they dress! The differences between The Jazz Messengers and the partners of PricewaterhouseCoopers are abundant. Thank God!
Even today, the bandstand look for jazz is either the traditional suit and tie or very casual attire. Why? Because the philosophy of Lakeside prevails … it was about the only thing left to be! The “it” in this case is being a musician with something to say, something to share and something to bestow upon an audience. And, it is done with an instrument or a voice. No amount of costume design can make you a player. No gimmick will work.
When Miles Davis hooked up with Coltrane, Chambers, Hancock, Carter, Williams, Shorter and our own Marcus Miller, I am guessing that there was very little discussion about what to wear on stage. The measure of their success was not in a costume or a disguise. It was coming out of their instruments. “Smooth Jazz” has merged some of the production value that you see in R&B and Soul, but, here too, the look of our favorite performers has never been a discussion point. We do love Marcus’ and Boney’s hats, Peter’s sandals, Culbertson’s spiked hair and any of the 682 outfits that Candy has worn, but those are more “style elements” than disguises.
Yes, our jazz musicians let their music make their statement. They are first and foremost great musicians. In the crazy world of music today, “it was about the only thing left to be.” Jazz musicians, take a bow!
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.
STREAMING UPDATE: WAR Joins Marcus Miller This Weekend!
The fourth episode of Saturday Night with Marcus Miller & Friends will be On-Demand starting tonight at 8 p.m. ET. Start when you are ready and you have 48 hours to enjoy this very special show. Tonight’s show features the iconic funk rock band WAR!
There will be plenty of Marcus Miller and Alonzo Bodden, of course, and some more great music from the Saturday Night Band (Patrice Rushen, Eric Marienthal, Paul Jackson Jr., Mike Rocha, Alex Bailey, Munyungo Jackson). It will be an amazing musical collaboration … click here to buy your ticket.
This is the final episode of Saturday Night with Marcus Miller & Friends for 2020, but check out the note below. We have more music for everyone.
MARCUS MILLER: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS!!! The Smooth Jazz Cruise Holiday Show
Will Be Available Starting December 18!
It has been awhile since Marcus Miller has been “Home for the Holidays!” Now, he is as busy as ever with movie projects, recording and a new video about the evolution of jazz. But he, and his good buddy Comic Alonzo Bodden, who can be seen and heard almost everywhere these days, will be sharing some Holiday Cheer at Marcus’ house, starting at 4 p.m. ET on Friday, December 18! Your “invitation” will be good through Sunday, January 3, at midnight.
Though they have a lot to catch up on with each other, these two stars are always reaching out to our jazz family, so don’t be surprised when these folks “pop in” to Marcus’ home for a visit.
Scheduled to Appear:
David Sanborn • Brian Culbertson • Boney James
Candy Dulfer • Kirk Whalum • Jonathan Butler
Grace Kelly • Nick Colionne • Eric Darius DW3 • Eric Marienthal • Paul Jackson Jr. • Peter White
Larry Braggs • Patrice Rushen • Randy Jacobs • Nate Kearney
Third Richardson • Jay Williams • Omari Williams
Lamar Jones • Arlington Jones • Kevin Turner • Munyungo Jackson
Other great musicians and personalities will be popping in as well. We will update our list as time goes by. They all want to say “Happy Holidays” to our great fans.
Be ready for a holiday experience like no other … you are invited to spend the holidays with Marcus and Alonzo at Marcus’ house. After all, Marcus is Home for the Holidays! Now that is one huge Open House!
By the way, did we tell you that this 2.5+ hour show is a “gift” from Entertainment Cruise Productions and all of the artists performing? Yes, 2020 has been a difficult year so we want to give you the very best gift we could … music and good cheer from the stars of The Smooth Jazz Cruise! Stay tuned for more information.
Jazz Returns to Dizzy’s in NYC
Our friends at Jazz at Lincoln Center have been keeping up their innovative educational programs like the Summer Jazz Academy and the WeeBop series. Recently, they re-opened one of their storied venues, Dizzy’s Club, for an online concert series streaming at 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursdays.
The series opened with shows by two of our favorite artists — Catherine Russell and Bill Charlap — and continues with the following performances from the beautiful club overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park:
November 5: Young Stars of Jazz with special guest Wynton Marsalis and featuring Alexa Tarantino, Julian Lee, Isaiah J. Thompson, Endea Owens and Kyle Poole
November 12:Ulysses Owens Jr.’s Generation Y
November 19:Brandon Goldberg Quintet
In addition, Jazz at Lincoln Center will broadcast one of its most popular concerts, “Ella: Forever the First Lady of Song” on November 14. Recorded live during the Ella Fitzgerald Centennial in 2017, the concert features performances by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, host Harry Connick Jr., and special guests Renée Fleming, Roberta Gambarini, Diana Krall, Marilyn Maye, Audra McDonald, Cécile McLorin Salvant in duo performance with Sullivan Fortner, Camille Thurman and Kenny Washington.
It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere
It’s always a great day when you enjoy some live music from the comfort of home, or wherever you may be! On Thursday, November 5, stop by John Pizzarelli’sFacebook or Instagram pages for the latest installment of “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere: A Musical Social From A Distance.”
The free live stream starts at 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT. John will be singing and playing the guitar so be ready with your requests.
A portion of this week’s proceeds will benefit Jazz Foundation of America. To learn more or donate directly, you can visit www.jazzfoundation.org/donate.
Quiz Update: The Prolific Cruise Duo Is …
Last week we posed the following question to our readers: Looking at the 6 cruise programs that Entertainment Cruise Productions has produced, only two musicians have performed on each of them. Can you name the two?
We received dozens of responses with Marcus Miller on top of nearly every ballot. Only a handful got the second musician correct. Receiving votes were David Sanborn, Dianne Reeves, Jonathan Butler, Eric Marienthal, Kurt Elling, Shelly Berg and many more, but the correct combination of jazz stars is Marcus and Wycliffe Gordon!
The $100 check is on its way to Dana and Miyako Davidson. Nice job!