Please have a happy, safe and jazz-filled 4th of July!
OUR TAKE: HAPPY 4th OF JULY
Fireworks scare me. Not the noise or the flashing light, I am simply afraid that one will blow up in my hand, killing or maiming me. As a young boy, I refused to hold a sparkler, never set off a firecracker and most certainly did not launch a bottle rocket. Yes, I was chided, even made to feel ashamed, but it never changed my view or gave me courage.
That I was never in a position to serve in the military or use a weapon was a blessing to both myself and others. The sound of gunshots is disquieting to me even now. One of the more distasteful New Year’s Eve traditions of St. Louis centers around people going out into the streets and firing guns and rifles into the air. If you have never heard that one before, then I will renew my support of St. Louis’ Civic Pride efforts. Now that I have shared that tidbit with you, can you still root for the Blues and the Cardinals and applaud for native St. Louisans Jon Hamm and John Goodman? Probably, but it does make it more difficult.
For veterans of this column, you are now asking how does my total fear of explosives tie, in any way, to jazz? Truthfully, it does not. Not even close. But when the 4th of July rolls around, that is all that I can think about!
Working on our Jazz in Las Vegas programs is the only diversion that seems to be effective right now. In some respects, it is not very different than planning a cruise. If you imagine the resort to be the ship, you are still maneuvering guests and musicians to maximize the number of hours of music you can provide in a given time frame. Being able to anticipate and work around what health and safety requirements will be in effect at the time of our shows is clearly something new. The beauty of doing a show in Vegas is that they have venues and hotels of such grand scale that you can consider an event even if it requires social distancing and other limitations. Certainly, jazz was never meant to be enjoyed standing 6-feet apart from each other, but, perhaps, 8 months from now, that, too, may be less intrusive.
One thing for sure, predicting the world 8 months from now is problematic. Simply think about the world 8 months ago and what has transpired in that period of time. Anyone out there whose 2020 predictions included any of what has happened should be locked up as a spy from another galaxy or a supernatural being. A committee of the most outlandish sci-fi writers could not have come up with a story that compares to our reality.
Nonetheless, we are moving forward with two great lineups for Las Vegas in February and March, 2021. Our first 5-Day, 5-Night program is being developed as a product of The Jazz Cruise, along with the support of Porchlight Jazz Productions (Sue & Paul Lowden), producer of the Newport Beach Jazz Party. The second one is right out of The Smooth Jazz Cruise playbook. Many of our traditional events and shows are being scheduled. Our guests will be staying in the same hotel, the amazing Encore. We are proud to announce that SiriusXM’sReal Jazz and Watercolors channels will be part of our special production in Las Vegas.
No, it will not be the same as sailing together. Nothing can replace the magic of the ship, the intimacy of the events and the sharing of music, mirth and mischief during 7 day and 7 nights. But, we will come very close and it will be a ton of fun.
We will try to massage Encore and the Encore Theater into our image and, if you close your eyes, just a bit, you may even hear the Caribbean… Okay, that is a stretch for the city in the desert, but you get my point.
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.
IN MEMORIAM: Freddy Cole (1931 – 2020)
Freddy Cole starred on The Jazz Cruise for many, many years. Yes, he was the brother of Nat King Cole and the uncle of Natalie Cole, but that is not how we remember him or classify him.
Freddy was his own star. He could warm up a room with his delicate piano touch and his soft, caring voice as he sang from his heart as much as from his throat. Always dressed impeccably, with manners that seem to come naturally and easy, everyone associated with The Jazz Cruise loved Freddy. In fact, back in the days of sailing on the Westerdam, the infamous Ocean Bar, at night, was renamed Freddy’s Place in honor of the man who took us into the early hours of the morning with song night after night after night.
For most of his life he would decline to sing tunes that “belonged” to his brother, but he did so anyway on the ship as he sung “Unforgettable” to and in honor of Anita Berry, founder of The Jazz Cruise, on the night of her 80th birthday. A photograph of that tribute hangs in my office, alongside photos of my children, my wife and other cherished figures in my life. For that memory and so much more, his death this week hit me hard.
Though he lived a full life of 88 years, to think that he is gone is so sad. To think that he is now with his beloved Margaret, however, makes me smile. If not a legend, Freddy Cole was certainly legendary.
Khari Parker (1974 – 2020)
Band members on The Smooth Jazz Cruise are precious. Winston Churchill could have been describing them when he uttered, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Khari Parker was the drummer for the Yellow Band. He would learn scores of tunes for many different artists, perform in the afternoon, evening and late night, and then do the same thing for 7 straight days. He would do so with glee, a smile and a level of professionalism that made The Smooth Jazz Cruise such an amazing event. This Chicago-based musician had a stunning history and pedigree. His talents were apt for jazz, rock, R&B and Gospel. Perhaps best known for his time with Destiny’s Child, he was also the touring drummer for George Benson.
Khari died in his sleep from a heart ailment last week at 46. His memory will live on The Smooth Jazz Cruise forever. He joins fellow drummer Ricky Lawson as part of a legendary and much missed smooth jazz cruise ensemble which includes George Duke (piano), Al Jarreau (vocals), Jeff Golub (guitar) and Wayman Tisdale (electric bass).
JAZZ IN LAS VEGAS: Stay Tuned for Lineup Announcements & Your Booking Opportunity!
Even with two sensational lineups still to be announced for our Jazz In Las Vegas events in ’21, the response from our Past Guests, readers of The Weekender and jazz fans on social media has been an overwhelming sense of excitement that live jazz is back on the horizon.
Well, the lineup suspense ends this week when you receive an email with the official announcement of Jazz: Live In Las Vegas (Sunday, February 21, 2021 – Friday, February 26, 2021) and The Smooth Jazz Cruise: Live In Las Vegas (Sunday, February 28, 2021 – Friday, March 5, 2021). Your email will include the incredible lineups, plus details of the special shows and event packages!
Past Guests of our cruises will have the opportunity to make a reservation as soon as they receive their email. If you have not sailed with us, Open Booking for both events will follow on July 16.
Just because we cannot sail in ’21 does not mean that we cannot get together and enjoy The Greatest Jazz Festival at Sea and The Greatest Party at Sea — both temporarily relocated to Las Vegas for 5 Days and 5 Nights of the jazz you love in 2021. Stay tuned!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Our decision to move forward with this program is predicated upon our ability to operate the program in a healthy and safe manner, while providing the type of jazz experience that our guests have come to expect. Since the program is about 8 months away, making that judgment now is very difficult. And, though we are optimistic as to the likelihood of making this work, it would be foolish not to recognize the risks. Please know that if, at any time, we believe that the program is not feasible, we will announce our decision not to go forward and guests will receive a full refund within three (3) days of the announcement.
Are You Ready to Name That Tune?!
There were lots of laughs last night during the first round of Name That Tune with Shelly Berg and Ken Peplowski. If you missed it, don’t worry you can still watch here to be temporarily transported back aboard the ship, in spirit of course!
Think you have what it takes to compete in the virtual version of this Jazz Cruise staple? Email Ken at email@example.com. The winner each week will move on to face all-time reigning champion Gary Alexander.