The Making of an Original Streaming Concert Series
This note chronicles the birth of Saturday Night with Marcus Miller & Friends!
Our Take: The Dream to Stream
We have noticed that our readership levels for The Weekender spike when the Our Take features a “behind-the-scenes” look at our programming and events. Well, here we go again. Move over Undercover Boss and Candid Camera and get ready to learn how Entertainment Cruise Productions has become an Original Streaming Concert Series production company … at least, that is our hope for the next few months or so. In short, this note chronicles the birth of Saturday Night with Marcus Miller & Friends!
Once we learned that Las Vegas could not promise us the type of theater availability that we needed for our shows, we decided that we should further examine streaming as a way to bring unique music experiences to our guests and fans. Streaming is not a new idea. Far from it. The number of streaming events in the music space is enormous and some of them are produced very well. We are very proud of the Jazz Cruise Conversations Live events we host on Wednesday nights with stars of The Jazz Cruise and our fans and social media followers have thoroughly enjoyed engaging with the musicians.
We decided that if we were to dive deeper into the streaming fray with a full music presentation, we needed to ensure that our product was superior and that our lineups were amazing. After all, a high level of production and incomparable talent have been our hallmark for over 20 years.
Internally, we divided the pursuit into three parts: Event Production, Streaming Technology, and Talent Procurement. For those who have met me for more than a minute, you know that my technological expertise is limited. I am still trying to understand how Post-it notes work. So my role in this endeavor is to recruit the talent. Digging very deeply into my Rolodex of names (I told you that I am technologically challenged), I found Marcus Miller and Alonzo Bodden. Imagine that! It was a no-brainer to start with two outstanding artists and individuals who are at the heart of everything we do for our jazz cruise programming.
From there we decided that we would feature a very Special Guest each week, along with a featured musician, humor by Alonzo and one great Saturday Night Band. To test the waters with Special Guests, we shot for the moon! (Note: I love mixed metaphors. They have a certain homey feel to them.) Our first proposals for Special Guests went to George Benson and Gregory Porter. Why not. We thought that they would both say “no,” but we would learn what not to say and what to add to our offer for the next round of proposals. A funny thing happened on the way to waiting for the rejections. Both accepted!
The fact that George and Gregory agreed to perform on our premiere episodes may not be as surprising as first thought. Both men have sailed with us and enjoyed their performances. Both men have enormous respect for Marcus Miller. And, both men live within driving distance of our studio for this series in San Diego. Yet, even with all this going for us, we were delirious to learn that they were onboard … excuse me, on site! Old habits are tough to break.
Finding the “Featured Guest” was easier in some ways and more difficult in others. The goal was to find amazing and interesting musicians whose talents are universally heralded and would align well with our all-star band. Joey DeFrancesco and Patrice Rushen filled the bill. Again, our first choices were secured.
Eric Marienthal, the Music Director for The Smooth Jazz Cruise and Blue Note at Sea, took over from there and populated the Saturday Night Band. Paul Jackson Jr. (guitar), Mike Rocha (trumpet), Alex Bailey (drums) and Munyungo Jackson (percussion) were the choices. Of course the band would also feature Marcus (bass), Eric (saxophone) and Patrice (piano). Each of our Special Guests requested their piano player be included and we had to work out the necessary instrumentation for the music in choosing the band members. Marcus was a key person in this aspect, as his gift for arranging and producing extended to knowing what types of instruments their music would require.
“A high level of production and incomparable talent have been our hallmark for over 20 years.”
Brian Rachko is the Production Manager for all of our jazz programs. He is an amazing talent and very knowledgeable about the latest technologies. By virtue of that expertise, he became the head of both our Production undertakings and our Streaming Technology efforts. The pursuit of the former included selecting our performance venue, understanding what equipment we would need to produce the shows and wrangling the crew for the shows. Our focus is to deliver a quality product that has the look and feel of our cruise presentations. Brian was able to team up with Nate Selvidio and Justin Geiger from Impulse Creates, our design team from the cruises, to find the right streaming platform and visually create the shows. Rounding out the team at the helm for audio is our longtime fan-favorite Sound Engineer Melissa Britton.
I then took a stab at a Run of Show for the program and we came up with some fun segments that, when presented together, will produce a great show. Despite all this talent and expertise, we became a bit nervous as none of us have ever produced or directed a streaming show. When in doubt, you hire someone who knows what to do. So, we scoured the country to find someone who has an idea as to what we do and also knew how to put our concept into a streaming television type event. Alicia Mandigo is now onboard and assigning tasks for all of us. Just kidding, she does not tell Alonzo what to do. She says that she is “too shy” to do so. The rest of us see this as an admission of fear. Either way, Alonzo is a free agent in this program. Of course he is!
Well, the first show premieres at 10 p.m. ET on October 10 and all of the details and ticket information are at www.SaturdayNightWithMarcusMiller.com. With your ticket, you have 36 hours to see the show. It is On-Demand during that timeframe. Trust me, as sure as our middle name is “Cruise” these shows will not go on forever. But they are fun to produce and the end product will be a welcomed respite in these days where live music is scarce and having fun is hard work.
Saturday Night with Marcus Miller & Friends … it does have a nice ring to it.
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.
Richard Elliot Is Back for 2 Sailings of The Smooth Jazz Cruise in ’22
The funky and soulful Grammy nominee and chart-topper is not only a dynamic musician and one of our favorite performers, Richard is also a great guy and loves hanging with the guests and fellow musicians on The Smooth Jazz Cruise. It was disappointing that an illness forced Richard to miss the last edition of The Greatest Party at Sea, but having him back onboard makes us even more excited to get back out to sea in ’22.
In anticipation of his return, we chatted with Richard to find out how he’s spent his downtime this year and his excitement for The Smooth Jazz Cruise in ’22. Click here to check out the interview.
To sail with Richard, plus Marcus Miller, Boney James, Vanessa Williams, Jeffrey Osborne, Brian Culbertson, Jonathan Butler, Candy Dulfer and many more stars of smooth jazz, we encourage you to make your reservation soon as only a limited number of staterooms remains. There are also good stateroom options available for the star-studded Back to Sea Sailing of The Smooth Jazz Cruise. There is so much to look forward to in ’22!
The Before & After column was created for JazzTimes by Leonard Feather, the originator of the Blindfold Test, first for Metronome and then for DownBeat. Feather wanted to show that jazz musicians were knowledgeable about the work of their peers and predecessors. BEFORE the hosts drops the needle on a cut, the subject is not told who or what they’re listening to and is asked to give a candid assessment of the music. Then AFTER the artist and song has been revealed, they’re asked for their response. It’s a little bit of a guessing game but more about how they hear music.
There are few more accomplished listeners than Ken Peplowski, who hosts Name That Tune with Shelly on The Jazz Cruise. We’re looking forward to a lively listening party and invite our guests to play along.
The fun starts at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on Wednesday, Sept. 30, streaming direct to you:
Click here to save the date and watch on The Jazz Cruise’sFacebook page.
Click here to subscribe to and watch on The Jazz Cruise’sYouTube channel.
Join Us for Kurt Elling’s Virtual World Tour
Grammy Award winning vocalist Kurt Elling is going on tour for his 25th Anniversary … virtually! The Jazz Cruise is proud to sponsor this new series of online shows, which will be performed from Kurt’s longtime home base, Chicago’s iconic Green Mill Lounge.
Celebrating the silver anniversary of Elling’s Blue Note debut, the series will feature five themed concerts on Friday nights starting October 9, and you can stream each concert from the comfort of home.
We hope you join us in enjoying Kurt’s show on October 9 as we look forward to seeing him in person on The Jazz Cruise in ’22!