Sometime this week The Weekender celebrated its 5th Birthday. Since its debut, more than 250 editions have been delivered to more than 3 million readers. I look forward each week to writing the column and even more so to reading the responses. Though I am often taken to task by our fans, most of the notes are either complimentary or share a personal message. I love hearing stories from our guests!
Though the Our Take portion of The Weekender is my bailiwick, several people are involved in the balance of the presentation. The cool artwork has been brought to you by Bill Wilson, our Senior Creative Director. Charles Berman, our Senior Copywriter, assists with some of the writing and initiates most of the down page articles in The Weekender. And, of course, there is Lee Mergner, former editor of JazzTimes, who serves as our jazz whisperer offering great insights and checking the accuracy of our presentations. Somehow, some way, it comes together each week.
The Weekender usually begins with the selection of a subject for the Our Take. Then, we look at the promotions we have been asked to present and finish up with special announcements or points of interest. The process usually begins around Wednesday and wraps up on Friday, ready for the Saturday morning delivery. Often, the most discussed aspect of the note is the lead art. We try to come up with something clever, yet on point. Bill has been amazing over the years in that regard. Some of his creations have been true genius.
Some of our most interesting internal discussions center around the order of the articles and the art we select. The order seldom reflects priority, but, more often, is a design decision. As to the art, there is often a fine line between being clever and obtuse. And, of course, we try to avoid articles and items outside our area of expertise or our stated mission. Our success rate in those instances is spotty at best. Having said that, one day I will print all the articles that we decided not to share. Writing those was always cathartic even though I knew that they would never see the light of day.
Particularly tricky is sarcasm or “tongue-in-cheek” commentary. Everyone has a different intake valve for nuanced speech. I am reminded of the day that my 4-year-old son was bitten by our dog. I hurried home, opened the front door to see him bravely standing at attention, trying mightily not to cry. My first words were, “Where did Watson bite you?” Biting his lip and acting as manly as a 4-year-old could possibly do, he said, “In the basement!” From that day on, I never told my son to “go fly a kite.” Now, how many of you acknowledge that my last comment was a joke? Writing can be tricky and risky.
Then there is the issue of, “does The Weekender have to go out each week?” A former co-worker (please note the title “former”) once asked that question as she was very busy and was hoping that her plate that week had one fewer item. I told her that the title of the note is “The Weekender.” It is not “The Ever So Often on The Weekend.” She responded that “no one would notice or care if we missed a week.” If that were true, then we should dump the idea altogether, but, after all these years, for better or for worse, many of our guests and patrons make reading The Weekender part of their weekend ritual.
Writing The Weekender during the pandemic has been particularly rewarding. Not only has doing so allowed us to stay in touch with our jazz fans, but we have been able to serve as a sounding board and a billboard for the jazz community. No, we were not able to provide a substitute for live music, but we are providing live discussions and meanderings about jazz. Our weekly note is open to anyone who wants to promote, discuss or encourage a jazz event or concept.
The Weekender also serves as the town crier for our cruise programs. As I have shared before, this is the first January in 21 years that I have not been “at sea.” I have always marveled at how so many cruise guests join us year after year. I used to think it was because our programs were so wonderful and seductive. Well, I still believe that to be true, but there is another reality in play. Staying home in January is dreadful! Help! If I have to endure one more dreary, gray day, I will lose it.
Things were so bad last weekend that I walked through the day as if I was on the ship. I woke up, ate the same breakfast that I have on the ship, turned on SiriusXM 66 (Watercolors) and 67 (Real Jazz), did a workout as if I were at the gym on the ship, took my daily on-ship nap, headed out to dinner and then settled in to listen to a lot more music. I even had someone clean up behind me, make my bed and then, later, do a full turn down service. To that point, what is the proper gratuity one should give to his or her spouse?
All that was missing was my pillow gift, 2,000 people telling me which musicians they want to see on next year’s program, and asking why do we have lobster only one night during the cruise. Our little secret, I miss those comments and talking to the guests most of all … and that is not sarcasm or tongue-in-cheek. So, sometime this weekend, offer a toast to your love of music, our cruises, your lives, the world of jazz and, of course, to the time that we have been able to spend together, either in person or just every Saturday morning when we share The Weekender. Salud and let the 6th year of The Weekender begin.
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.
SFJAZZ Fridays at FIVE Featuring
Christian McBride & Stars of The Jazz Cruise
The Next 4 Shows Are On Us!
For the last nine months or so, our friends at SFJAZZ have been presenting an online concert series called Fridays at Five, pulled from past performances at their venue. On Feb. 5, they’ll feature a show from 2016 by the incomparable Christian McBride and his New Jawn Quartet. This show plus 3 more Fridays at Five shows in February are on us!
Just click here to receive your complimentary 1-month digital membership to SFJAZZ, courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions, The Jazz Cruise and The Smooth Jazz Cruise. After you fill out the quick form you will receive a welcome email from SFJAZZ within two business days. The deadline for your complimentary SFJAZZ membership is February 2 and their team is happy to assist you with questions sent to email@example.com.
As we look forward to sailing with Christian on The Jazz Cruise ’22, we are excited to join you in watching this Feb. 5 online show with his New Jawn Quartet, named after a unique and almost undefinable slang term from McBride’s hometown of Philadelphia. The band includes Josh Evans (trumpet), Marcus Strickland (saxophone) and Nasheet Waits (drums). Their 2018 album on Mack Avenue received three Grammy nominations. And remember that the “Five” in Fridays at Five refers to 5 pm PT, which translates to 8 pm ET.
In addition to McBride, SFJAZZ’s next shows feature more stars sailing on The Jazz Cruise ’22, including Kenny Barron and Regina Carter! Here is the show schedule:
FEB. 12: SFJAZZ Collective 50th Anniversary of Stand! & In A Silent Way FEB. 19: Kenny Barron Duos w/ Regina Carter, Eddie Henderson & Terri Lyne Carrington FEB 26: Paula West: Great American Politic
Click here to learn more about SFJAZZ’s Fridays at Five series and click here to request your complimentary 1-month membership for these four February shows!
Richard says that it’s all a part of his evolution as both a human being and an artist. “I definitely don’t feel the same sense of urgency that I did in my younger years,” he explains. “I always felt that I had something to prove whereas now, I only need to prove to myself that I am growing as a human being and artist. It’s really about living an Authentic Life, doing what feels right and accepting life in all of its facets. This includes unique experiences like The Smooth Jazz Cruise. It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with fans and other artists in a truly meaningful way.”
By the way, we are checking to see if attending Richard Elliot concerts over the years or owning one of his many amazing recordings translates into frequent flyer miles on Air Elliot.
Ramsey Lewis Starts Second Season of Monthly Concert Series
We were very excited to have Ramsey Lewis sail with us on The Smooth Jazz Cruise in 2020. The legendary pianist had retired from touring but made an exception for The Greatest Party at Sea and its amazing fans.
Ramsey may have stopped touring, but he hasn’t stopped playing. Last year he launched a concert series called Saturday Salon with a monthly performance from his home.
“Throughout my career people have always been there to help me,” says Ramsey. “Now that I’ve retired from touring, my wife Jan and I thought since I’m still playing every day anyway why not share it with my fans and help those in need.”
The shows take place on the last Saturday of every month at 2 pm ET. A portion of the proceeds from each performance will benefit The Jazz Foundation of America, an organization focused on aiding jazz musicians in need.
The second season of Saturday Salon kicks off tonight (Jan. 30) with a theme of “Love Notes” dedicated to his love of music and his wife. Future themes include “West Side Story and Other Stories of Love” (Feb. 27); “Songs from the In Crowd” (Apr. 24); “Songs from Black Orpheus and Other Movie Themes” (Jun. 26); “The Beatles Songbook” (Jul. 31); and “Frankly Sentimental” (Nov. 27) dedicated to the love songs of Sinatra.