How Blue Note Records, Blue Note Jazz Clubs and Entertainment Cruise Productions created Blue Note at Sea.
Entertainment Cruise Productions
 
Robert Glasper on stage
Our Take: 1 + 1 + 1 = Great Cruise
In the past few weeks, I have received four different questions about the origins of our Blue Note at Sea cruise. I thought I had shared that story before, but apparently not in the detail that some would prefer. So, here goes.

Our first cruise program was The Jazz Cruise. The Jazz Cruise was the first full-ship charter in the world dedicated to jazz. For many years, Norwegian Cruise Line produced a jazz cruise on the old SS Norway. It was never a full-ship charter, but it readily filled half of that large ship. In late 1999, NCL canceled the program. Anita Berry, my mother, tried to encourage the four "sales leaders" of the NCL cruise to band together and charter a ship. No one wanted the risk, so Mom, at age 70, moved forward and chartered Holland America's m/s Maasdam. The musicians rallied around her. The cruise sold out in a few weeks, and this became the birth of the full-ship charter music cruise. The Jazz Cruise '19 will be the 18th year of that iconic program.

We were then contacted by Warren Hill and his partner to participate in The Smooth Jazz Cruise. That cruise was already "in motion" as a back-to-back sailing on a Costa Cruises ship. The cruise was not a full-ship charter, but nearly half of the ship each week was filled. I came on board to organize the programming and to be the third partner in the organization. Without going into details, a high degree of chaos erupted during those sailings, but out of the rubble came The Smooth Jazz Cruise as a full-ship charter. The Smooth Jazz Cruise just celebrated its 15th anniversary and 20th sailing.
 
When you survey the "world of jazz," the segment of the population that follows "smooth jazz" is relatively small, though fiercely loyal and supportive. The demographic for "straight-ahead" jazz is larger, but, like the followers of "smooth jazz," these fans are known more for their fervor and knowledge than for their numbers. So, what is the rest of the world listening to, in terms of jazz?
 
Herein lies the answer and the problem. The rest of the world is listening to a vast variety of jazz formats, loosely under an umbrella called "contemporary jazz." In my mind, contemporary jazz is any jazz that is not "smooth," "straight ahead" or "Dixieland/traditional." The vastness of this music form is both appealing and daunting. Few of the subsets are large enough or clearly defined enough to support a cruise program of its own, but cobbling them together may create confusion among the guests as to what the cruise was intended to present.
 
Accordingly, for years we sought to identify our brand of contemporary jazz cruise under an existing brand that we hoped would connote our mission. This was the origin of both our North Sea Jazz Cruise and the Playboy Jazz Cruise. The North Sea Jazz Festival and the Playboy Jazz Festival are among the most revered and longstanding jazz programs in the world. At the time of the cruise programs, their lineups were eclectic and offered the very best in "contemporary" jazz. For different reasons, though the cruises were amazing, the concept did not take hold under these brands.
 
Enter Don Was and Blue Note Records. I began working with Don on another "jazz cruise" program. He was introduced to our cruise programs when his fabled rock band Was, Not Was was featured on our inaugural sailing of The 80s Cruise. Both of us liked what we saw and we decided that doing a contemporary jazz cruise under the "Blue Note" flag made sense. The history of "Blue Note" in the world of jazz is legendary. Dormant for years, Don took over and has moved the label into the new world of jazz while maintaining the richness of its past glory. Blue Note Jazz Clubs is unrelated to Blue Note Records but enjoys a status that gives them the opportunity to participate in various joint programs. Steven Bensusan, the leader of Blue Note Jazz Clubs, stepped right in and joined Don and me in this program.
 
What we have produced is the very best true jazz event of the year outside of The Jazz Cruise and The Smooth Jazz Cruise. Blue Note at Sea is our home for those musicians who continue to expand the horizons of jazz and are at the forefront of the genre. With the history of Blue Note Records, the customer knowledge of how to present jazz of Blue Note Jazz Clubs and the cruise expertise of Entertainment Cruise Productions, we have a very cool thing going on here.
 
Entertainment Cruise Productions produces back-to-back cruises!
Back-to-Back is Back!
Guests who enjoy The Jazz Cruise and The Smooth Jazz Cruise asked us to slot Blue Note at Sea in the middle, giving them the opportunity to add another week of great music to their jazz vacation schedule. Sailing back-to-back has become one of our guests' favorites ways to e-x-t-e-n-d both the length and the breadth of their jazz experiences. Check out Blue Note at Sea. For those who love The Jazz Cruise, the lineup for Blue Note at Sea includes such TJC favorites as Kurt Elling, Wycliffe Gordon and Eric Marienthal. Fans of The Smooth Jazz Cruise will feel at home with Marcus Miller (serving as host of both cruises) and Candy Dulfer on the cruise. 
 
And, of course, the rest of the lineup for Blue Note at Sea is amazing. Robert Glasper, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Terence Blanchard, Jason Moran, Christian Scott and so many more, including a special performance by the famed Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra featuring Wynton Marsalis.
 
Over 200 guests are sailing back-to-back. Join them.

Learn more about Blue Note at Sea at www.bluenoteatsea.com.
 
Are You Sirius?
Just a gentle reminder that some of our top musicians are also on SiriusXM radio as hosts of some very cool shows. Here are the times (EDT) for shows on Real Jazz (Channel 67) that feature our musicians/commentators:
 
  • Marcus Miller — "Miller Time" on Sundays @ 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. EDT
  • Shelly Berg — "Generation Next" on Saturdays @ 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. EDT
  • Joey DeFrancesco — "Organized" on Fridays @ 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. EDT
  • Dick Golden — "American Jazz" on Saturdays @ 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. EDT

And you can catch up with Mark Ruffin almost every day with his Real Jazz with Mark Ruffin shows. 
 
Jazz Hits the Streets of Pittsburgh
Emmet Cohen
Pittsburgh has produced more than the Steelers, Pirates, Penguins and Andy Warhol. It's also the hometown of many of our great jazz musicians, including Art Blakey, Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Smith, George Benson, Ahmad Jamal, Billy Strayhorn and so many more who shaped this music. In recent years, Janis Burley Wilson has established an amazing annual jazz festival there called the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival. The 2018 edition is coming up soon on June 15-17 and will feature Marcus Miller, Gregory Porter, Kenny Garrett, Terri Lyne Carrington and Emmet Cohen. The event comprises free outdoor shows downtown at stages not far from PNC Park, as well as nighttime concerts at various venues throughout the city. It's a great hang in a great city. For more info, go to www.pittsburghjazzfest.org.
 
The Jazz Cruise
 
Blue Note at Sea