After an extraordinary sailing of Blue Note at Sea, The Smooth Jazz Cruise sets sail today.
Entertainment Cruise Productions
The Jazz Cruise '19
Our Take:
Blue Note at Sea Cruise Memoirs

Today is the day that Blue Note at Sea ends and The Smooth Jazz Cruise '19.1 begins. Before we jump to The Greatest Party at Sea, the moniker that has defined The Smooth Jazz Cruise for 16+ years, let's take a moment to reminisce about Blue Note at Sea.
 
Blue Note at Sea is the successor in music to our North Sea Jazz Cruise and our Playboy Jazz Cruise. Having just completed its third year of sailing, Blue Note at Sea is fabulous and it is here to stay! Unlike both The Jazz Cruise and The Smooth Jazz Cruise, Blue Note at Sea does not speak for itself through its title. 
 
The cruise is best defined by its lineup. For seven days, we were mesmerized by a litany of wonderfully talented, mostly young jazz musicians, all of whom trying to define and articulate the next wave of jazz. Yes, for exquisite balance there was David Sanborn, Terence Blanchard and Kurt Elling representing the hip sector of the Old Guard. And, even though Marcus Miller is nearing 60 years old, his band keeps getting younger and his music keeps moving. We were also treated to an incredible performance by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, who are truly in a class of their own.
 
Against this backdrop we had Robert Glasper, Christian Scott, José James, Jason Moran, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Derrick Hodge and others, all of whom featuring smoking hot young bands. The music was exciting. The vibe was exhilarating. And, the crowd was delightful. Guests came to the cruise from 35 different countries, a fact that validates jazz as the international language of music. That may be the No. 1 takeaway from the week. The jazz scene today, though dominated by American performers, belongs to the world. Blue Note at Sea hopes to be a part of that discussion for a long time. 
 
The stage is set now for our very loyal and wonderful "smooth jazz" cruise guests. At Entertainment Cruise Productions, we are not a participant in the discussion of whether "smooth jazz" is jazz or not. Quite frankly, it is a silly discussion. The music is great and the performances are top notch. The Smooth Jazz Cruise '19.1 will feature Marcus Miller, Boney James, Dave Grusin, Lalah Hathaway, Lee Ritenour and others, all of whom are first-class musicians. To steal from the PGA's marketing machine, "these guys can play."  
 
As I approach my fifth week at sea and my third jazz cruise in a row, I am drawn to the passions that each genre generates among its fans. There are those, like me, who find greatness in all three. Call us novices or call us open minded. Or something in the middle. I often wonder what is it that makes me like it all. Finally, I can answer this riddle.
 
I love musicians. I admire their talent, their ability to take metal, wood and other materials and make music. I admire their camaraderie and their willingness to share. Most of all, I admire anyone who is willing and able to stand on a bandstand with an instrument in their hands or a voice ready to sing, look into an audience of knowledgeable guests and fellow musicians, and put themselves on the line for 60-90 minutes. No replays. No takeovers. No challenging the outcome. Whatever comes out, they own. Now that is very cool indeed.
 
And, for those who believe that jazz music is simply talented cats doing whatever they want on the stage, I trust that our onboard interviews dispel that notion once and for all. These are highly trained musicians whose seemingly free and easy manner is rooted in a structure that only they understand.
 
Yes, I admire musicians. To bring that amount of joy to people is a life well lived.

Our Take is written by Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director of Entertainment Cruise Productions. Feel free to express your views or pose questions to him at michael@ecpcruises.com.
 
World Premiere of Kurt Elling's Radio Drama
Kurt Elling
One of the real treats for guests sailing on Blue Note at Sea this past week was the appearance of Kurt Elling, a favorite on The Jazz Cruise. The Grammy Award-winning vocalist performed with his group, sat in with David Sanborn as part of a Duke Ellington-themed Night Music show, sang "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" in the Blue Note Records 80th Anniversary concert, hosted a champagne tasting and even introduced a few shows. He was indeed a busy man.

That is impressive enough, but even more so because he's in the midst of preparing for the world premiere of "The Big Blind," an original noir radio drama, co-written with Grammy-nominated songwriter Phil Galdston and inspired by true historic events. This unique musical theater event will be held March 1-2 in the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Set in the seedy underbelly of the 1950s Chicago nightclub scene, Elling stars as Jack Lewis, an up-and-coming jazz singer who faces the loss of his voice, both literally and figuratively, when his personal and professional choices upend his life. Exclusively for this premiere performance, Elling has assembled an all-star cast, including Broadway legend Ben Vereen doubling as the story's narrator and Lewis' sax-playing mentor; NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater, who brings her sultry stylings to the part of the requisite femme fatale; Broadway star and jazz chanteuse Allison Semmes as the young ingénue; and Foley artist Jeff Ward.

A unique blend of radio drama, complete with an on-stage sound effects and concert performance, "The Big Blind" takes audiences back to the heyday of what Elling calls “the theater of the imagination.” The score features eight new songs co-written by Elling and Galdston.
LEARN MORE
 
2020 Jazz Cruise Programs 

Here is quick rundown of the status of reservations for our 2020 Jazz Cruise Programs:
 

The Smooth Jazz Cruise '20.1  (OPEN BOOKING NOW — OVER 80% SOLD)

  • Sailing Dates: January 18 – 25, 2020.
  • Reservation Status: Open Booking. Anyone may reserve any available stateroom here.


Blue Note at Sea '20  (OPEN BOOKING STARTS FEBRUARY 5!)

  • Sailing Dates: January 25 – February 1, 2020.
  • Reservation Status: Guests on Blue Note at Sea '19 may rebook their current stateroom on an exclusive basis from now through February 2, 2019.
  • Open Booking for all begins on February 5, 2019.
  • More information and the lineup are available here.


The Jazz Cruise '20  (OPEN BOOKING HAS BEGUN — MORE THAN 50% SOLD!)

  • Sailing Dates: February 1 – 8, 2020.
  • Reservation Status: Open Booking. Anyone may reserve any available stateroom here.
  • More information and the lineup (so far!) are available here. The full lineup will be announced on February 9, 2019.


The Smooth Jazz Cruise '20.2  (OPEN BOOKING NOW — FEWER THAN 90 STATEROOMS ARE AVAILABLE!)

  • Sailing Dates: March 14 – 21, 2020.
  • Reservation Status: Open Booking. Anyone may reserve any available stateroom here.