John Pizzarelli and Catherine Russell put on a show in our hometown that delighted new and old jazz fans.
Entertainment Cruise Productions
Our Take: Bridging the Jazz Gap
In earlier notes, we explored the growing gap between our music and the general public. We have discussed that some of the mystery is due to the inexperience of the listener and some is due to the desire of the musician to appear hip or more hip than need be. Granted, it should never be the case where our music is so generic that it appeals to everyone. Edginess and uniqueness are part and parcel of jazz. Jazz is not for everyone, but it should be accessible for those who are seeking to learn and enjoy it.

Last weekend, I watched this process play out between two members of the Entertainment Cruise Productions staff and their experiences in attending a show featuring John Pizzarelli and Catherine Russell. It was fascinating to watch and it reinforced in my mind that, when properly presented and properly embraced, jazz is a beloved treat and a music genre that is timeless. Here is what happened.

I have 4 season tickets to the Friday Night (1st Show) Series at Jazz at the Bistro in St. Louis. For the most part, we use all 4 tickets and sit comfortably at a four-top table for the evening. If I give the venue enough time, they can substitute a six-top table for our use, so I was not concerned when I realized that I had invited two couples, the male parts of which work at Entertainment Cruise Productions. One is Jamey Powell, who most of our jazz folks know as the silver-haired jazz aficionado who can hang with our jazz guys until the wee hours and still be ready to assist guests the next day. The other is Charles Berman, our lead writer for our marketing, and someone very new to jazz, but blessed with a ravenous curiosity and willingness to embrace new things.
Unfortunately, that night, the venue was unable to accommodate our group of six, so my wife and I sat at another table and shared the evening with a couple that we had never met. I am assuming that they were jazz patrons, but, based upon their dinner order, they may have come to a jazz club for the food! I have visited jazz clubs across the world and none of them will ever be confused with a Michelin 3 Star Restaurant. Fortunately, their concentration on their food obviated the necessity for conversation or sharing. My mind was shifting from my excitement to hear Catherine Russell live for the first time, experiencing the warm glow of a John Pizzarelli show, wondering how my two polar opposite jazz fans/co-workers were doing, and, of course, dodging any kickback from my wife. You see, I told her that we would be sitting alone, not with folks we did not know. I missed that one.
"Jazz is not for everyone, but it should be accessible for those who are seeking to learn and enjoy it."
Back to the music. Jamey has a sophisticated jazz palate. Charles is still at the kids' table. Yet, both walked away from the show with smiles and fulfillment. How did this happen? John and Catherine presented themselves as real people, each one outlining their music lineage and the path they took to being on the bandstand. They expressed respect and love for their music and gave credit to the writer, arranger and anyone else associated with each tune. Neither took the "look at me" approach to entertainment. Instead, they connect with the audience through a "let me help you enjoy" presentation.
As for my two buddies, though none of the music was new to Jamey, he reveled in how well it was done, how great Catherine sounded and the majesty of the instrumentation of John and his trio. Though Charles may have heard one or more of the tunes presented — John and Catherine performed their "Billie & Blue Eyes" tribute to Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra — he was hearing them for the first time as part of a jazz program. The familiarity of the tune juxtaposed over the solos and jazzy extensions was a great way for Charles to get his feet wet with our music. He was out in the water for sure, but he could still see land! Some of our music puts you "at sea," which is not good for the novice sailor.

The next day, Jamey and I had the chance to have lunch with John and Catherine and we spent a good amount of time sharing stories about our lives with jazz. It was wonderful. Charles was not part of that experience. One thing that I have learned is that when a newbie has a great jazz experience, it is best to let it settle and resonate for a bit before going forward. Yes, lunch was enjoyed around a four-top and all diners were jazz adults. As much as I love introducing jazz to others, sometimes being able to share with those who know more than you would ever know is great fun!

Did I mention that Catherine's father was Louis Armstrong's musical director and that John's father is an iconic jazz guitarist? Of course, YOU knew those things! The readers of The Weekender bridged the jazz gap a long time ago.

Our Take is written by Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director – Jazz of Entertainment Cruise Productions. Feel free to express your views or pose questions to him at
Jazz On Land in St. Louis!
Entertainment Cruise Productions'
On Land In St. Louis Series

We are producing two great jazz shows in St. Louis in the upcoming months. The first is Double Vision Revisited on Tuesday, August 13, when Bob James, David Sanborn and Marcus Miller perform their first tour of the entire Grammy-winning album. Drummer Billy Kilson and vocalist Larry Braggs round out the group. In the first week of sales, more than 67% of the tickets were purchased, so act now.

If festivals are your style, then come to the St. Louis area on Saturday, September 7, and join us at the Chesterfield Amphitheater from 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. for an amazing lineup of smooth jazz stars. Led by the amazing Brian Culbertson, the lineup for The Smooth Jazz Cruise On Land In St. Louis features Grace Kelly, Eric Darius, Erin Bode and Tim Cunningham. It will be full day and night of great music under the stars, almost as if The Smooth Jazz Cruise docked in suburban St. Louis for a few hours!

Click here for more information and to secure tickets for either or both shows.
Public Service Announcement:
The Jazz Cruise Is Nearly 90% Reserved

Learn more about The Jazz Cruise:
You have seen this headline before, but it usually pops up around Halloween, not just after Memorial Day. Just over 100 staterooms remain available for The Jazz Cruise '20, the 20th anniversary sailing of The Greatest Jazz Festival at Sea. 

The rush to secure staterooms is attributable to the highest level of first-time cruisers we have had in many years. It will be exciting to present The Jazz Cruise to so many fresh faces. We will work hard to put on a great show and make them feel welcome.
Joey Alexander Performs at the Blue Note for the First Time
Pianist Joey Alexander, who performed on The Jazz Cruise earlier this year, comes to the Blue Note in New York City for the first time from June 6-9, with a stellar rhythm section of Larry Grenadier and Kendrick Scott.

After releasing his first four albums on Motéma Music, Joey has just signed with Verve Records and his debut album for that prestigious label will be released in October, to dovetail with his Carnegie Hall debut on October 18. Did we mention that he's still only 15 years old?
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Closes Out Season with Jazz-Meets-Art Performance
On June 8, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) with Wynton Marsalis closes the season with an interesting collaboration bridging visual art and jazz composition. The special event — Portrait of America: A Jazz Story — is a co-production with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

JLCO members have spent the past year exploring centuries' worth of American art — from masterworks to lesser-known gems in the Museum's collection. Each musician was asked to select a single work of art as inspiration for a new original composition. Every song will be accompanied by a visual display of the artwork that inspired it, transforming Rose Theater into a one-of-a-kind art gallery.
Where's Alonzo? Survey Says …
Alonzo does the feud!
Alonzo Bodden will be hosting Family Feud, a Live Celebrity Edition of the game show. Alonzo reports that hasn't replaced Steve Harvey yet, but this 9-show run in June should be a lot of fun!

June 1: Harrah’s in Atlantic City, NJ 

June 5: Sandler Center in Virginia Beach, VA

June 6: Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, NC

June 7: Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC

June 10: Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, GA

June 11: Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville, TN

June 12: James K Polk Theater in Nashville, TN

June 13: Taft Theatre in Cincinnati, OH

June 14: Playhouse Square in Cleveland, OH