Programming the cruises is exhilarating, but working on the lineups for future cruises is often just plain excruciating.
Entertainment Cruise Productions
Our Take: Lineup Mania
We are busy right now working on the programming for the 2020 sailings of The Jazz Cruise, Blue Note at Sea and The Smooth Jazz Cruise, as well as finalizing each cruise's lineup for the 2021 sailings. Working on the programming for the cruises is exhilarating. Working on the lineups for future cruises is often just plain excruciating. Something happened recently that encapsulates the complexity of the process and the fragility of the decision making in terms of selecting a lineup.

For the sake of privacy, we are going to leave off names in this example. One of our highly trusted jazz operatives strongly recommended a particular group for Blue Note at Sea '21. As I always do, I looked them up, checked out a selection of songs on YouTube and tried to understand where the group would fit in our galaxy of jazz programs. Once the inquiry becomes serious, I then try mightily to see one of their shows. By doing so, we pick up the vibe they are creating and, by spending time with the crowd, which should represent the "base" for the group, we can learn how they would fit with our other performers. Even if a performer has a rabid fan base, those fans would not attend a cruise if the balance of the lineup was not of interest to them. It would be more economical for them to see their favorite performer umpteen times on land!
Working on the programming for the cruises is exhilarating.
Working on the lineups for future cruises is often just plain excruciating.
The band in question faced another hurdle. Due to their fee structure and other factors, the only participation that would work for our cruise would be placing them as the "on and off" special guest. An "on and off" special guest should be someone that virtually everybody on the ship would want to see. These performances occur at the midpoint of the cruise and are intended to be a special treat for the guests. We have argued long into the night as to the value of an "on and off" guest. In truth, there is no right answer, but there has been a plethora of bad examples. Mea culpa!
Now it was time to see the band live. Jamey Powell, who plays Tonto to my Lone Ranger in terms of assessing jazz shows, joined me for this journey of inquiry the other night. The event was in St. Louis' Symphony Hall and was very well attended for a Thursday night. The crowd was eclectic, though it lacked a traditional jazz show demographic mix. It took two tunes to understand why. The key to securing a "traditional jazz show demographic mix" is to have a jazz show in the first place! Though the performance was entirely instrumental and the performers displayed amazing talent and showmanship, all to the delight of the crowd, it wasn't jazz. At least it wasn't the kind of jazz that would be accepted by most of our Blue Note at Sea guests. I will say that the Blue Note at Sea guests have a broad and expansive (if not "expensive") palate and range of music they like, but this was outside even those generous borders.

Discussing the matter with the group's agent the next morning was problematic, to say the least. We bounced back and forth between "yes we liked them" to "then why won't you sign them" to "because they don't fit" to "they can play any music you want." Clearly, it is the job of the agent to push, but, at some point, especially in this case where we have had years and years of negotiations, they would relent. Given the gastronomic penchant of this particular agent, my last ditch comment was "these guys were the best country fried steak that I have ever enjoyed. Unfortunately, I am booking for an Italian restaurant."

The analogy was sufficiently on point to work and sufficiently random to fend off additional responses. Having said that, we are very close to having some very cool lineups for 2021. Once we get past that stage, it is full go getting ready to sail on the 2020 programs. The '20 lineups have long since been completed and they are fantastic. I don't know about you, but I am ready to sail!

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
Don't Miss the Red, White and
Blue Note at Sea Sale!

Great Music is the Only Rule on Blue Note at Sea!
After a wonderful Fourth of July with family, friends and fireworks, Blue Note at Sea is here to ignite the grand finale to your holiday. Through Sunday, July 7, you can save money on the Hippest & Coolest MUSIC Event of the SEASon by making your reservation online.

During the Red, White and Blue Note at Sea Sale, everyone who makes a reservation online qualifies for the same special prices available to those who have sailed with us 4 or more times! All you have to do is use promo code JULY4.

To receive the special price, you must start your reservation by the end of day tomorrow. We know that folks may wish to finalize their reservation with our staff, so if you simply begin your reservation online, you qualify and can complete your reservation with our representatives on Monday, July 8!

Click here to find the 4+ Past Guest Price and remember to use promo code JULY4 at checkout to lock in your special price! If you have questions, call us between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Central Time on Monday at 844.768.5157.
Podcast #10: Boney James with Alonzo Bodden
Podcast 10: Boney James with Alonzo Bodden
Podcast 10 is live!
In this week's installment of Jazz Cruise Conversations, the podcast series from Entertainment Cruise Productions, we present to you Alonzo Bodden interviewing The Smooth Jazz Cruise co-host Boney James.

The extraordinary saxophonist was initially a reluctant cruiser several years ago, but these days he's not only a regular artist, but also one of the hosts of The Smooth Jazz Cruise. During The Smooth Jazz Cruise, Boney sat down with our comedian in residence (and contemporary jazz aficionado) Alonzo Bodden to talk about how his career developed and grew from being a sideman to a leader.

Every Jazz Cruise Conversations podcast is available on our website at: and You can also find Jazz Cruise Conversations on your preferred podcast platform, including iTunes and Spotify.
John Pizzarelli Pays Tribute to Nat King Cole
Our good friend John Pizzarelli has been touring the country performing the music of one his heroes — Nat King Cole. He calls the show "For Centennial Reasons: 100 Year Salute to Nat King Cole" and John recently released an album by that very same name on his own label. It features John and his trio of Konrad Paszkudzki and Mike Karn doing compositions most closely associated with Nat, as well as one that John wrote about the legendary pianist and singer called "Nat King Cool."

Guests of The Jazz Cruise have seen John perform many of these songs, but now you can take them home with you.