Capital Jazz SuperCruise: Days 6 and 7

Day 6: Grand Turk

After another day of lacking sleep, which I more than welcomed, I knew one thing for sure: today was going to be a good one. Why? I was docking at one of the destinations on my Top 10 List of Places to Visit…Turks and Caicos. Most specifically, Grand Turk Island. And as soon as I came up to the cafe deck for some well-needed coffee and gazed out at the shoreline below me, I suddenly thought, “To hell with breakfast, this is exactly where I need to be right now.”

I was off that boat before you could blink.

You know how sometimes, there’s one place that just gets hold of your heart and soul the minute you set foot into it? Only two places prior to this have given me that feeling. The first one was the Celebrity Century ship on my very first cruise, which made me say that I have come home. The second was the beach of Montego Bay, Jamaica. The third has to be the beach at Grand Turk. A long dock-walk later, a detour through the seaside mall, a couple of left turns, and my feet were suddenly touching coarse, almost white sand. A sea-salt breeze stirred palm leaves, and the heat was climbing steadily. By the time I spread out the beach towel, I knew that there is just no better way to relax.

One happy morning roast – ha! – later, I crawled aboard again, and just in time for…Jonathan Butler?!

Hey, wait a second, thinks I. He wasn’t in the lineup when I booked this thing!

It wasn’t until later that I found out that Will Downing was in the hospital with a case of pneumonia, and JB was his substitute. My absolute best wishes to Will on his recovery, and a warm welcome to Jonathan on being aboard CapJazz. I was quite happy to see him again; of all the vocalists that ventured their way aboard this cruise, he is easily a favorite of mine. Easy flow, amazing spirit, and unwavering faith – all of this shines through his music loud and clear, and the standing ovation that he got from both cruisers and cruise staffers proved it.

Then, of course, there was the jam session.

Now, not for nothing, I love me some guitar. Chuck Loeb proved with his Between 2 Worlds record that he is capable of damn near anything, and when he goes bossa nova, he goes bossa nova. Carmen Cuesta’s voice is a perfect complement to his variety, and especially on that record, the operative words to go by are, “I died and went to Rio de Janeiro.”

This jam session, though, he brought the rock on. All electric, all sharp, piercing, and off the chain.

Some of the other highlights included Tom Schuman on the keys, Marion Meadows once again on the soprano sax, and a great collection of vocal talent from Take 6. Bonny B of Spyro Gyra came out to lend his drumming skills as well.

There was just one minor problem…

…I was falling asleep, quite literally. In the overflow lounge. Wherein I’m pretty sure that at least one person had to peel me out of my seat so I could make it to my cabin. I don’t remember leaving the lounge past giving a few hugs, and I think that was the first night of the entire sailing that I slept…

Day 7: At Sea

yeah, right. At 6:41am sharp, like always, my eyes snapped open – for a while, anyway.

Out I crawled into the sun, into a brunch, and all throughout I’m wondering, why the hell is my head spinning? I’m not seasick. It’s too early for sea legs, considering I’m still on the ship. So, what do I do but go towards the ye olde coffee machine?

While giving my coffee the fixings, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman with an accent that sounded distinctly familiar, all the while backed by the ever-present sound-check echoes from the pool deck area. That was how I met than Tony of Incognito, and based on the sound-check, it was right about the time to start seat-hunting. And, just like before with the Spirit Cruises, I had only one feeling: get there early.

I did, and let me just say it: Bluey knows how to party. You have to hand it to Incognito for having a rousing, sharp style to their music, and the voices meld together perfectly. Tony Momrelle and Maysa, as well as everyone on backup, had the entire pool deck – all four levels of it!!! – on its feet.

It was right about then that I realized that the light-headedness that kept me from wrapping up the jam session with everyone else yet again had not faded, and the explanation was simple: I was dehydrating and fast. No worries, nothing that two big-ass bottles of water wouldn’t fix.

A small public-service announcement, though: watch your water intake in the tropics. You can dehydrate on a dime. I had no idea anything was wrong until I realized that I was effectively passing out as I was walking, and I have a tolerance for extreme temperatures, both hot and cold.

Nonetheless, there were still two more shows to go to, and one of them was Chuck Loeb in the lounge. Even though I already knew the music, and have seen him many times, I always come back. I grew up listening to Sarao and Tropical on CD 101.9, and on this particular night, I got to hear something I have heard very infrequently on commercial radio stations as well as in show: Blue Kiss. One of his slower tunes, must more introspective than what you’d expect of him, it’s a surprisingly strong melody to listen to. I am no sentimentalist, but this one…something about it just gets to me in the very best of ways. Hearing it live is a treat indeed.

“Also, Gerald and I are part of a law firm, named Veasley, Beasley and Loeb…for all your legal troubles, just go to to cabin [redacted],” Chuck cracked.

Very New York of him, that.

I will say this in retrospect: it was rather appropriate that The Music Inside was on the playlist, seeing as the lounge was at the bow of the ship, and even though the blinds were drawn on the windows, the Caribbean sunlight still found its way in. I knew that outside was the perfect tropical vacation with sunscreen, umbrella drinks and heat, but in this lounge (which was freezing! thanks to the air conditioning…Jesus on a pogo stick, why is it that everything’s like 50 degrees even with the cabin AC at off?!) but inside that lounge, with that melody on the guitar, there was an entirely different sort of atmosphere to drift away on.

The evening show was one of the best, and one of the people that I see live the least, truthfully: Kirk Whalum.

Now, you know how picky I am with my saxophones. Having ripped many a song apart (Lory, you know exactly which one I mean…it has to do with a certain gentleman with a zebra-stripe horn!!) on the account of my over-active sap meter, when I first heard Kirk Whalum, I was surprised by how very…Southern Gentleman he sounds, for the lack of  a better word. The album that I have is Into My Soul, and what drew me in about it is how mellow the sound is. Note that I use the word mellow as an attitude, not so much as the pacing of the music. Club Paradise is well-paced, but so easygoing at the same time that the hey, look at this one is infectious. Hoddamile is stronger, funkier, heavy on the horn. And in that show, Kirk brought the funk, Southern style. The audience was on its feet almost immediately, and then he brought out his brother, Kevin Whalum.

Now, when Kevin started singing, I knew that I heard that voice before, and when the band changed to a light, trippy sort of rhythm, I recognized where I heard him.

“I just have to ask this, right now,” Kirk said, putting his tenor sax aside for a moment. “Do you feel me?”

The audience certainly did. And that was where I heard Kevin from, indeed. And, of course, that was the next song to play – one of my favorites.

I won’t lie; that show had to be one of the most-attended, right up there with Maysa and Spyro Gyra on the opening night.  It also drove home that this was the last night of the cruise, and, like always, I had to pack, think back on the interesting times, and travel back to New York City, and with it to reality.

Introspection on these cruises, trips, festivals is a very funny thing. You spend a week away, and coming in it feels like a week is too long to be away. Getting out, it inevitably feels like it was way too short. Unlike the way it felt on the Century in January of 2009, my first cruise – which turned out to be the last sailing of that cruise series – this one felt like the start to something different. Maybe, like the Spirit Season in NYC, the CapJazz cruises will also become tradition? Who knows. I’m certainly attending 2011. :)

And, thinking back on it all right now, especially come Thanksgiving, I think, how lucky am I. How lucky am I to have this as a part of my experiences, as part of my tradition and – maybe, someday full time! – work. And how lucky am I to have booked a single-rate cabin for next year, because holy crap, it’s sold out already.

Until my next musical meandering…


Calling All My People

It just occurred to me…it’s Thanksgiving. Which means that Christmas/New Year can’t be far.

Which means that it’s time for my Annual Christmas Card Mail-Out soon.

Non-traditional me does have a tradition, you see. My friendships have formed in so many ways that I’d be telling the stories well into next year if I had to tell them all, and my people are scattered far and wide. And as the weather gets warmer, I find that a little hey, thinking of you will go a long way in warming them up. My tradition is that every year, without fail, I send out Christmas cards.

So! This is my call for mailing addresses. If you want to receive a Christmas card from me, then either leave me a comment (they’re moderated, and I have the power to edit them, so no one but me will see your address), or e-mail me at with your info.