As the Playboy Jazz Festival celebrated their 30th anniversary, the inaugural Playboy Jazz Cruise (PJC) was announced to be held January 21 to February 1, 2009 aboard the Holland America's Westerdam.
For the jazz aficionados, this is the place to be with music planned for just about every corner of the ship.
"We program the cruise. We change the radio stations and television stations throughout the ship. We bring on our own comedian, DJ and musicians. We also create our own itinerary," said Dane Butcher, director of Cruise Operations and Programming for Jazz Cruises, LLC, a company that has produced successful jazz cruises for nearly 10 years.
"There will be DVDs playing of the artists' recorded performances along with live feed from various shows on the ship. So, even in the cabins, passengers can get a good feel of what's going on outside on the ship."
Butcher said that there is no segregation of the passengers from the artists. "The passengers are amazed at the unbelievable access. The artists enjoy the energy of the passengers and vice versa," he said.
During the day at sea, there will be simultaneous activities and events - jam sessions and pool parties and Q&A seminars - up close with the artists. In the evening, the ship is split into two groups. While one group is at dinner; the other is at the show. By about 10:30 p.m., the ship opens up festival style. "And that's were there are different things going on all at the same time. We call it 'Cruising After Dark.' There is a comedian in one venue, the passengers get to 'jam' as well, the casino is open, and there are intimate settings for quiet conversation," said Butcher.
The ship departs from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and stops at four ports: San Juan, Puerto Rico; Nevis, West Indies; St. Barth's, French West Indies and Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, but many of the passengers reportedly remain on board. The night club typically closes at 4 a.m. People just sleep during the day and party at night.
Butcher stated that the passengers are typically 60-65 percent African American, usually over 40 years of age and a mixture of singles and couples. "Salon and spa services including massages sell out quickly. The ship is like a five star floating hotel," he said.
Performances are not taped, so the one-of-a-kind sessions have to be experienced in person. And, it's impossible for one person to see everything. We have multiple activities to give guests options, and so that 1800 people don't jam into a space designed for 400.
It's a Marcus Miller party.
When Michael Lazaroff, executive director of Jazz Cruises, LLC started searching for something more progressive than smooth jazz for the company's North Sea Jazz Cruise, Marcus Miller's name kept coming up.
The internationally acclaimed bass player, was soon tapped by Lazaroff, to put together the music that Miller wanted to hear on the 2007 cruise.
"At first, when I started making my phone calls, it was a bit difficult because most of the guys I wanted didn't know what it was going to be like. They thought it might be uncomfortable or corny. I got Herbie (Hancock) to say yes. And then I called McCoy (Tyner) and told him 'Herbie already said yes,' and then I called (David) Sanborn, and just kind of did my thing. They had such a good time and enjoyed the fans on a different level," said Miller.
"The people who were there were die-hard jazz fans. They knew stuff that these guys did in the '60s and '70s. They would see guys in the hall and say 'Hey man, I don't want to bother you, I just want to let you know that I loved what you did in 1968."
With the slow disappearance of radio stations, especially jazz, artists find themselves making more live appearances. They are hopping planes and buses, and now cruise ships - all in an effort to satisfy their fans and promote their music.
Miller said that although he had a lot of music on the radio, most of it was music that he wrote for artists like David Sanborn, Luther Vandross, Joe Sample and others. "But my own music was a little funky for some of these smooth jazz stations. So I was already aware that I had to figure out another way to expose people to my music. We've been on the road, all over the world in an effort to reach as broad an audience as we possibly could. We've done the continents, now we are doing the sea," said Miller.
His latest CD "Marcus" features Corinne Bailey Rae, singing an old Denise Williams' song, "Free." In a couple of months, fans can expect an album collaboration with Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten. "That's three bass players, including myself. We're plucking and popping all over the place," said Miller.
On the 2009 Playboy Jazz Cruise, Marcus will perform with his group, backing some of the other artists. "I'm introducing the artists, making sure the guests are comfortable. It's my party - you're coming to my house, my floating house," said Miller.
The artist line-up includes Herbie Hancock, Diane Reeves, Keb Mo', Pancho Sanchez, James Moody, Roy Hargrove, James Carter, Eldor, Roberta Gambarini, New Birth Brass Band, Alonzo Bodden, Gregoire Maret, Patches Stewart, Bobby Sparks, Poogie Bell and more.
Check out www.marcusmiller.com and www.myspace.com/marcusmiller for the latest on Marcus Miller. For Playboy Jazz Cruise information, visit www.playboyjazzcruise.com or call (866) 866 923-7269.