Spontaneous Combustion On Jam Cruise
My name is Jeff Garbaz, I am a concert visual artist. I just got back from the best musical experience of my life. I’m the guy that puts up the big video screens at concerts. After doing visuals for the Ice Castle Film gigs in Miami, where Mike Gordon from Phish joined George Clinton and Parliament Funkadellic, I spent the last 8 days on the "Jam Cruise I and II" and it was incredible. We were able to truly live in the moment and concentrate on making the best out of an opportunity … utilizing the valuable experience we have been able to soak in as a Visual Artist, Director of Photography, Musician and Promoter in the last 5-6 years.
First of all, in the dead of winter, the tropical scenery and weather alone feels real nice. The food and catering on the ship was much better than a normal concert or festival. Just about every person on that ship had been looking forward to this trip for a long time, and the diverse crowd and line up represented so many different parts of the country. One thing I can say, we all had one thing in common on that ship … we all really loved music, and the music we were experiencing was epic.
There were too many musicians joining forces to mention. It seemed like just about every band had a top caliber player from another band jam with them. The artists mingled with the crowd and staff. There was no backstage and no rock star attitudes. These musicians were so down to earth. We knew they were fantastic players; we were able to learn and grow with true artists … completely into their craft. Sometimes you learn more in 8 days about yourself then it takes in a year! It was one of those kind of trips.
One experience and highlight of the gig was getting permission to take a room they planned on using for a "disco night" and transforming it into a "Happening" type atmosphere. The ‘activity dude’ on the ship, my man Seth, walked up to Eric Crittenden, formerly of the Waz, who mans the camera for me on the visual boards and asked if he could fill in and "DJ" the Disco night. Crittenden’s eyes lit up … we knew we had a chance to make something happen … we got permission and trust to create something better than just a disco night, We called it "Spontaneous Combustion: a Funk filled Jazz Jam". Eric summoned up the boys at Moonshine Backline in the bottom of the ship and threw together a room full of gear. I took over the DJ booth with visuals and a few artists on board had hung their work all over the walls … the room looked real nice in an almost Warhol kind of way … and it was intimate because the room could only hold like 100 people.
After getting organized with a sound man and securing backline we were able to walk up to these stars and ask them to be in our jam … one of the first was Rob Wasserman (ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!?!?!?) ...
"Hey Rob, we are putting together an intimate night of jazz and funk … wanna be in our band? We would be more than honored to have you sit in?!?" This guy didn’t hesitate … Rob responding with "I may not be up on the standards, it’s been a while … but all I wanna do is PLAY!!!!" I have chills just reflecting back on the energy of EXTREMELY TALENTED people just wanting to jam, not worrying about bread or the past or the future and living in the moment. All these guys wanted to do was play their asses off and get funky.
We ended up recruiting revolving players that included Wasserman, Karl Denson on sax, Hope Clayburn (Deep Banana Blackout) on flute, vocals and sax, Terence Higgins and Jamie McLean of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band on percussion and guitars, DJ Motion Potion from LA using the turn table as an instrument, 4 guys from Tiny Universe sat in including John Staton on drums (a rising star) and David Welth on the Rhodes, Ron Johnson on bass and tasteful chops from Chris Littlefield (trumpets). We also had Phil Ferlino (keys) and Brian Carey (latin percussion) from the New Monsoon, Jason Fuller from Tishamingo on keys and guitarist Matt Grondin also sitting in.
photo by Robb CohenCrittenden (my best friend and band mate) was the front man leading this all star jam on sax, keys and vocals running thru his originals and jazz classics such as "Trying to Make It Real Compared To What" "Footprints" and funk joints like James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Sly and Family Stone. Eric had 2 managers asking for press kits by the end of the night. He tore up the place. He ended up sitting in with many bands on the main stage including the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Particle, Galactic, Michael Franti and Spearhead and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. In the past Crittenden has put the camera down and jumped on stage to sax solo on the road with me for moe., Dickey Betts and Jefferson Starship. But this was different … it was electric and magical.
Sets from Galactic, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Particle were pretty unforgettable. Keller Williams had Billy Neshi of SCI join him and that was a treat.
Les Claypool left an impression on me I can’t really describe. Doing the visuals for Les was over the top … he had all us freaks doing pirate chants … it was outstanding … and funny as all hell. What a freak, in a REALLY good way. I must say when the manager said they usually don’t use visuals I was a bit intimidated … he said he wanted it "dark and psychedelic" ... that I know how to do!!! I had a good night using a multiple layer of video strobes on his bass and face … the highlight was Les breaking into a 20 minute Pink Floyd cover of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" in which he proceeded to drop jaws … this guy is amazing. His stage presence glows after like 2 notes … I have memories of my final mix monitor reflecting extraordinary subject/compositions in the frames of what I do. Pure eye candy. :)
Oh yeah we got to snorkel, play beach soccer, kayak and eat and drink with some of my favorite bands. The forecast for my hometown of Buffalo is like a 30 below wind chill? YIKES an unkind culture shock, but thank God I am back with the family! We can’t wait for Langerado!