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Published: 2009/10/27
by Mike Greenhaus

New Horizons for George Porter Jr.

Photo by Brad Hodge

As a founding member of the legendary Meters, George Porter Jr. helped lay the groundwork for the modern funk movement in the 1960s. In this context he has collaborated with many of the biggest names in popular music, including Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, David Byrne, Jimmy Buffet and Robbie Robertson. But it’s Porter’s passion for performance that has kept him a mainstay on the New Orleans and jamband circuits for over forty years, which is probably why Porter loves Jam Cruise so much. Each year the bassist not only uses the traveling festival as a vacation for his family, but also takes the opportunity to collaborate with the ship’s eclectic cast of characters. He’s played Rock Star karaoke, collaborated with Col. Bruce and dug in at the Jam Room.

This year Porter will add the title curator to his many Jam Cruise accomplishments as he puts together the ship’s annual Super Jam. In a revealing interview, Porter discusses his time on Jam Cruise, upcoming jazz project and why he’s stepping away from his sturdy band PBS.

Let’s start by talking about Jam Cruise. When was your maiden voyage on the cruise?

I’m thinking this will be my fourth year in a row. The first time I had been invited on I decided before the cruise landed that I’m coming back and booked [a room for] the next year’s cruise [the Jam Cruise staff returned Porter’s check, but did invite him back to play the next year]. Every year it has been getting hotter with different band configurations.

And this year you’ve put together the cruise’s Super Jam?

The first year I played with the funky Meters and last year I brought PBS. This year I’ve put together a super jam. I’m still working on the players. The [official] Super Jam usually happens out on the main stage, that last afternoon or evening at sea. I think Karl Denson has done two of them, and Robert Walter put together one last year with a big band. Karl has been on every one of the festivals, I think. There is also the Jam Room. A lot of things that have happened in the Jam Room have manifested themselves on the main stage because ideas start in the Jam Room.

From an artist’s perspective how would you say Jam Cruise differs from other festivals? To me it has always felt somewhere between a traditional festival and a guitar fantasy camp.

I guess the difference with Jam Cruise is that you absolutely have a captive audience [laughter]. I find it to be a lot more fun than other stuff because everybody’s there—you can move around and find places that you want to play or if you just want to sit down and talk with somebody you can do that too. There are definitely people splitting hairs as to how the ship is set up so that they can make it to each others sets. Then of course there is the Jam Room.

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