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Published: 2009/01/07

Jam Cruise Day 3: Silent Jams and Big Bands

Jam Cruise has always been the perfect mid-winter meeting point for the
improvisational music world’s various geographic scenes and this year is
no exception. With ample representatives from the Colorado, New York, San
Francisco and New Orleans music communities onboard, almost every
late-night performance has eventually blossomed into the type of loose,
communal power jam that blurs the lines between bandmates and neighbors.
In the Convent Garden Theater, Galactic expanded to an octet for most of
its show with the addition of fellow New Orleans residents Mike Dillon,
Trombone Shorty and Big Sam and, between the hours of 1 and 3:30 AM, also
invited out Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington, Skerik, Robert Walter and Karl
Denson, as well as Bonerama’s Mark Mullins and Craig Klein. One
particularly entertaining segment found a six-piece horn section
consisting of Galactic’s Ben Ellman, Trombone Shorty, Big Sam,
Skerik and the Bonerama horns moving to the front of the
stage to each take a solo while Galactic held the groove in the
background. Meanwhile, immediately across the hall, ALO invited out fellow
Bay Area residents Tim Bluhm (The Mother Hips) and Jackie Greene to sing
and play guitar on Bluhm’s ‘White Headphones,’ Greene’s ‘Ball & Chain’
and the Grateful Dead’s ‘Sugaree.’
While still docked five miles off the coast of Belize City, Karl
Denson’s Tiny Universe kicked off the evening’s entertainment
and the day’s sit ins from the ship’s pool stage by bringing out Ivan Neville to
play organ on ‘Move On.’ Soon after, Keller Williams—-who boarded the
ship in Belize—-took the stage with Gibe Droll, Jeff Sipe and Keith
Moseley for a set of originals and covers including the Band’s ‘Ophelia’
(until this point Moseley had been the only member of String Cheese Incident who
had not performed on a Jam Cruise). Williams also told a humorous story
about looking for a ticket for Phish’s reunion show and finding it
under his hat before busting into ‘Birds of a Feather’ and
later invited out Karl Denson for a jam. For his part, Sipe remained on
the pool deck stage until nearly 5 PM, playing with Williams for
two-and-a-half hours and then joining his longtime bandmates Leftover
Salmon for a marathon performance that drew in the Bonerama horns and Lee
Boys’ drummer Earl Walker. Bill Nershi also watched the majority of the show
from the stage, hiding behind a speaker that was situated next to his
frequent collaborator Drew Emmitt.
Over in the Convent Garden Theater, Medeski Martin & Wood warmed up for
Galactic with a darker, more experimental performance than on Sunday. The trio’s
set featured guests turns from both Skerik and Cyro Baptista. Across the
hall, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk welcomed George Porter Jr., among
others, to the stage. For the second time this trip, STS9’s David Murphy
closed the evening’s confirmed entertainment past 5 AM with a DJ set
alongside DJ Rootz.
Taking cue from Bonnaroo, a few musicians also played a stealth set in the
ship’s silent performance space. A core band of Joel Cummins (Umphrey’s
McGee), Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green), Brock Butler (Perpetual Groove),
Kris Myers (Umphrey’s McGee) and Alvin Cordy Jr. (The Lee Boys)
offered an hour of cerebral improvisational music that could only
be heard by fans wearing special wireless headphones. Butler latter
returned to the room to play an ‘un-silent’ set of covers that nodded to
Sublime, Bob Marley and Phish.
As is now tradition, as the day’s programmed entertainment came to a close
the ship’s Jam Room began gearing up and, as the first rays of sunshine
were beginning to peak over the MSC Orchestra, George Porter Jr., Ivan
Neville, Erik Krasno and the Bonerama horns could be heard playing into
the early morning.

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