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Published: 2011/01/08
by Mike Greenhaus

Jam Cruise Day Four: Sunrises with Brock

A look back at the New Mastersounds Florida gig before boarding the boat

The worlds of jam and funk continued to merge as Jam Cruise 9 reached Costa Maya, Mexico on Friday morning. As dawn neared, Perpetual Groove guitarist Brock Butler performed his second surprise early morning set in two days on the ship’s pool deck. Not to be outdone, buskers Nathan Moore and Greensky Bluegrass set up their own freeform musical party outside of the Jam Room. The stealth jam session drew in several additional musicians, including Steve Kimock (who sat in with the members of Greensky Bluegrass in a more formal setting on Thursday night). Meanwhile, in the Jam Room, George Porter Jr. hosted Thursday night’s bass-centric jam session. Most notably, Porter’s 7 Walkers bandmate—Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann—made his first Jam Cruise stage appearance on a cover of “Sugaree.” Kreutzmann has been onboard the ship since Tuesday and has been a visible presence in the crowd.

Most of the ship’s passengers spent the day in Mexico. Activities ranged from a trip to the Mayan ruins to a zip line adventure led by Lotus. As passengers returned to the ship, soul group Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears kicked off the day’s musical offerings on the Pool Deck. The later part of the afternoon and early evening were filled with interactive onboard performances: members of Cornmeal and Greensky Bluegrass led a rock covers pickin’ party in the Zebra Bar while ALO and special guests David Gans, Matt Butler (Everyone Orchestra) and Simon Allen (New Mastersounds) hosted Rockstar Karaoke in the Teatro Carlo Felice. Soon after, Widespread Panic keyboardist JoJo Hermann performed a set of solo piano songs in the ship’s atrium that included JJ Cale’s “Ride Me High” and the music of Prof. Longhair. Meanwhile, Taylor Hicks hosted a Jam Cruise version of the “Gong Show” with a celebrity panel consisting of Ron Johnson (Brett Dennen/Tiny Universe), Jennifer Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band), Skerik and Simon Allen.

The evening’s musical offerings kicked off after dinner with guest-heavy performances by God Street Wine and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. God Street Wine—who reunited for the first time in a decade in March 2009—opened its Pool Deck performance with a cover of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.” A few songs into GSW’s set, Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli emerged during a jam out of “The Other Shore” that led into “Fourth of July.” New Orleans guitarist Anders Osborne appeared next on “Goodnight Gretchen,” followed by Greensky Bluegrass’ Anders Beck on “Epilogue.” Both Osborne and Beck then performed with God Street Wine on “Get on the Train.” The show came to an appropriate close with a take on “Into the Sea.”

Likewise, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe turned its set into a true super jam that hosted many of the ship’s marquee names. During a version of “Maggot Brain,” Big Sam Williams, Taylor Hicks and Leo Nocentelli also stepped to the front of the stage to solo while Fred Wesley and Jen Hartswick emerged in tandem for another improvisational segment. In addition, percussionist Mike Dillon, keyboardist Ivan Neville, guitarist Anders Osborne, bassist Tony Hall, Rebirth Brass Band member Corey Henry and former Tiny Universe bassist Ron Johnson all sat in at various points throughout the set. At one point, Denson also moved over to keyboards while his guests soloed.

Later in the night, the New Mastersounds played for a sprawling crowd on the ship’s Pool Deck stage. The group was one of the few bands to draw the ship’s jam, funk and hipster crowds. A slew of guests sat in throughout the high-energy set as well, including Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, Jen Hartswick, Skerik, Zach Deputy, Robert Walter, Roosevelt Collier (Lee Boys) and Mike Dillon. Meanwhile, the Easy Star Allstars performed in the Zebra Bar and welcomed Big Sam on trombone.

The collaborations did not stop as Friday turned into Saturday. The Rhythm Devils performed for a packed house on the ship’s Pool Deck stage with special guest Steve Kimock sitting in throughout the set. Kimock—who played in an earlier incarnation of the Mickey Hart/Bill Kreutzmann project—also performed with Bob Weir during his two Jam Cruise shows earlier in the week. A few levels down in the Zebra Bar, electronic duo Big Gigantic played for a slightly younger and more electronic-leaning crowd. The rising jamband stars also welcomed a slew of guests, including Umphrey’s McGee keyboardist Joel Cummins, Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno, Lettuce/Pretty Lights drummer Adam Deitch and Perpetual Groove guitarist Brock Butler. Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk also welcomed some friends in the Teatro Carlo Felice, most notably Fred Wesley.

Bringing the day’s activities full circle, Nathan Moore and the members of Greensky Bluegrass set up their own hootenanny against the Cuban sunrise while Big Sam hosted the likes of Zach Deputy, Nigel Hall, Will Bernard and Eric Krasno in the Jam Room. Nodding to his role in the Nigel Hall band, Krasno played bass for a portion of the jam session. And for the third night in a row, Brock Butler welcomed sunrise with a surprise poolside set.

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