OUR TAKE: Joy to Our World

For the next couple of days, at Jazz Cruises, it is all about Samara Joy. Turn back the calendar one year and I will bet that many of you had either not heard of her or knew her by word of mouth only. A turn on The Jazz Cruise ’23, followed by a momentous double GRAMMY® Award victory, including Best New Artist, and she has become famous. By the way, most outsiders would say that winning two GRAMMYS® is more significant than appearing on The Jazz Cruise ’23. Some people are funny that way.

Jazz Cruises is the co-sponsor of Samara Joy: A Joyful Holiday Show tomorrow in Dallas and the sole sponsor of the same show in St. Louis on Tuesday (December 12). As the famous poem goes, we are “checking this twice”! Though her current fame and, hopefully, her long career is tied to our music, Samara is still relatively new to jazz. My comment about “hopefully” has nothing to do with talent. She is the real deal and then some. I hope that she continues in this genre and passes on the fame and fortune of the pop world. Besides, she can do much better than Travis Kelce!

Samara’s musical bloodlines start with gospel music. Her grandparents Elder Goldwire and Ruth McLendon performed with Philadelphia gospel group The Savettes. Her father is a singer, songwriter and producer who toured with gospel artist Andraé Crouch. Her first musical performances were singing in church. The world of jazz was introduced to her at Fordham High School for the Arts (NYC). This led to her participation in JALC’s Essentially Ellington competition, where she won Best Vocalist. You know the rest of the story.

Her holiday show features her family, The McLendons. The show preceded her jazz fame, so it is more of a homecoming than a gig. I cannot wait for our land-based guests to enjoy this event, the perfect start for the Holidays.

I know that we have spent a lot of time and space talking about Samara Joy in the past few months. It is difficult not to do so. Watching a 24-year-old vocalist sing tunes that were sung by the top female vocalists in the genre years and years ago is exciting. Our genre is filled with amazing young instrumentalists who have chosen to play jazz and are doing so with respect to the traditions of the music. Yes, a lot of young jazz musicians break out of that mold and find new sounds. That is important, too, but to those who also pay homage to the core of jazz, we say thank you.

No professional sport looks the same in 2023 than it did in 1960. Some things are better. Some things are worse. But the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB continue to remind us of the founding persons who molded their game and formed the basis for which all future athletes will be measured. Undoubtedly, our memories and judgments of past stars are glorified and likely exaggerated. In part that is because those folks are the heroes of our youth. And, unlike today’s world, we often overlook the dark side of their personalities and lives.

Sadly, our memories of past jazz greats is different. Too often we dwell on their warts and not their arts. Drug use, financial ruin, and other scandals seem to be the first line we include in their bios. If you wish to test that premise, close your eyes and envision Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Chet Baker. Is your first vision their music or their misery?

Yet, when we talk about sports heroes few lead with the excesses of Babe Ruth, the vicious racism of Ty Cobb, the drunkenness and meanness of Mickey Mantle in his later days, or the way Jim Brown treated women.

The path that Samara Joy is taking shines a favorable light on the roots of jazz. Listening to those tunes being sung by a beautiful, humble and respectful young woman who was raised singing gospel music does much to cleanse the sins of the past. I am not asking you to forget the dark sides of our jazz greats. I am asking you to place those comments in the 4th or 5th paragraph of their biographies. Their contribution to jazz far outweighs their personal travails.

Let’s be kinder to them. After all, it is the Holidays!

By Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director of The Jazz Cruise, The Smooth Jazz Cruise, Chris Botti at Sea and Journey of Jazz. Feel free to express your views or pose questions to him at [email protected].

Samara Joy: A Joyful Holiday
featuring The McLendon Family

December 10, 2023 • 2pm
Longhorn Ballroom
Dallas, TX
December 12, 2023 • 7pm
The Factory
Chesterfield, MO
w/ Brian & Thomas Owens “Duets with Dad”

Samara Joy, the reigning GRAMMY® Award winner of Best New Artist and featured performer on The Jazz Cruise ’23 and Botti at Sea ’24, will be touring this holiday season presenting a very special show, “A Joyful Holiday,” featuring the McLendon Family.

Isaiah J. Thompson Play Guardaldi

Pianist Isaiah J. Thompson, who has sailed on The Jazz Cruise as member of John Pizzarelli’s trio, has just released a holiday album with a unique twist. His new recording A Guaraldi Holiday, co-produced by John, features the music of pianist and composer Vince Guaraldi, perhaps most famous for Charlie Brown’s Christmas. “To this day, any time I hear ‘Christmas Time Is Here,’ ‘Thanksgiving Theme’ or ‘Linus and Lucy,’ I’m reminded how much Guaraldi’s music has shaped who I am today,” Isaiah says. “The holidays carry so many of my most precious memories and I can’t imagine them without Guaraldi. I want to pay tribute to him because for so many people I believe Vince Guaraldi may have been their introduction to great music and to jazz.”

Tyreek McDole Wins SASSY Award

Vocalist Tyreek McDole won the prestigious Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, also known as the SASSY Awards. In an event held recently at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) and hosted by WBGO’s Pat Prescott, Tyreek performed in front of a panel of judges—Christian McBride, Jane Monheit, Madeleine Peyroux, Al Pryor and Lizz Wright. A graduate of the jazz studies program at The Oberlin Conservatory, Tyreek won a cash prize of $5,000. Past winners include Cyrille Aimee, Jazzmeia Horn and Samara Joy. We’re happy to report that Tyreek will join us on The Jazz Cruise ’24 as a member of the Jazz House All Stars.

Mug Shots of the Week

Marie B. – Georgia
Jim & Christine K. – Alaska

Each guest on the cruises received The Weekender mug, which we hope you will use with your Saturday morning coffee while you read the latest edition.

Please share a picture of yourself & your mug with us so that we can include it for the 100,000+ folks who receive The Weekender each Saturday. 

Tag us @thejazzcruise @bottiatsea @thesmoothjazzcruise #jazzcruises and #theweekender. Email your photo to [email protected].

The ’24 Cruise Programs

The Jazz Cruise ’24Botti at Sea ’24The Smooth Jazz Cruise
‘24.1 & ‘24.2

These ’24 Cruise Programs are fully reserved. However, cancellations do occur creating available staterooms. A handful of staterooms, fewer than 10 at this moment, are available for The Jazz Cruise ’24. Though few in number, they are all staterooms with balconies! A great opportunity for those not already booked.

Otherwise, cancellations are almost immediately filled through the applicable Waitlists. If sailing in ’24 is important to you, being on the Waitlist is the best choice to follow.

McDonald & LaBelle Cruise ’24

Though the cruise does not sail for
nearly five months, the program is
80% reserved. If you wish to join us
for this One-Time Only Cruise Getaway,
we urge you to act now. 

Use promo code

The ’25 Cruise Programs

The Smooth Jazz Cruise ’25
25.1 February 11-18, 2025
25.2 February 18-25, 2025

Guests who have completed a Pre-Sale Reservation have been assigned to a group. Each group will have a designated time when they can initiate their selection. “Open Booking” begins on January 2, 2024, and from this date forward, anyone may reserve any available stateroom.

The Jazz Cruise ’25 Lineup has been announced!
January 28-February 4, 2025

• Guests who are sailing on The Jazz Cruise ’24 have from now until January 21, 2024 to rebook their current staterooms!
• January 22, 2024 through January 24, 2024. During this period, ’24 Guests have the exclusive right to reserve any available stateroom, including those staterooms that ’24 Guests have not rebooked.

• Starting on the announcement date, those not sailing on The Jazz Cruise ’24 have until February 4, 2024 to establish their priority for a stateroom on The Jazz Cruise ’25 by completing a Pre-Sale Reservation.
• Late January 2024 through February 11, 2024 Pre-Sale Reservations will be assigned a window to select and reserve any available stateroom for The Jazz Cruise ’25.

Botti at Sea ’25
will be announced the 1st week of January 2024

• Guests who are sailing on Botti at Sea ‘24 have from the announcement date until February 10, 2024 (the third full day of the cruise) to rebook their current staterooms! After that date, any stateroom not rebooked will be available to those holding a Pre-Sale Reservation.

• Starting on the announcement date, those not sailing on Botti at Sea ’24 have until February 8, 2024 (the first day of the cruise) to establish their priority for a stateroom on Botti at Sea ’25 by completing a Pre-Sale Reservation.
• Starting on February 20, 2024, Guests with Pre-Sale Reservations will be assigned a window to select and reserve any available stateroom for Botti at Sea ’25.

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