Our preoccupation with the McDonald – LaBelle Cruise postponed our annual discussion about April being Jazz Appreciation Month. I will forego that customary “we appreciate jazz every month” bromide and go straight ahead (get it!) to the heart of the matter. That being an honest discussion about our love of jazz and what that means to Jazz Cruises.

Last night, I tried to watch a movie, The Bricklayer, a remarkably lame attempt to portray some type of CIA v. KGB plot being perpetrated in Greece involving a former CIA agent presumed to be dead, a female CIA agent who could not have passed the initial testing for her post, and a retired CIA agent disillusioned by the US government and seeking revenge for a needless killing in the past. I told you it was lame. 

Why am I mentioning this dog of a film at all? Because our bricklayer, played painfully by Aaron Eckhart, despite his coarse and rough appearance and lifestyle, loves jazz. His earbuds seem to be stuck on Miles Davis as every time his music is referenced, another Miles comment is made. My point is a modest one. Whenever movies, tv, or those in real life, need to claim to be cool, being a jazz fan is one of the “go to” tricks to do just that. I have called this out before, but it continues to be used, and, for the most part, very effectively.

I have often posited that the upper crust in society has two musical choices. One being the symphony and classical music, the other being jazz. Broadway musicals are a distant third, but somehow supporting those shows has more of a fiscal tinge than that of being a benefactor. Supporting the symphony and jazz events appeals to those who need to “save” something from extinction, so they believe. So, the tie-in to being a “jazz fan” has snob appeal, as well as a full dose of noblesse oblige. 

As you can tell from my choice of vocabulary, I have utter disdain for this use of “jazz.” That it is very inaccurate is second only to the fact that this characterization becomes a crutch and an excuse for those who do not embrace jazz to marginalize its importance and value. Elitism in any form is unattractive, so painting our music as appealing only to snobs upsets me.

Jazz is more than simply a status symbol. Jazz is a life choice and provides the basis for important life lessons. Only recently, we were working with someone who was very talented, but was having difficulty being part of the group. Their pursuit of objectives was personal and not for the betterment of the project or of the company. Explaining my concerns was difficult until I realized that the explanation was imbedded in the music we love.

Jazz is a shared activity. The goal is the sound and the experience, both of which have many components and authors. Someone may be the very best player in the world, but that does not always mean that they fit within the direction of the band. How many times have you heard a jazz group praised for being “tight”? That only happens when they are on the same page, the same mission, and sharing the same purpose. Watching and listening to a “tight” group is an exhilarating experience. 

Those moments are why I appreciate jazz. Yes, there are instances where this feat is accomplished by bands in other music genres, but, for the most part, other genres are leader driven and the other band members provide support. In jazz, you pull one player out of the group, and you have nothing. Our music is the polar opposite of elitism. No jazz musician would ever envision their performance as being above that of their fellow players. There are solos, to be sure. There are headliners, to be sure. But at the heart of every jazz band is the sharing of the bandstand and the sharing of the music.

April is Jazz Appreciation Month. It is not a time to strut or to make non-jazz fans feel dumb or inferior. Instead, it is a time to share our music with others, take someone to a live show, let them bask in the richness of the presentations and watch a trio, a quartet, a quintet, or a Big Band perform together in an atmosphere of inclusion, cooperation and sharing. Having spent my last 25 years in and around the world of jazz, working with and sharing time with jazz musicians, and trying to create amazing experiences for jazz fans, not only do I appreciate jazz, but I admire and respect every aspect of the genre.

Whether I am a better person for my love of jazz is up to others to decide. Whether my love of jazz makes me feel better about my place in the world and my life is up to me. That is what I contemplate during Jazz Appreciation Month.

Be sure to watch for the next edition of Jazz Notes (4.24). The entire piece is dedicated to Jazz Appreciation Month.  We look at how each of our programs enrich the world of jazz. 

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]



One of our long time guests who sailed with us on the inaugural sailing of Botti at Sea ’24 also joined us last week for the McDonald – LaBelle Cruise. Commenting on how delightfully different both cruises were in terms of atmosphere and tone, she said that the three day cruise featuring Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle was like a sprint to the finish line. One explosion of energy at levels that would burn brightly for the time allotted and then stop. Very exciting and very stimulating.

She then took up our definition of Botti at Sea and moved it forward. Internally, we call the cruise the “Botti Vibe.” She offered that the Botti Vibe must be enjoyed over a 7 day period. Like a fine wine and a great dinner, Botti at Sea is meant to be savored. Every day is another adventure in paradise and every night is a night on the town featuring the finest performers in the world. With Chris Botti being the ultimate Master of Ceremonies, that sailing was a “dream vacation” for her. As she said, the Botti Vibe is the ultimate live entertainment experience at sea. So much to enjoy. So much to experience.

Botti at Sea II (’25) is in Open Booking now. Anyone may select and reserve any available stateroom.


Ken Peplowski, one of our longtime headliners and hosts on The Jazz Cruise, has just released a new album Unheard Bird, that features a collection of arrangements that the legendary Charlie “Bird” Parker commissioned for strings but never got a chance to record. Parker released the classic Bird with Strings album in 1950 and it was one of his most popular recordings. Ken performs a different set of arrangements in this album that also features Terell Stafford (trumpet), Glenn Zaleski (piano), Peter Washington (bass) and Willie Jones III (drums), backed by an orchestra conducted by Loren Schoenberg. Among the 14 songs they recorded are classic standards such as “Yesterdays,” “I Cover the Waterfront,” “You Go to My Head,” “Stardust,” and “Summertime.”


On June 12, SFJAZZ is presenting the U.S. premiere of Oscar Peterson’s “The Africa Suite” which was composed in 1979 but was never recorded or performed in its entirety during his lifetime. The concert, which will also include a full performance of Oscar’s 1964 “Canadiana Suite,” will be anchored by a core quartet featuring Benny Green, Russell Malone, Jeff Hamilton and John Clayton, as well as special guests Kenny Barron, Gerald Clayton, Tamir Hendelman and Robert Hurst. John, who arranged the suite, will conduct the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. “When I met Oscar he was composing ‘The Africa Suite’ and spoke of it in concert when he played ‘Nigerian Marketplace’ or ‘Peace,’” explained Kelly Peterson, Oscar’s wife and executor of his estate. “One of the goals I set for myself after Oscar’s passing was to present the full suite in concert, the completion of a work he had never been able to perform in its entirety. Add John Clayton’s vision and gorgeous arrangement, and it is exhilarating to hear, and feels like our gift to Oscar. This is truly the fulfillment of a dream.”


2-Day Tickets are now available on Ticketmaster for STL JAZZ FEST. 1-Day Tickets will go on sale Friday, May 31. For details about the festival and how to purchase tickets, see below:

Produced by Jazz Cruises
The Factory – Chesterfield (St. Louis) Missouri

Eric Marienthal Quintet, featuring Niki Haris
The Comedy of Alonzo Bodden

Mindi Abair with Eric Marienthal & Friends
The Comedy of Alonzo Bodden

  Doors 6 pm / Showtime 7 pm

Jazz Cruises’ ’25 Programs

The Jazz Cruise ’25
Celebrating its 25th Anniversary

The plans for the 25th Anniversary sailing of The Jazz Cruise ’25 are spectacular. The cruise is over 86% reserved and is currently in Open Booking, which means that now anyone may reserve any available stateroom. Staterooms with Verandas remain in inventory along with Ocean View and Inside Staterooms.

The Smooth Jazz Cruise ‘25.1 & ‘25.2
Starting its 3rd Decade

With both sailings being fully reserved, guests wishing to sail on a ’25 sailing of The Smooth Jazz Cruise should JOIN WAITLIST now. Cancellations will be filled exclusively from the WAITLIST. WAITLIST guests qualify for special terms when reserving a stateroom on The Jazz Cruise ’25 or Botti at Sea II.

Botti at Sea II
Every Night is a Night on the Town

Botti at Sea II began “Open Booking” on March 5, 2024 and is over 60% reserved. Anyone may reserve any available stateroom either by calling the office during regular business hours or doing so online.

Journey of Jazz ’25
Jazz Life at Sea & On Land

Jazz Cruises’ newest program, Journey of Jazz ’25, hosted by Marcus Miller & Gregory Porter, has completed the Pre-Sale process and began Open Booking on April 30, 2024. Like a race care, this program as gone from 0 – 60(%) sold in the blink of an eye. 


Tina B. – Colorado
Dave and Evone – California

Guests on the ’24 jazz 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].

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