For those who missed our announcement earlier this week, the legendary Houston Person will be sailing on The Jazz Cruise ’25. Sidelined by exhaustion, Houston was not able to sail on The Jazz Cruise ’24, marking the first time in the history of the cruise that we sailed without him. So, the upcoming 25th Anniversary sailing of The Jazz Cruise will be a celebration of the program as well as a homecoming for him.

Houston was in St. Louis last weekend performing at JazzSTL. I took the opportunity to enjoy an extended hang and to film a quick shout out by him (see above). As usual, he stole the show in our office, on the bandstand, and everywhere else he visited.

Having known him for 25 years, I thought that I was fully informed on the background and life of Houston Person. After spending a lot of time with him last weekend, I found out that there were more stories to tell and more experiences that molded him into the icon we love.

Most of the great musicians of our time began playing their instruments when they were very young. However, Houston’s father presented him with his first saxophone when he was 15 years old. The “gift” was in recognition of Houston’s refusal to work on the little farm that his father purchased as a break from city life in Florence, South Carolina. His father wanted his sons to work the land to build their character. Houston’s brother bought in. Houston bowed out.

The condition for having the horn was that he was to play and practice every minute that his brother and father were in the fields. It did not take long for this work dodge to become a passion. His father was not overly excited about the saxophone being his son’s livelihood. College was the next step in Houston’s path, but the saxophone was becoming more important than the books. Houston says that the saxophone took him places that he could never have reached before and opened the door for him to what would become a lifelong passion and pursuit. Girls!

For nearly 30 minutes, Houston regaled us with stories about how his “sweet sound” would woo the ladies of the day. He repeated an old story about how one famous musician, Lester Young, refused to be a drummer like his brother, because by the time the drummer had packed up his kit after a gig, all the girls were gone!

Most of the stories Houston told cannot be shared in this column. Not because they are racy, but because the odds of his claimed conquests being an accurate portrayal is in question. However, if you saw photos of a young Houston, you might believe him. Tall, lanky, and handsome, with or without the “sweet sound,” he would have done well with the distaff side.

Houston was nursing a slightly queasy stomach, so he was very careful about his food choices. Evidently, Houston dined on local BBQ the day before and was feeling the ill effects from what was described to me as “HOTANGY” sauce. Spurning the chicken, pork, and brisket choices we offered, he dove into the creamed corn and macaroni and cheese. He was hungry and asked for “take home” portions of both items. We were only too glad to oblige.  

That night and the night thereafter, Houston hit the bandstand with local St. Louis musicians. Their close proximity was no gauge of their talent. It was an All-Star group (Adaron “Pops” Jackson on piano, Eric Slaughter on guitar, Jahmal Nichols on bass and Emanuel Harrold on drums). Pops runs the education program at JazzSTL and Emanuel Harrold has been Gregory Porter’s drummer for a long time as well as when Jahmal Nichols serving the same leader on bass. The smiles on the faces of the band when Houston performed were amazing. They were proud to be on the same bandstand as the master and thrilled to hear him play, particularly after his layoff due to exhaustion.

During the day, Houston shared with us his philosophy on performing. “Play the melodies as they were meant to be played!” No need to mess around with the melodies. You can do your thing during the other parts of the tune, but make sure that your audience hears the tune the way the composer meant it to be heard. Not sure if that is, or ever will be again, the method of the younger players.  

I read an article about the transition taking place in the NBA. Durant, James and others are the Old Guard, players who grew up in a certain era of basketball that was tied more closely to the early history of the game. The new stars, Edwards, Gilgeous-Alexander and others are more brash, less worried about adhering to the traditions of the NBA. Some might call this a sad development. As someone who grew up watching the St. Louis Hawks in the 8 team NBA, today’s guys are just another iteration of change. (Challenge: Without resorting to Google, name the 8 NBA teams of say, 1960.)

Granted, there are many young jazz musicians who are dedicated to the traditions. Samara Joy has ridden that horse to Grammy®s and fame. Still, jazz has always been a genre that encouraged change, challenged convention, and provided young musicians with a forum for their expression.  

My time with Houston Person last weekend was a reminder of an era of jazz when the melody was king and the razzle dazzle was the only crown prince. And, that alone, in the words of another giant, Nat King Cole, made those days Unforgettable!

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].


Bassist Nicki Parrott, a frequent All-Star on The Jazz Cruise, has just released Feelin’ Groovy, a new album that celebrates the iconic sounds of the 60s. The recording draws inspiration from the lifestyle of her new home in Byronshire, Australia and features an all-Australian ensemble of Steve Russell (piano), Dave Sanders (drums), Todd Hardy (trumpet and flugelhorn), Martha Baartz (sax and flute) and Shane Hannah (trombone). Among the notable songwriters covered on the album are Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Lennon/McCartney, Carole King and Bacharach/David. “I wanted to capture the essence of the ’60s and the spirit of the Northern Rivers in this album,” Nicki says. “Working with these incredible musicians has allowed me to reinterpret these classics in a way that is both respectful of the original music and true to my own style.”


Kamasi Washington, who has sailed with us before on Blue Note at Sea, returns to perform on Botti at Sea II in 2025. The charismatic and powerful saxophonist has just released a new album, Fearless Movement, which he calls his dance album. “It’s not literal,” Washington says. “Dance is movement and expression, and in a way it’s the same thing as music – expressing your spirit through your body. That’s what this album is pushing.” Unlike previous recordings, Fearless Movement focuses on the everyday, an exploration of life on earth. This change in scope is due in large part to the birth of Washington’s first child a few years ago. “Being a father means the horizon of your life all of a sudden shows up,” says Washington. “My mortality became more apparent to me, but also my immortality – realizing that my daughter is going to live on and see things that I’m never going to see. I had to become comfortable with this, and that affected the music that I was making.”


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 Jazz Cruise ’25 is 82% reserved and is currently in “Open Booking,” where anyone may reserve any available stateroom. You may view current stateroom availability and start your reservation on the website now.

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.

Botti at Sea II
(’25 Sailing)

Botti at Sea II began “Open Booking” on March 5, 2024 and is over 50% 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 
West Coast Style 

Jazz Cruises’ newest program, Journey of Jazz ’25, hosted by Marcus Miller & Gregory Porter is currently in the stateroom Selection Process for Pre-Sale Reservation holders. “Open Booking” will begin on April 30, 2024.

For more information about the cruise, the lineup of musicians (as of today), full itinerary, pricing and reservation process, go to www.journeyofjazz.com.


Sharon – Toronto
Monica and Charles – New York City

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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