OUR TAKE: The Circle of Jazz

What goes around, comes around. I was never certain what that old saying meant. Mostly used to forewarn, the idea is that if you do bad things to someone, then those bad things may come around back at you. That is the negative version of the saying. The positive version is that life can be a circle of events with seemingly random and independent occurrences coming around to hook up later in a meaningful way.

The path of Diana Krall and Jazz Cruises is a great example. Her career steps are lined with musicians very familiar to the guests of Jazz Cruises. Diana recorded her first album in 1992 during accompanied by bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton, two iconic musicians on The Jazz Cruise. On her third album, her sidemen were guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Christian McBride. Russell has appeared on several of our cruise programs, as has Christian who now serves as the co-host of The Jazz Cruise.

Orchestral arrangements by Johnny Mandel provided the background for her fifth studio album in 1999. A few years later, Johnny was a bandleader on The Jazz Cruise and was inducted into The Jazz Cruise Hall of Fame. She followed up this achievement with a tune for the very successful movie, The Score. That tune, of course, was “I’ll Make it Up As I Go,” composed by another Canadian, David Foster. Yes, the same person who will also be sailing on Botti at Sea ’25 and performing with his wife, Katharine McPhee. In 2015, David would produce another album for Diana.

See the overlaps!

But the more intriguing interaction came in 2014. With an eye on creating the most luxurious jazz vacation, Jazz Cruises launched the Signature Jazz Cruise, a Mediterranean Cruise on a 400+ passenger Seabourn Cruises ship. Everything about this cruise was to be first class. You were picked up at the Nice Cote d’Azur Airport in a brand-new Mercedes and escorted to the Fairmont Monte Carlo, the site of the famous hairpin turn of the Grand Prix of Monte Carlo. Ferraris and Lamborghinis were the local rental cars and though the restaurants were right on the water, you could not smell fish or “foul.” Evidently, those creatures who source those odors could not afford to live in Monte Carlo.

For an event of this type, there was but one possible performer to present, Diana Krall. She was signed, sealed and set for the cruise until she became very ill just a few weeks before sailing. With some luck, some skill and a lot of hocus pocus, Jazz Cruises was able to contact Chris Botti, who was on tour in Poland, and divert him from his next stops to fly to Portofino, along with his entire band, to join us for the cruise. He did. He was spectacular.

Chris created three shows just for the cruise and did so once onboard. Sizing up the crowd, he crafted themes that he thought would be appealing to them and followed that up each night with personal appearances at the late night events. A very impressive tour de force!

More than 10 years later, Chris is the host of his own Jazz Cruises’ program, one that features both David Foster and, as of the other day, Diana Krall who will be performing with John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton, her first major bandmates. Amazing!

Is the Circle of Jazz so intimate that a story like this should not be surprising? Not really. Contrary to conventional thinking, the Circle of Jazz is large, worldwide and growing. What is certain is that the Circle of Jazz at the level of these musicians is occupied by only the very best and that amount is limited. Fortunately, Jazz Cruises has been able to participate in that space for a long time. Bringing talent and music of this caliber to our guests is an honor and our mission.

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]


Two artists who have sailed on several of our programs have just released new albums. We hope you will give them a listen.



With Creole Orchestra, his 10th album as a leader and first for a large ensemble, trumpeter/composer/arranger (and Trinidad native) Etienne Charles delivers a mix of creole flavors, channeling a cross section of energies from reggae and soca dancehalls to hip-hop and then back in time to the swinging days of the Savoy Ballroom. Showcased on the new album are the Haitian-American rhythm section tandem of drummer Obed Calvaire and bassist Jonathan Michel, as well as pianist Sullivan Fortner, trumpeter Giveton Gelin, saxophonist Godwin Louis, and cuatro maestro Jorge Glem. Vocalist Rene Marie makes a guest star appearance on three tracks, including two of her own compositions.

The history of big band influence in the Caribbean stems from the establishment of two U.S. naval bases on Trinidad during World War II. Along with the military bases came Trinidad’s first radio station, “and the music played was big band music, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington,” said Etienne. “You immediately started hearing mini-big band arrangements mimicking the Ellington and Miller styles on Trinidadian calypso recordings.” 



Also released this week was drummer/composer Matt Wilson’s latest album which celebrates the legacy of John Lewis. Standing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama 55 years to the day after he was nearly killed while marching for Civil Rights, Congressman John Lewis urged the crowd to, “Speak up, speak out, get in the way. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.” Those words have inspired countless Americans in the last few years, Wilson among them.

“I tend to think about what we do as musicians as ‘good trouble,’” Wilson says. “We want to be provocative, we want to make statements, we want to open doors for people. Representative Lewis’ words inspire people to do what they can do from where they are. I’m not an elected official, but there are things we can do with just good deeds.” That mission drives the music on Good Trouble, which also debuts a new quintet, also christened Good Trouble, which features a blend of longtime collaborators and new acquaintances: alto saxophonist Tia Fuller, tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Jeff Lederer, pianist and vocalist Dawn Clement and bassist Ben Allison.


The Jazz Cruise ’25
Celebrating its 25th Anniversary
The Last 90 Staterooms…Act Now!

The plans for the 25th Anniversary sailing of The Jazz Cruise ’25 are spectacular. The cruise is over 92% reserved and is currently in Open Booking, which means that anyone may reserve any available stateroom. The remaining inventory, totaling 90+ staterooms, includes Veranda, Ocean View and Inside Staterooms.

The Smooth Jazz Cruise ‘25.1 & ‘25.2
Starting its 3rd Decade
Both Sailings Fully Reserved

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
New Performer – Diana Krall!

Botti at Sea II is over 65% reserved. Anyone may reserve an available stateroom by calling the office during regular business hours or doing so online. It was this time last year that there was a “run” on staterooms, so act now! Diana Krall just added to the lineup! 

Journey of Jazz ’25
Jazz Life at Sea & On Land 
Reserve Now – Land Events Menu Soon 

Jazz Cruises’ newest program, Journey of Jazz, hosted by Marcus Miller & Gregory Porter, is in Open Booking. Though not sailing for 15 months, the cruise is more than 65% reserved. Menu of land-based events in Victoria and San Francisco to be announced in late July! Reserve your stateroom now to be eligible for events at that time. 

1-Day tickets for STL Jazz Fest are now on sale! For details about the festival and information on 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


Ricardo S.
Judy J.

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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