The Norwegian Pearl’s voyage to Ocho Rios, Jamaica continued on Saturday as Jam Cruisers were treated to their first full day of programming aboard the event’s new home.
As far as New Orleans music was concerned, it was a relatively light day, with only a couple of Crescent City acts appearing on one of the boats many stages. However, there was still plenty to go around, including a nearly afternoon bass battle that found George Porter Jr. and Tony Hall trading licks in the surprisingly classy Bar City section of the ship.
The city’s biggest showcase came in the form of a Pool Deck set from Neville Jacobs, a versatile new project from Ivan Neville and former The Bridge frontman Cris Jacobs. The group, which also featured Tony Hall on bass and Brady Blade on drums, switched gear multiple times as they seamlessly moved between dirty New Orleans funk and low-key, singer-songwriter ballads. Turkuaz vocalist Shira Elias filled out the sound for much of the show, while The Shady Horns dropped by a crowd-pleasing take on Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.”
One song kept the boat rocking was “Money Talks,” a Neville original that the keyboardist penned with a drug dealer many years ago while trying to purchase some goods on credit. “Well, I actually wrote it,” Neville declared. “But I gave some of it to him.” Yet the highlight of the show came about halfway through, when Ivan’s uncle Cyril Neville joined the team for funky version of the Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain.” To make things better, the mountains of Cuba were in full view during the number, and a few fires could ever be seen rising from the island.
Neville Jacobs wasn’t the only New Orleans act that got in on the Grateful Dead action yesterday either. George Porter joined guitarist Steve Kimock and countless others for a rousing “Sugaree,” a tune that Porter has fully integrated into his repertoire in recent years .
Other highlights from Day 2 include Kamasi Washington’s follow up performance on the Pool Deck, which introduced the visionary jazz composer, saxophonist and bandleader to another most-unfamiliar, but completely captivated, audience. Washington followed up his official set with a jazz jam that filled up the Atrium and brought things to funkier place than his standard show.
While there’s no real connection to New Orleans or its music, it would be impossible to write about yesterday without mentioning the triumphant return of the Benevento/Russo Duo. After 7 years of dormancy, the project was revived in its full form for the first time on Saturday. The band doesn’t have any more shows scheduled for the foreseeable future, and that’s a damn shame considering the sublime display of musical wizardry that was on display in the Stardust Theater last night. Over the course of a nearly two-hour performance, the pair filled the room with dazzling array of sound and light that they have no business withholding from the world any longer.
Jam Cruise continues today with eight hours in Jamaica and a headlining set from the Original Meters.