Inclement weather may have stopped the Norwegian Pearl from docking in Grand Cayman on the fourth day of Jam Cruise 15, but nothing could stop George Porter Jr. from bringing funk to the high seas.
The indomitable bassist was one of many artists on board the ship who came to the rescue for an impromptu Grateful Dead at Sea set, which was organized at the last minute on account of the route change. That crowd-pleasing effort featured a core band of Steve Kimock, Reed Mathis, Jay Lane and The Motet’s Joey Porter, who were joined by guests like Karl Denson and the Shook Twins. Porter and keyboardist Robert Walter also left their mark on the jam session when they took the stage for “Eyes of the World” and “Sugaree,” with Porter holding down vocals on the latter tune (“Sugaree” has become a Porter favorite in recent years).
The Soul Rebels were up next on the Pool Deck with a well-received two-hour set that would have felt right at place in Le Bon Temps on a Thursday night. Covers of The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” and Steely Dan’s “Peg” were interspersed with brass favorites and teases of songs like George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” At one point trumpeter and occasional frontman Marcus Hubbard tried to lead the crowd in a simple left-right-left-right dance, but found himself unimpressed. “It looks like a riot out there,” he said. “Everyone I see is bumping into someone. Tell the person next to you which way you’re going so we can get it right.”
Lettuce took the Pool Deck for a nighttime set that featured an appearance from Ivan Neville on “Does Your Mama Know.” The band’s party-inducing blend of funk and rock made for a wild ride until the rain started coming down in earnest during the tail end of their show. The downpour picked up even more as the set wrapped up, making Lettuce the final act to perform on the ship’s upper level last night (Lettuce drummer Adam Deitch’s Break Science project had to reschedule for today).
Stanton Moore was the first New Orleanian to command an all-star jam session last night. The Galactic drummer drew a massive crowd to the Atrium—probably the biggest of the week—when he pulled some friends together for a jazz jam. Eric Bloom, Shamarr Allen, The Revivalists’ Rob Ingraham, The Soul Rebels’ Erion Williams, Skerik, Robert Walter, guitarist Will Bernard and Moore’s bandmate Robert Mercurio were among the artists who joined him for a seemingly endless display of jazz exploration. Moore even got in a few nods to his teacher Johnny Vidacovich during the set, saying, “This beat was stolen…I learned it from Johnny V.”
Finally, George Porter Jr. ended the day just as he began it: with a Grateful Dead tune. Of course, the bassist’s closing “Fire on the Mountain” came around 5am—roughly three hours after he kicked off his stint as leader of the night’s jam room. Tony Hall, Will Bernard, Eric Bloom, Nikki Glaspie, Cris Jacobs, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe guitarist DJ Williams, Beats Antique’s David Satori, Erion Williams, Dopapod’s Rob Compa and Eli Winderman, Corey Henry, Shamarr Allen, Roosevelt Collier, Billy Iuso, Kamasi Washington’s flute and soprano sax-playing father Ricky Washington and many more rotated through over the course of the three-hour show, which included a series of extended improvisational segments and takes on classics like “Iko Iko,” “It’s Your Thing” and “Nothing From Nothing.” One notable guest was 15-year-old drummer Jager Soss, a friend of fellow music prodigy Brandon “Taz” Niederauer who won over countless new fans with his prowess behind the kit.
Jam Cruise will wrap up tonight with sets from The Original Meters, The Revivalists, Griz, Nikki Glaspie’s Super Jam, The Suffers, Galactic, Beats Antique (Live) and more before it returns to the Port of Miami tomorrow morning.