Even though the stabilizers of Holland America’s Westerdam kept the cruise liner smooth while sailing the eastern Caribbean, the ship was still swaying during the 2008 Dave Koz and Friends at Sea Jazz Cruise.
Friends and fans from 17 countries enjoyed a week of fantastic fun, fantastic food, and fantastic funk during the fourth annual Koz Cruise from Ft. Lauderdale. But, for over 15 years Jazz Cruises LLC has produced a Smooth Jazz Cruise, according to Michael Lazaroff, CEO of Jazz Cruises www.jazzcruisesllc.com
Dav Koz was Red Hot.
“My mother was the first travel agent to charter a complete ship for a themed music cruise,” stated Lazaroff. The 5th Koz Cruise in January 2010 has been combined with the Smooth Jazz Cruise and will run back-to-back with the Playboy Jazz Cruise, which Jazz Cruises also produces. Many of the jazz fans onboard the Westerdam were repeat guests, and over half the 2010 cruise was sold out before we docked back at Port Everglades.
Koz and Lazaroff brought together a splendid mix of world class and famous talent during the cruise, including Jonathan Butler from South Africa, Grammy award winner Najee on sax, George Duke on keyboards, the amazing Ellis Hall, singer Deniece Williams, Jeff Golub on guitar, Candy Dulfur on sax, and everyone’s favorite, a special St. Thomas port appearance by Tower of Power.
Everyone was onboard for a little RnR — who kicked off the first night’s Welcome Aboard entertainment while at sea in the 1800 seat Vista Lounge. RnR is the dynamic duo Richard Elliott on sax and Rick Braun on trumpet who have been circulating the jazz route together for many years. Their tune, “Off the Hook,” set the stage for the weeklong respite.
What’s great about a Koz Jazz Cruise is the element of exceptional talent you don’t find on other cruises. And with over 100 events onboard throughout the week fans get a chance to get up close and personal with their favorite stars. I was sipping a cocktail at one of the lounges and suddenly I am in a conversation with Deniece Williams!
Special Q&A and educational daytime sessions in the Queen’s Lounge included a Voice Session with Deniece, piano man and singer/songwriter Ellis Hall, and Eric Benet; 88 Keys was a one on one with George Duke, Arlington Jones, and Matt Rohde; Guitars in the Round was expressed with Jeff Golub and Jonathan Butler; and the Sax Academy featured Candy Dulfur, Richard Elliott, Najee, and host Dave Koz, who is also an accomplished sax man.
Song Bird, Deniece Williams.
Each star had a special session during two concerts nightly in the Vista Lounge, the largest Westerdam venue towering two decks, with all seats rated superb. By splitting the sessions, the 2000+ fans had a chance for fine dining before or after their nightly main concert and everyone was able to enjoy every artist.
There were so many fun events onboard I could not attend them all, such as the daytime Gospel Hour brunch, Bingo Bonanza, T-shirt party poolside jam (you get a Koz Jazz T-shirt), a cooking class with the Koz family (they have their own cookbook and a Koz apron magically appeared in my stateroom), and even special sessions by the ship’s band.
Poolside BBQ with jazz medium rare.
There were special wine and champagne sessions. In fact, Koz has teamed with Wilson Creek winery on his own unique wine label with profits going to Starlight Children’s Foundation. Only 1000 cases of Kozwine are bottled so get yours at www.davekoz.com/wine
The poolside Unplugged, Uncensored and Unrehearsed session, hosted by Koz, included the theme from the movie “Shaft”. Koz was joined by his older brother Jeff on guitar. Even the guests got in the day-at-sea act: talented guitarist Louie Lou performed George Benson’s “Masquerade”.
Unplugged session above.
Fans get everything autographed.
Between or after the nightly concerts in the Vista Lounge guests were invited to DJ parties, comedy acts, a revealing PA-JAM-A party (note the pun), Disco Parties, poolside BBQ dinners, Caribbean Calypso sessions, a Costume Night, and a Celebrity Blackjack Tournament hosted by Michael Lazaroff. Whew, I need a vacation form my vacation!
There were even autograph signing sessions in the Crow’s Nest in the mornings that saw fans line up to get posters, CDs, DVDs, and even their souvenir Koz notebook signed by their favorite artists.
What was Koz Kool was that we could watch in our staterooms a repeat of the past performances on the ship’s closed circuit TV — dubbed the Koz Channel, but here are some highlights of the wonderful live performances in the Vista Lounge.
Monday night saw Jonathan Butler’s acoustic guitar talents shine on the James Taylor song “Fire and Rain”. “I perform this song in South Africa at BBQs and neighborhood Calabasas”, stated Butler. Jonathan’s two daughters, the Butler Sisters, were the accompanying singers on “Lies”. Later it was a song Jonathan co-wrote for his first CD called “Take Good Care of Me”. Butler was influenced by his Zulu roots, including a song named after the Capetown street he grew up on, “7th Avenue”. The guitar solo started with just one string because a wandering Zulu minstral could only afford one string, then as he made money he added two strings, then three, and then Butler rocked the house with a robust six stringer acoustic extravaganza.
One of my favorite artists onboard was Grammy Award winner Najee, who was so cool he only needed one name. He has performed his famous song about his son, “Noah’s Ark”, for heads of state, such as Nelson Mandela; Tower of Power lead singer Larry Braggs accompanied Najee.
Grammy winner, Najee.
Tuesday night saw Candy Dulfer and George Duke in concert. Candy was super hot on a Prince tune that she stated “was written especially for me; well not really, but it should have been,” she laughed “It is about me, or Dave Koz, called ‘Life of the Party’.” Najee funked it up with Candy with his flutemanship.
The Koz Jazz Cruise was ready to party!
Wednesday was Special Guest Night with Tower of Power performing dockside in St. Thomas. What is POWER? Power is funk and the legendary horn band proved it on the opener, “We Came To Play, We Came To Get Down”.
2008 saw the 40th anniversary of Tower of Power. “We are looking forward to our 50th,” quipped Steven “Doc” Kuptka, one of the four original band mates. The group had a celebratory party at the Fillmore West in San Francisco during the summer where they invited everyone that had performed or worked with the band over the years, including roadies, road managers, crew members, players, and singers.
Sponsored by Monster Cable their new DVD is out in HD, Blue Ray and in Surround Sound. What was really cool was when Ellis Hall came out to sing with the band. Hall had been with the band several times, but it was over 20 years since they performed together. “I really love these guys,” beamed Hall.
Many classic TofP songs had not been heard in years, but were performed this night, including “You Ought to be Having Fun” from the “Power”album and the catchy “I Am Gonna Get It With Your Good Credit”, which was accompanied by Richard Elliott on tenor sax.