by Melanie Maxwell
When Michael Lazaroff was searching for a jazz star to host his 2007 North Sea Jazz Cruise
he wanted someone who was not only popular in the United States, but also highly regarded by the European jazz community as well. “I must have consulted with six to 10 different people, and Marcus Miller was the only name on each and every list,” said Lazaroff, executive director of Jazz Cruises, LLC.
Miller, however, wasn’t thrilled about the idea. “I didn’t want to subject my musician friends to playing background music on 'The Love Boat!'” said the two-time GRAMMY-winning multi-instrumentalist.
“I was a little skeptical when they first approached me,” Miller admitted. “The only cruise I had ever been on was when I was 10. My mom and dad took us on a family cruise to Bermuda. It was corny and boring.
“It’s not like that any more. It’s really cool,” Miller said, changing his tune after accepting Lazaroff’s invitation to go on two other cruises Jazz Cruises, LLC produces; Dave Koz & Friends at Sea and the smooth jazz-themed cruise hosted by Wayman Tisdale. His childhood opinions of “corny” cruises and “Love Boat” images were quickly shattered, and the award-winning bass player’s eyes opened wide to all kinds of exotic new horizons.
Once he agreed to host the cruise, Miller had the challenge of getting all the musicians he invited––the jazz elite––onboard with this concept.
“They were all initially wary, like ‘Oh man, I don’t know if I’m going to enjoy this.’ But by the third day, they were all rushing up to me saying, ‘Sign me up for the next one, now!’” said Miller of the 12-day North Sea Jazz Cruise, which sailed from Copenhagen, visited ports of call at Oslo, Stockholm, Bremen and Rotterdam, and included attendance at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands last July.
“It was a really beautiful experience. We had Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove and a bunch of different people there. We enjoyed it, but a lot of Americans couldn’t make it because we had to fly over to Europe,” Miller said during an interview backstage at the Hollywood Bowl before his performance with Hancock at the 30th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival in June.
This year, Jazz Cruises, LLC is teaming up with the Playboy Jazz Festival for the first-ever Playboy Jazz Cruise. This seven-day, full-ship charter aboard Holland America’s ms Westerdam is scheduled to sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jan. 25-Feb. 1, 2009. Ports of call include San Juan, Nevis, St. Barth’s and Half Moon Cay, the cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas.
Miller did such a great job in 2007 that Lazaroff invited him back to host the Playboy Jazz Cruise.
“Not only was Marcus a great music director and producer on the cruise, but his energy towards the passengers was fantastic. He met every passenger, learned many of their names and was just a wonderful, wonderful host,” Lazaroff said from his St. Louis, Missouri-based headquarters.
“It’s fantastic that Playboy is involved because they have such a huge reputation in jazz. They have all these people who love music who they can get in touch with and let them know about the cruise. Since we leave out of Fort Lauderdale, it will be a lot easier for people to get to. And we’ve got Herbie (Hancock) and Roy Hargrove on the cruise again,” Miller said.
“The people who come on these kinds of cruises love music; they’re so crazy about music. Those people are beautiful. The environment is beautiful. We love it! We’re jammin’ all night after the official shows are over,” said Miller.
In addition to Miller, Hancock and Hargrove, the lineup includes Dianne Reeves, Keb’ Mo’, Poncho Sanchez, James Moody, James Carter, Eldar, Roberta Gambarini and the New Birth Brass Band.
While these cruises offer fans intimate and unique involvement with the artists––autograph sessions, poolside lounging, late-night jam sessions, shore excursions, dining together and opportunites to mingle in casual settings throughout the ship––it also gives the artists very special interactions with their fans.
“That’s the most important thing. Because usually, like when you play here (the Hollywood Bowl), there’s not a whole lot of interaction going on. On these cruises, after you play, you’re talking with people and it becomes a family,” said Miller, who says his own family hasn’t been on any of the cruises yet.
The day I interviewed Miller, a father of four, was Father’s Day and also the day after his 49th birthday...
**The complete story can be found in the August edition of Smooth Jazz News. Subscribe today. Receive 11 editions of Smooth Jazz News per year, mailed monthly (February through December), for $35.
For more information on Miller, including his complete tour schedule, visit www.marcusmiller.com.
Marcus Miller ON TOUR AT SEA
Jan. 25-Feb. 1, 2009
Playboy Jazz Cruise (host)
Full-ship charter to the Caribbean
aboard Holland America’s ms Westerdam
Embarkation/debarkation: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Ports of Call: San Juan, Nevis, St. Barth’s and Half Moon Cay
Booking: www.playboyjazzcruise.com, (888) 852-9987