Marcus Miller, winner of two Grammy® Awards, the 2013 Edison Award for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz (Holland), the 2010 Victoire du Jazz (France) and appointed UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2013, is not only an exceptional musician— a multi-instrumentalist and world-renowned bassist— but also a highly gifted composer and producer. The legendary album Tutu, written and produced for Miles Davis, sealed his international fame when Marcus was only 25. Over the course of his career, has collaborated with artists as varied and talented as Eric Clapton, George Benson, Luther Vandross, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau, George Duke, Wayne Shorter, Lalah Hathaway and Herbie Hancock. He also has produced his own genre-defying albums, among them The Sun Don’t Lie, Tales, M2, Silver Rain, Free, A Night in Monte Carlo (with the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra), and Renaissance. Along with international tours, Marcus Miller hosts a weekly program on SiriusXM radio show, “Miller Time.”
Since his 1992 debut album Trust, multi-platinum selling sax-man Boney James has racked up sales of more than 3 million records, four RIAA gold albums, four GRAMMY nominations, a Soul Train Award, nominations for two NAACP Image Awards and 10 CD’s atop the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. In 2009 Billboard Magazine named him the #3 Contemporary Jazz Artist Of The Decade (trailing just Kenny G and Norah Jones). Born James Oppenheim and nicknamed “Boney” in his mid–20’s when a meager touring per diem saw him growing thinner, he became seriously interested in music in the mid 70’s, a very vibrant and freewheeling period for popular music. “You could hear different genres all over the radio. Contemporary jazz was everywhere – people like Grover Washington Jr., Herbie Hancock and George Benson were stars,” he marvels. “Artists like Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire were incorporating jazz into what they were doing, and the jazz guys were mixing R&B into their sound. It was a great time to be a young musician.” James continues his artistic evolution with the dynamic Futuresoul, another genre-bending work following on the heels of his 2014 GRAMMY nominated album The Beat. “When people ask me what category my music falls under,” he says, “I always say, ‘It’s Boney James music’.”
One of the most famous film scorers of his generation, Dave Grusin is possibly even more renowned as a jazz artist and founder of the prestige independent record company GRP. His career has been distinguished by a mastery over a diverse range of styles—from being at the forefront of the fusion movement in the 1970s, to creating four critically acclaimed tribute albums to Gershwin, Ellington, Mancini and Bernstein in the 1990s—counterbalanced by a touch at the piano which makes his keyboard signature totally unique.
Grusin’s award-winning movie scores can be heard in such movies as The Milagro Beanfield War, Reds, and The Fabulous Baker Boys. Grusin’s other nominated scores can be found in such films as Three Days of the Condor, On Golden Pond, For the Boys, Havana, and The Firm. His sophisticated and witty comedies include Heaven Can Wait, Tootsie, The Goonies, Murder by Death, The Graduate, and The Goodbye Girl. For television, Grusin composed the retro-cool caper themes to It Takes a Thief, The Name of the Game, and Baretta, as well as the theme for St. Elsewhere. Acclaimed director Sydney Pollack, who he worked with on 9 films, said of Grusin, “he can do anything, and he has done everything.”
In the new century, with frequent collaborator Lee Ritenour (who is also sailing with us on The Smooth Jazz Cruise), Grusin released a mixture of classical, folk and jazz under the title “Two Worlds.”
Growing up in L.A. in the 60’s, Grammy award winning guitarist Lee Ritenour received a rich cross section of exposure to jazz, rock and Brazilian music. From one of his first sessions at 16 with the Mamas and Papas to accompanying Lena Horne and Tony Bennett at 18, his forty year eclectic and storied career is highlighted by a Grammy Award win for his 1986 collaboration with Dave Grusin, Harlequin; 17 Grammy nominations; numerous #1 spots in guitar polls and the prestigious “Alumnus of the Year” award from USC. He has recorded over 40 albums, with 35 chart songs, notably the Top 15 hit “Is It You,” which has become a contemporary jazz radio classic. From rock to blues to jazz, his diverse music became the foundation of over 3,000 sessions as a young guitarist with a broad spectrum of artists such as Pink Floyd (The Wall), Steely Dan (Aja), Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, B.B. King, Frank Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, Aretha Franklin and Barbra Streisand. In the 90s, Ritenour was a founding member of Fourplay, the most successful band in contemporary jazz, with keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason. The first Fourplay album in 1991 spent an unprecedented 33 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s contemporary jazz chart. Adding to this legacy is his latest CD Smoke ‘n’ Mirrors; the recently completed Grammy nominated recording Amparo, (a follow-up with Dave Grusin to their highly-successful 2001 Grammy Award nominated contemporary classical crossover CD) and producer of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band’s latest CD Act Your Age (which is nominated for 3 Grammys).
Born into musical legacy, the offspring of musicians Donny Hathaway and Eulaulah Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway’s career was never a choice. Proof of Hathaway’s musical prowess is evident in her work, operating as performer, musician, writer and producer. Revered by some of the greatest musicians of the last century, a myriad of collaborations and international performances signpost Hathaway’s 25-year success. Enamoured with colour, space and the evolution of music, Hathaway’s six studio albums chronicles an emotive journey through R&B, Jazz, and Soul. The inflections of Blues, Funk, Gospel, Classical, Country, Rock and Folk cited in her work, is a reflection of this virtuoso’s versatility, with Grammy® wins for Best R&B and Best Traditional R&B Performances in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Brian Culbertson is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer who crosses genres between contemporary jazz, R&B, and funk and heralds from the musically rich city of Chicago. Starting at the early age of 8 on piano, he quickly picked up several other instruments by age 12 including drums, trombone, bass, & euphonium. Inspired by the great R&B/Jazz/Pop artists of the 70’s like EWF, Tower of Power, Chicago, David Sanborn, and others, Brian Culbertson started composing original music for his 7th grade piano recital and hasn’t stopped having self-produced 16 solo albums, most of which have topped the Billboard charts. The acclaimed musician also founded the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway, a 5-day celebration of wine, food, art and music that draws big entertainers and devoted fans year after year. Brian is always striving to push the boundaries of the contemporary jazz scene which is evident by his latest album, Funk! This new set is a throwback to the stanky P-Funk records from back in the day combining the throbbing bass lines, greasy horn lines, sing-a-long choruses and landing hard on the ‘One.’
Having toured the world over and collaborated with some of the biggest names in music (think Prince, Van Morrison, Lionel Richie and Beyonce), Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer brings her worldly musical perspective to The Smooth Jazz Cruise. With solo album sales exceeding the 2.5 million mark, the staple on the large festival circuit performs for sold-out crowds throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, Russia, the Baltic states and South America. Candy Dulfer’s hit, “Finsbury Park, Café 67,” ranked the most popular smooth jazz number on U.S. radio for a period in 2003, and the 1990 solo debut album she recorded at just 19, Saxuality, sold more than a million copies worldwide and earned a Grammy® nod.
Soulful, passionate, stirring…these are the words most often used to describe Kirk Whalum’s music. Forged from his Memphis, (TN) gospel roots and his 1980‘s initiation into the thriving Houston, TX nightclub scene, Kirk’s big, rich tenor sound is unmistakably his. It was in Houston where jazz pianist Bob James “discovered” him and brought him on tour, which led to five successful albums with Columbia Records, including Cache, Kirk’s first #1 album. Kirk and Bob also received a Grammy nomination for their collaboration album, Joined at the Hip. After moving to Los Angeles, Kirk became an in demand session player for top artists like, Barbara Streisand, Al Jarreau, Luther Vandross, Larry Carlton, Quincy Jones and most notably, Whitney Houston, amongst many others. It’s his sax heard on the mega-hit, “I Will Always Love You.” Kirk soon followed that career high point with his hit album For You, perhaps the most successful of over 25 solo recordings to date; others include his eclectic, and much lauded, Gospel According to Jazz series, (Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4). In addition to his many solo projects, Kirk is a member of the popular soul/jazz group, BWB, which features Kirk as the “W” of the group with Rick Braun (trumpet) and Norman Brown (guitar). An ordained minister, Kirk has earned a Masters of Art in Religion. It’s in this spirit that he serves his community in various ways when his touring schedule allows. A twelve time Grammy nominee, Kirk won his first Grammy award (2011) for Best Gospel Song (“It’s What I Do”––featuring Lalah Hathaway, also sailing with us on The Smooth Jazz Cruise) alongside life-long friend and gifted songwriter, Jerry Peters.
When Najee burst onto the scene with his soulful R&B, soul and jazz drenched sound and songs like “Najee’s Theme,” “Sweet Love” and “Betcha Don’t Know,” it was not long before his trademark soprano found a home at the top of the charts and he carved out his own unique niche in the musical landscape. A quadruple threat who is equally adept on soprano, tenor and alto saxophones and flute, Najee’s technical agility, grace, compositional prowess, unbridled passion, fearless genre bending and superior musicianship have made him one of the most sought after musicians of his generation. In a business where trends and artists come and go, Najee’s name is synonymous with innovation, consistency and the best in contemporary jazz. With two Platinum and four Gold albums under his belt, he is an icon whose musical vision spawned an entire new genre by fusing the music close to his heart (R&B and jazz). An alum of the New England Conservatory of Music, Najee was mentored by jazz giants Frank Foster and Jimmy Heath as well as classical maven and flutist Harold Jones of the New York Philharmonic. He has collaborated with everyone from Prince and Quincy Jones to Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Herbie Hancock. He has also had the distinction to perform for Presidents Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela and made appearances on The Tonight Show and Good Morning America. Najee is a master storyteller, with an alluring charisma that has a way of seducing you into his world.
Since his explosive arrival as a recording artist at the age of 17, saxophonist, composer, producer, and vocalist Eric Darius’ star continues to rise straight to the top, with six critically acclaimed albums under his belt, a Number One hit single, and Seven Top 10 radio hits on Nielsen’s R&R/Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts. Fearlessly pushing all musical boundaries, he is one of the most exciting musicians to enter the Contemporary Jazz scene in the last decade. Prophetically hailed Debut Artist of the Year by Smooth Jazz News in 2004, Eric has shared the stage with innumerable world renown, Grammy Award-winning artists, such as Prince, Jamie Foxx, Mary J. Blige, David Foster, Carlos Santana, Babyface, Wynton Marsalis & George Benson, just to name a few. His music innovatively crosses over all music boundaries from Jazz, R&B, Hip-Hop, to Pop, creating a very distinctive, fresh sound and approach that is uniquely his own.
Hailing from a musical family with rich traditions in Caribbean music (his father is from Haiti and his mother is from Jamaica), Eric realized his calling for music at an early age. As one of those musicians who was fortunate to benefit from music programs in the school system, he has made it a mission to pay it forward and spent a considerable amount of time exposing young students to music in the public school system with his On A Mission in the Schools campaign. Eric’s presence is also being felt in the entertainment world, having been featured on FOX’s hit TV show, The X Factor, and TNT’s hit drama series, Mob City. He continues to be an artist that knows no boundaries.
Since breaking through to contemporary urban jazz stardom in the early 2000s, Nick Colionne has been one of the genre´s most dynamic and tireless live performers, headlining hundreds of shows and energizing fans across the U.S. and Europe with his sizzling blend of jazz, R&B, funk, blues and soulful, seductive vocals. Over the years, the charismatic, inspirationally fashionable (courtesy of designer Stacy Adams) Chicago-based guitarist´s album titles have kept everyone in the loop as to where his musical heart is. He has mastered the art of Keepin´ It Cool (2006), pushed musical boundaries to a place where there are No Limits (2008), urged us to Feel The Heat (2011) and later explored some of his deepest Influences (2014). 2016 Trippin ´N´ Rhythm album The Journey earned a “#1 Most-Added” designation on iTunes and Billboard, and quickly reached #1 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz and Groove Jazz Music charts.
Nick has received numerous accolades throughout his multi-faceted career, including the 2007 International Instrumental Artist of the Year Award at the Wave Jazz Awards, where he succeeded 2006 winner Chris Botti. He was also chosen Artist of the Year at the 2011 Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival and Performer of the Year for Jazz Trax Jazz Festivals in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, Nick was nominated as Guitarist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year by the American Smooth Jazz Awards and received the Wayman Tisdale Humanitarian Award for his ongoing commitment to mentoring children, his work in the community and nationally in support of breast cancer causes.
The youngest of 13 children, Jonathan Butler grew up in poverty in Cape Town, South Africa, ruled by Apartheid and segregation. Butler began his singing career at age 7, releasing his first album in 1973 and winning the Best New Artist Grammy in South Africa the following year at age 12. He made history by being the first black artist played on white South African radio while earning three gold records (“Please Stay” went double gold and “I Love How You Love Me” went gold) in 1975 as he became a teenager.
More than a decade later, Butler moved to London, England and released his first album internationally. The self-titled set went gold in 1987 in the United Kingdom and in the USA. He received Grammy nominations for Best R&B Song for his R&B-pop vocal hit “Lies” and for Best Jazz Song for the instrumental “Going Home.” His genre-busting material earned songwriter’s awards and received abundant airplay in multiple radio formats: pop, urban, contemporary jazz, adult contemporary and gospel. Butler’s 2004 album, Surrender, went gold in South Africa where he remains a superstar.
Butler is still taking care of people back home. Last fall, he launched the Jonathan Butler Foundation in his native country to fund music education programs that give children the purpose to overcome a life of drugs and poverty just as he did. His music has purpose, providing comfort and genuine inspiration. When he sings, he testifies to the glory and healing power of love. When he plays guitar, his fast fingers innately find notes of passion and divinity. Jonathan Butler’s recording career has carried him far, far beyond his wildest dreams. He’s living his dream and that is a blessing for us all.
Season 3 winner of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Alonzo Bodden keeps the boat rolling—in laughter, rest assured—as comedian-in-residence for The Smooth Jazz Cruise. With a resumé that includes numerous appearances on the late-night circuit (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien Show, The Late Show with Craig Kilborn, The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show, and Comedy Central among others), television hosting gigs, voice-over roles and film credits, Alonzo entertains an audience masterfully. His talent has earned him international acclaim and presented the New York native with opportunities to perform in Canada, Ireland, Australia and the U.K., along with stops in Iraq and other places around the world where U.S. troops are stationed.
Dane Butcher has been the Director of Cruise Operations and Programming for Entertainment Cruise Productions for over 10 years. Born in Australia, Dane has been in the entertainment industry since age 15. He began working in Australia on Television Shows and was featured in numerous commercials as well. He made the transition to cruise ships in the late ‘90’s and cemented himself as one of the lead Entertainment Directors which took him to the Great Barrier Reef as the Entertainment Manager at Brampton Island Resort. After returning to ships for some years he then decided to become land-based and joined forces with ECP and his combination of cruise and entertainment experience, coupled with his irresistible personality is a hit with guests, musicians and crew.
Inspired keyboardist, composer, prolific studio musician and producer Brian Simpson is a master of all he purveys. His eloquent approach to playing, sophisticated harmonics sense, bluesy overtones, R&B flavor and keen sense of how to craft a song that stands the test of time have made him the go-to man for many. Through the years Simpson has been revered for his unparalleled ability to compose unforgettable melodies and irresistible grooves. Simpson’s soulful approach to music has made him first call for many including Janet Jackson, Teena Marie, George Duke, Stanley Clarke and Dave Koz. A chart-topping musical chameleon who wrote the #1 R&B hit “The First Time” for Surface in the 1990s, Brian Simpson has a knack for churning out timeless anthems.
Simpson’s approach is simple, “I’m following in the footsteps of those that laid the foundation of contemporary jazz music. The fusing of jazz and R&B is just what contemporary jazz is all about.”
Simpson’s breakthrough as a solo artist began in 2005 with the #1 radio hit “It’s All Good.” His follow-up single, “Saturday Cool,” went Top 15. In 2007 Simpson released Above the Clouds, which delivered the memorable radio hits “What Cha Gonna Do?” (Top 10) and “Juicy” (Top 15). Placing his success in pop aside, Brian Simpson has always been a working jazz musician. He has toured with some of the greats of recent jazz history, including George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, Billy Cobham, and Gerald Albright. For a decade he served as the Musical Director of the ambitious and highly popular “The Smooth Jazz Cruise.”
Eric Marienthal has won 2 Grammy Awards and has been nominated 7 times as a member of the Chick Corea Elektric Band and Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band. Having performed in over 75 countries and played on hundreds of CD’s films and TV shows, Eric has also recorded 14 solo CD’s including his latest entitled “Bridges” with guitarist Chuck Loeb. Eric’s CD’s have produced several top 10 radio singles including three #1’s. Eric is the recipient of the Berklee College Of Music Distinguished Alumnus Award for outstanding achievements in contemporary music. Eric was also named one of the top 3 alto saxophonists in Jazziz Magazine’s Reader’s Poll along with Phil Woods and David Sanborn. For the past 19 years Eric has organized an annual charity concert for the High Hopes Head Injury Program in Tustin, CA. These concerts have raised awareness for this great organization and have raised over 1.5 million dollars.
From the first note, Lindsey Webster captivates listeners. Her rich, soulful voice enchants a dedicated following who connect with the raw emotion she shares with them. As a Soul R&B artist, she combines an admirable natural talent with a genuine, accessible stage presence.
Webster considers herself “very, very lucky” to have grown up in Woodstock, NY. Her grade school had a progressive music program where Lindsey cultivated a deep love of music by learning the cello. After moving to NYC to attend Fiorello H. LaGuardia School for the Music, Art & Performing Arts, she grew musically, transitioning from strings to voice where she heard her calling and found herself. In 2009, Lindsey met her partner, Keith Slattery, and started performing professionally. Together, with a band of world-class musicians, they’ve performed over 600 shows in venues including Yoshi’s Oakland, The Iridium, North Sea Jazz Club, Pizza Express, Levon Helm Studios, Daryl’s House, Helsinki Hudson, The Falcon, The Bitter End, and the Bearsville Theater.
Her second album, You Change, achieved the only vocally driven song to hit #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart for four weeks (beating out Sade’s previous record of three weeks). Her third album, “Back To Your Heart,” shows a real transition and beautiful growth for Webster as an artist. Her voice has been compared to R&B royalty Sade, Mariah Carey, and Anita Baker. Lindsey looks to bring her distinct style to Soul R&B and continue to make music that resonates with her fans.
New Orleans-born Michael “Patches” Stewart blows from the summit of today’s trumpet players. Patches made his major recording debut at 16 playing in the horn section on LaBelle’s Allen Toussaint-produced classic “Lady Marmalade” in 1974. Upon high school graduation he passed on scholarships on the table from Berklee School of Music to head to Los Angeles and get busy. Patches grabbed the attention of the great Quincy Jones who took him on tour behind his The Dude LP in the early `80s. This was followed by work with artists ranging from English groove collective Soul II Soul to bohemian rocker Rickie Lee Jones to soulful divas Diana Ross and Whitney Houston. Patches’ first recordings as a leader were for the Hip Bop label: the acoustic jazz standards project Blue Patches (1997) and the electrified Penetration (1998). He is most vividly recalled for the 8 years he spent on the road with Al Jarreau followed by 16 years in the cutting edge band of bass chameleon Marcus Miller, who was heavily instrumental in the making of Patches’ third CD, Blow (2005).
Patches was extensively mentored by the great George Duke who he often recorded with – from the boundary smashing legend’s 1993 symphonic project Muir Woods Suite, all the way up to playing on four selections from Duke’s final album in 2013, DreamWeaver. Patches’ most recent recording is On Fire, documenting a scintillating wood-shedding collaboration between musicians in Warsaw, Poland (where Patches has lived for the last couple of years) with key American compatriots such as saxophonist Kenny Garrett, vocalist Raul Midón, drummer Poogie Bell and guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr.
Ever since the 20th century turned into the 21st, singer-songwriter and guitarist Raul Midón has earned renown as one of music’s most distinctive and searching voices – “a one-man band… who is spiritually connected,” according to The New York Times. The New Mexico native, blind since birth, has released nine albums since 1999, including the acclaimed studio productions Don’t Hesitate (2014), Synthesis (2009), State of Mind (2005), and his latest, Bad Ass and Blind, released in March 2017.
His guitar playing is a syncopated, flamenco- and jazz-infused wonder in which bass, harmony and melodic lines fly from the fretboard in a way that seems to belie the fact that all the music is being produced by just two hands. If that weren’t enough, Midón busts out his improvisational mouth-horn technique, in which he creates a bebop “trumpet” solo entirely with his lips, earning himself a spontaneous burst of mid-song applause from the audience in the process. It’s the sort of performance that led the Huffington Post to describe how “he plays with such freedom and joy that his hands smile.” Billboard called him, simply and aptly, “a virtuoso.” Subsequently, Midón’s live 2016 rendition of John Coltrane’s jazz classic “Giant Steps” – which sees him fly through all 12 keys – has earned more than 1.2 million views via Facebook.
In early 2016, the guitarist was invited to cross the U.S. as a featured artist in the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour company that also included the likes of jazz stars Nicholas Payton, Ravi Coltrane and Gerald Clayton. The tour culminated in a weeklong run at New York City’s Birdland.
Stanley “Chance” Howard grew up in Pittsburgh PA. He began playing bass at an early age, then graduated to drums, then to keyboards, then to vocals, learning everything by ear. While in high school, I formed my first band (Qua’) and started to write songs, then joined his older brother’s band (The Fresh Band), and soon became the tri-state area’s hottest band. Chance then headed to Minneapolis, hoping to work together with Grammy Award winning producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who are best known for their work with such artists as Sounds of Blackness and Janet Jackson. After only two weeks, he got his wish, and began working with a wide variety of artists.
Chance has been a member of Morris Day and the Time. He was also in the bands of both Prince and the NPG at the same time, a distinction that has never been given to another musician in that circle.
In 2004 Chance met saxophonist Candy Dulfer (who is also sailing with us on The Smooth Jazz Cruise) while on tour with Prince, and since 2005 he has been a member of her band. Chance also has an EP titled—what else?—Chance, and a high-energy show band titled “Chance’s Boom Boom Room.”
Driven by the ever-evolving musical vision of core members – Brothers Eric and Billy Mondragon and close family friend Damon Reel – Southern California’s premiere R&B, funk and contemporary powerhouse band DW3’s deepening artistry continues to transcend a well-earned reputation as a high energy, fun and freewheeling party band. Eric, Billy and Damon all contribute lead and harmony vocals, while Eric plays keys (including synth horns and strings) and Billy adds percussion.
Building on the success of their single, “I Got You” featuring Gerald Albright, (#16 on the Billboard charts) and the “On The Floor” album that went #1 on the UK soul charts, DW3 has now expanded to nine a piece ensemble. The addition of a horn section really sets the tone for their live shows. The truth is in the twelve tracks of their “Vintage Truth” CD.
The band also continues to entertain Festival and Entertainment Cruise Productions guests several times a year. The versatile ensemble is rapidly emerging as a multi-faceted recording outfit in their own right.