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.