Capital Jazz Super Cruise III Journal/Blog

My Capital Jazz Super Cruise III Day 1. 8:00 PM Saturday evening, October 10, 2009 aboard the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas for the Capital Jazz Super Cruise in my state room. I have just returned to my room to rest a bit after seeing Jonathan Butler’s solo guitar performance where he was joined by trumpeter Rick Braun for singular duo concert in the atrium of the grand ocean liner with the sunlight filtering from above and the Chesapeake Bay streaming pass the glass walls. People were hanging over the railings five floors up, lounging about, taking pictures and taking it all in. I felt blessed and happy to be there to witness the scene. I realized I am finally underway and this is what it will be all about: participating in a wonderful relaxing happening, filled with music, scenic views and camaraderie. The audience already feels like family, knowing we are bonded in our love for music, culture and each other. I feel it. And I can feel that they feel it too. That’s why most have paid around $2,000 to come on aboard and spend this week sailing from Baltimore to the Bahamas and Key West, Florida; to listen, party and be baptized in the company of world class jazz and soul. It seems like these last few days leading up to this have taken forever. They have been filled with preparation and the expenditure of energy making music and madness. We performed at the Martini Kitchen last night (Friday) for our bon voyage party. The club was packed with beautiful hometown people, most of who had come for their own reasons to celebrate. We jammed long and hard, sweating out the hits and making the room pulsate to the rhythms of the night. We played until 1:30 AM, our usual ending time, but that seemed a really late hour considering we were to gather at my house at 6:30 AM to load up and drive to Baltimore. By the time I got home at 2:15 and puttered around, wound down and got to bed at 3:00 AM, I had only less than three hours of closed eyes rest before making the wake up calls to the band and doing that final bit of packing. Of course, I had way too much stuff to bring and manage: three saxophones, video camera, digital recorder, 200 CD’s, clothes, tennis racket, laptop, six musicians, their guests, five vehicles, boarding passes, passports, directions, headaches, worries and staying positive in the face of fatigue. Before going to play the gig at the club last night I spent a couple of hours assembling CD box sets and shrink wrapping them to have them for sale on the cruise. At that time I lamented having even scheduled the club date on the night before the cruise. But in the end or the beginning, it had all worked out. We drove in our caravan at speeds of 80 – 90 mph up I-95 North, made it on time, got everything loaded in at the port and settled in on the ship along with the other musicians and tech people all before the noon arrival of the paying customers. Now I am getting ready to go have a 9:00 PM sound check poolside on the top deck of the ship. We perform at noon tomorrow (Sunday) but since we are the first act in that setting, both we and the sound crew want to take advantage to the opportunity to tweak the system and get things right for our show. 12:47 AM Back in my stateroom Tired as I don’t know what! At 9:00 PM we went up to poolside for our sound check. The sound system, the engineer and the whole tech crew is first rate and the equipment is state of the art. We worked on getting the mixes just right and had a mini rehearsal for about an hour. I think the sound was incredibly good, ringing out over the bay in the black of night. We drew a small crowd out to the pool to party to our sound check. I think it will be a hot show tomorrow. I think everybody in the band was satisfied and our crew of Jay, Jon and Al were on the case and happy to be along. I came back to the room, changed clothes and went to see Najee in concert. He is a very special saxophonist who knows his music, plays modern changes and writes very smooth melodic compositions. I always enjoy listening to him. He was backed by Spur of the Moment band, instead of his regular touring group. Spur is an outstanding group who has lots of experience being a pro backup band. They nailed Najee’s music, but the show lacked pacing and the tightness that comes from the comfort and nuances of a working unit. But the show did have its high points though. One was when alto saxophonist Candi Dulfer came out to jam with Najee on a song. And another happened when Najee was getting people from the audience to sing on mike and this lady really nailed her part of the song. I mean she really sang! And it turned out to be Silver, who was formerly a member of the group Chic. And that’s one of the beauties of this cruise, once in a lifetime pairings or unique musical moments. After the show I went to the casino and learned how to play Three Card Poker. At one point I was down $90 and I was on what would have been my last hand, I hit a straight flush that paid $250! After 30 minutes I was up $100 so I quit while I was ahead. Then at midnight we went up to the club to hear Chuck Brown who was absolutely killing it! They were rocking that heavy go-go swing thing. After the first 10 minutes the whole place was partying like they wanted to prove something! The sound system was off the chain. The kick drum was thumping you in the chest. The whole group was grooving hard. And Chuck himself looked like he was really having the time of his life. As always. The music was a tremendous unifier. This older, largely black DC area crowd powered this big-assed ship right on down the Chesapeake Bay headed for the tropical zone. But it was already hot on this cruise, right where we are! Day 2. Sunday morning 8:30 AM I dreamed of my set and went over the repertoire for my show in my mind while the ocean gently rocked the boat. The dark drapes in the cabin did their job, covering the porthole window so thoroughly, I couldn’t tell when the sun rose. I got up and crept out of the darkness of my stateroom and went up to the top deck to be greeted by a partly cloudy, warm and humid morning. Joggers and other early risers did their thing while the sound crew was already busy readying the system for today’s music. I laid back on a deck chair to ponder the ocean and to write the song list for our concert at noon today. I think we’ll get a good crowd given that it will be the first music of the day and before the football games start; and everybody onboard will be up and about, and ready to do something outside on the first full day of cruising. I am confident that the band will be ready to rock the whole ship and the passengers will enjoy our show. A little bit of yoga. Shower. Breakfast. And then it will be time to get ready to do what we have come on this cruise to do – funk it up. 7:15 PM Sunday after my show. In the club listening to Ken Ford. My show this afternoon ended up being a grand occasion! The weather was around 79 degrees with enough humidity to make it feel hotter. Folks all kicked back in the deck chairs, in the pool and the hot tubs, leaning over the railings of the top deck and digging our funk jazz and go-go grooves. It didn’t get off the best of starts however. After such a great sound check last night, when we kicked off the set there was an annoying glitch in the sound system that imitated the bass drum but in an off time, so it was hard make the go-go groove happen. I was almost distraught and I am sure it showed on my face. My son, Fire, even reminded me to smile. Once the engineer corrected the problem, it took me a while but I was finally able to relax and let the songs and the rhythms take me and the audience on an enjoyable excursion into music glory. We played for two solid hours non-stop and by the end we had turned it into a Plunky dance party! People jamming on the dance floor, sweating out the hits and converted into Plunky fans. Afterwards, there was a line of folks who bought my CD. I signed autographs and took pictures with my new friends. After that, I would spend the afternoon chilling out on the decks, watching the Redskins football game (they lost!) and winding down from the show. I got so many congratulations, accolades and compliments! I don’t think have ever had more positive feedback from any show I have done. In fact, it seems like everyone I run into has something nice or better to say. After several hours of repeated praises it is almost getting embarrassing. People genuinely were impressed or moved or converted; musicians, staff, crew, and mostly music lovers just gush their approval. I think the feedback is also a result of being up close and personal, artist and audience together in confined space, all be it a large space. We are seeing each other repeatedly on the various decks, in the venues onboard, in the corridors, elevators and lounge areas. People are taking pictures and conversing with the musicians to a degree that isn’t normally possible when the performer might leave soon after the show. Here, we are all in the same boat and interacting is the norm. Day 3. Monday morning 9:00 AM Last night at dinner and beyond I was still meeting people who wanted to take photos with me and asking me questions about why they haven’t heard more about me in the past and getting my autograph. I spent the late afternoon and early evening roaming about, lounging about, watching a rainbow sail by and glancing at a glorious sunset. After dinner I went to the casino and then I went to see Kem in concert. He was quite the consummate smooth crooner with a polished demeanor, a confident stage presence and a really good band. I stayed for the whole show and was quite impressed with his songwriting and his dynamic presentation of new material. After that show I went to the midnight jam session led by saxophonist Mike Phillips. It was a slamming affair with Mike calling various musicians to the stage. The audience was packed into the club setting, listening and rocking to the likes of Candi Dulfer, Joey Somerville, Brian Culbertson, Prince band alumni, two outstanding trombonists and saxophonists who played unbelievable ornate improvisations and combinations. When Mike called Chuck Brown’s drummer to the bandstand the dance floor filled up and after a brief stint out there with the crowd I left to get some rest. But I didn’t get much. I got up early this morning to go up to top deck, get some juice, use the Internet and get my day started. I am still tired from this weekend and I hope I’ll catch up on rest this week… END PART I /// Day 3. Tuesday, October 13, 9:00 AM in my cabin. There may not be that much to blog about for the rest of the week. We don’t have to perform again, so for me this will be a vacation cruise, now docked in Nassau Bahamas, then on to Key West Florida and finally back to Baltimore. I have finished my work portion of the week, though I have told the band that we will take some group photos to try and get a new promo shot of the group. The band members are enjoying themselves. The music, entertainment and scenery have been really special. We had a group meeting to discuss the show and the business of this cruise and I think we shared several good ideas on improving the preparation and flow of our concert shows. They want fewer surprises in the repertoire for concerts and big shows. They suggest a strong opening fanfare groove to introduce me. I have got to remember to not let any distresses show on my face and to keep entertaining even when things go awry. We want to use more dynamics and contrasts in volumes of the songs. All good suggestions. Yesterday we docked at Coco Cay, a private little island owned by Royal Caribbean Cruise line, where we swam, lounged about, and had a beach party. When we got back to the ship we went to see Spur of the Moment perform in the club. They are DC’s finest urban jazz band and they were at their tightest last night. The placed was packed and the people were right in the groove with the groove. Chuck Brown even came out and did a number with them. The crowd went wild. After that show we went to the comedy show and were thoroughly entertained by AJ Jamal and Jay Lamont. AJ Jamal went on second and he was very funny, but Jay Lamont was absolutely the perfect act for this cruise because most of his show was performing parodies of songs, imitating soul & jazz stars and talking about the impact of our music on our lives. He was so funny! The audience roared its approval and stayed in stitches the whole hour he was on. Now I know why people say, “side splitting” because I laughed so hard I had a pain in my left side. He nailed his impressions, sound effects, and had a great repertoire. He was a riot. And his impersonation of President Barack Obama was the best I’ve seen. Later I played three-card poker in the casino; walked outside on deck five and then went to bed around 2:00 AM. Now this morning I’ll go have breakfast, exercise and go out into Nassau. 9:30 PM Back in my stateroom. I got up this morning, had breakfast and then went out into Nassau. We got a tour drive around the capital city of 200,000 seeing the sights, getting historical information and sampling local cuisine. After visiting the Paradise Resort and its casino I came back onboard in time for the 4:00 PM poolside sail away party featuring War. I decided to watch the show from the hot tub. Wow, what a scene: hundreds of music lovers partying poolside to War’s greatest hits. They played “Cisco Kid,” “All Day Music,” “The World Is A Ghetto,” “Slipping Into Darkness,” and so many others of their hits. People were dancing, singing along and whooping it up! The sound system was loud and clear, the band was jamming and the weather was almost perfect. Everybody seemed aware of the beauty of the setting and the conditions. Then after thirty minutes of the music reverberating all over the harbor, our Grandeur of the Seas cruised out of the harbor and on out to sea with the music pumping. I was in the hot tub with several people including Jonathan Butler, and danced and waved and sang along loudly. There were three other hot tubs, a large pool, a surrounding balcony and people everywhere. Rich Braun, who got his start with War when he was right out of college, played with the group for the entire set. Candi Dulfer sat in as the first of a string of other great players who jammed with the group. War played for two hours, non-stop and the party didn’t stop until the music did. Day 4. 8:00 AM in the Windjammer dining area looking out to sea. There is just something about the sea. Maybe its vastness symbolizes our small place in the universe and dwarfs our sense of self. But at the same time, looking out over the ocean gives us a perspective of limitless possibilities. We are now headed to Key West. We should get there in a couple of hours and stay docked there all day. This gives us a chance to be back in the USA for a while. Hopefully our cell phones won’t be in the roaming mode and things will be most familiar. One of the great things about international travel is seeing things, including your self and your culture from a different perspective. Another good thing is appreciating what you have at home, even as you want to continually work to change it and yourself for the better. Looking through the wall of windows of the casual dining area called the Windjammer the ocean drifts by under a mostly sunny sky. The few clouds give depth to the panoramic view that spans from the farthest left across the endless horizon directly in front to the widest right. The morning sunlight filters through one the clouds brave enough to try to block the rays of our nearest star. A way off in the distance another ship passes as a tiny silhouette beneath its own set of clouds. But the ocean is an endless dark blue carpet beneath our very large ship. We float on the surface unconcerned about the 7,000 feet of water under it. At the elevator I met a couple that I have gotten to know by sight and the woman says, “You know, Plunky, your are about the friendliest star on this boat! Some of the rest of them act kind of stuck up and stuff.” And I responded “Oh, that’s probably because they are just not used to being around their fans for such a long time and they are used to their privacy.” And she said, “Oh well, I cut them some slack then.” A couple of things about that little exchange are interesting to me about me. I don’t think of myself as being a star or as being friendly. From my perspective I am a musician putting my music and my views out there from the stage and on recordings. But I don’t see me as a star; but I can see how someone seeing me from afar might. I am on stage, under the bright lights, with my sound and voice being amplified a hundred fold until they ring out filling the whole space and commanding people to dance or listen or suspend belief for a moment in time. That could be a star. Also, I don’t think I am particularly friendly. Sure, I smile and I am genuinely happy that people appreciate and support our music. I don’t have to fake that at all. It is amazingly gratifying to have people say they love my music or my sound or my band or my energy. Wow! How cool is that! Of course, I smile and blush and touch or hug them. But in reality I am a bashful loner. From the very first word of a conversation I am trying to end it. My every comment is designed to be the last sentence so I can make my escape back to my shell, back behind my façade and that could be perceived as me being aloof. And so it is with a lot of artists. We may use our creative output as a way to communicate even our deepest feeling and most intimate thoughts, but we do it from a distance. And we just may be really uncomfortable being up close and personal. Some may even choose this type of profession because it allows us to do just that – communicate through the veil of the edge of the stage or on a screen. You can see us and be touched by us, but you can’t really put your finger on us. Maybe lots of us performers are really masking our insecurities with bright lights and big sound and dancers and props. We are all, even we stars, children growing up into our dreams. Maybe everybody is a star, at least potentially so. Or maybe none of us are. Day 6. 11:30 AM Thursday, October 15. Deck 6 lounge facing east with the ship heading northwest. Just passing Cape Canaveral. Last night I stayed up until after 2:00 AM checking the poolside midnight concert by Mike Phillips and the Unwrapped All Stars. The concert was loud and slamming and the folks were proud and jamming. It was billed as a Sadie Hawkins dance so there were several fine ladies showing there wares and their dancing skills. But it was the music and musicianship that were the stars of the night. Mike Phillips is a killer alto saxophonist who loves hip-hop and neo-soul and he has serious jazz chops and lots of energy. He does a super funky job on the midi wind instrument with auto-tuned vocoder, and he is a really good master of ceremonies. The group he assembled was an aggregation of young lions of jazz funk and soul that consisted of two trombones, two trumpets, two saxes, drums, percussion bass, guitar, keyboard, and electric violin. They were all killing it with high energy and high quality musical chops. The drummer, who looked to be about 12, was a funk fool who was polyrhythmic as hell! But the super nova of the evening was clearly electric violinist, Karen Briggs, who came to prominence performing with new age musician Yanni. That girl bowed that thing last night. She gave me goose pimples and made the crowd roar. Like I said, I stayed to the end. The whole show knocked me out! What a blast! This morning at breakfast I saw Mike and I told him I thought the show was off the chain and he in turn paid me high praise, saying that he had loved my show, he had stayed to the end and that I had set the bar high. I told him that the bar had been duly raised by his show last night. Earlier in the evening last night we had gone to see Patti Austin in concert. Young alto saxophonist Marcus Anderson opened the show and he was really sincere, more than competent and quite a showman. He has the skills and the smile to win over audiences and have longevity in this business of jazz and soul. Patti Austin displayed true professionalism, stage presence, vocal prowess and a recently trimmed down body. She looked good and sounded great with a pure, often vibrato-less voice and an impeccable sense of timing and pitch. Sometimes sounding a bit like Streisand, Nancy Wilson or Dionne Warwick, Patti explored the nuances and grand themes to be found in her repertoire of fantastic songs written by some of the best in the business. She has worked all over the world and recorded with giants in black pop music and all that experience showed in her concert performance last night, which was at times understated and but always luminescent. When I see my band members at these shows I am gratified that they seem to be enjoying themselves being immersed in all this music. There is so much to be gleaned from seeing others in our profession doing what we do and at such a high level of proficiency. And in such quantities and variety. From the quiet self-assurance of Patti Austin to the exuberant boisterousness of Mike Phillips and his brash brass band, the range of sounds and personalities is really amazing. And all of it has its fans. One of my vocalists, Chyp Page Green, stood transfixed in front of the stage at last night’s pool party and said she was just loving Mike Phillips show! And this morning I realized that that are several factors in determining what music and musicians we love. Repertoire is important. What the songs mean to you, the personality projected by the artist, the style or genre of the music, the sound and lights and tech, the reaction of the rest of the audience, and your own mood all influence the way and degree the music will impact you. I think so much of the music and so many of these musicians are of such high quality that it could be hard for me to carve out a niche, much less excel in this talent-heavy environment. Yet ever while Mike Phillips’ group was killing it last night, a young lady came up to me to say how much she really enjoyed our show. And this morning at breakfast Wayne Bruce, the leader of Spur of the Moment, came past my table and did a fake kneel down and fist bump and said to me, “I just wanted to kiss the ring.” Wow, some high praise from several young lions for me, a funk veteran. Maybe I am due some accolades for my longevity in the game. Maybe I am an O.G. of Afro-funk jazz. Yesterday, when we docked at Key West, my son Jamiah had to leave the ship, so I spent much of the hot October day making travel arrangements for him and his roommate to get back to Richmond to take care of business. I did get to do some sightseeing in the city with an old friend of mine, Elwood York, who not only took us to the airport but also drove us around, giving up a guided tour of the place. Key West is the southernmost part of the US, only 90 miles from Cuba. If you take US Route 1 South when you get to mile marker 0, you’ll be in the center of Key West, Florida. It felt like it was 95 degrees in that beach town yesterday and that heat drained me enough that I needed a nap when I got back to the ship. Today I am still being amicably besieged for autographs, pictures and even a few prospective gigs. People are still saying that they are surprised they had not heard of me, given the power of my performance way back then on last Sunday. I am amazed because so much music and so many great performances have happened since then. Some things make a deep enough impression to be timeless, at least for a minute. End Part II /// Day 7. 1:30 PM Friday afternoon in club on Deck 6. The DC-based group 76 Degrees West is playing their hit song “School Days,” a go-go jazz song that sounds so good when I hear on WHUR I always wish I had made that record as the follow-up to my song “Drop.” The group had an uneven start to their set today, probably because the show, which was supposed to be poolside, had to be moved inside due to chilly windy weather out on deck. They are rolling along now though, go-go swinging and with Eddie Backus on tenor sax, Marcus Anderson on alto and Joey Somerville on trumpet all sitting in. It has turned into quite a jam session and I am digging it. Right now Jonathan Butler is doing another solo session out in the main atrium and he is sounding so good. But you can’t do everything on this cruise. And I promised 76 Degrees West I would catch their set and I love Eddie’s playing. 3:00 PM Now I have moved to the atrium to catch the last part of Jonathan Butler’s solo presentation. He is doing Q and A now. He has really enjoyed himself this week hanging out every day everywhere on the ship and being accessible and gracious. Last night we saw Jonathan in full concert and he was fantastic. His back up group was Spur of the Moment and I thought it was their best work all week. Jonathan is so expressive with his voice and his guitar playing. He sounds like Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway but with a South African flavor and an L.A. twist. The audience loved him and Spur of the Moment seemed inspired by his music and the moment, especially their saxophonist, Skip Pruitt. At the end of the show Jonathan went into his gospel mode, preaching and teaching and testifying, but the music still had that pop smooth jazz contemporary feel to it; very polished and improvised to fit that very moment in time. Before that we saw and equally polished performance by Rick Braun in the nightclub venue. His show was very enjoyable, especially when he was joined on stage by Candi Dulfer, Brian Culbertson, and bassist Gerald Veasley. So much music; so many good vibes; so much camaraderie and so many new friends and fans. So many learning and teaching moments. We are a family this week. Last night I did participate in the jam session. The music was hot and Mike Phillips and Karen Briggs were their usual superlative, powerful selves. When I went up to play along with five or six other horn players they called a straight ahead jazz tune on which I was barely able to hold my own with several young players who had the chops of old jazz heads. I would have much rather played some P funk, but you improvise, do your best and live the moment to the fullest. I learned I have to go back in the shed and practice a lot more and continue be dedicated to never stop learning, advancing, developing my art and myself. 12:00 midnight outside the CD store on board. I am hanging out with several other musicians as I type this. We are all waiting for the gift shop and Capital Jazz reps to tally up our remaining CD’s so we can determine how many we have sold. While we wait the musicians are discussing various things about how things have gone this week, comparing notes on other gigs and tours, and generally agreeing that this cruise has been a really positive experience. Mike Phillips is telling stories about touring with Prince and funny things that happened when he was touring with Jill Scott while I type away on my laptop. (The store sold 96 of my box sets and 8 single CD’s.) Now I am at home in my kitchen at 11:00 PM Saturday night October 17. Earlier on Friday night I had been a little seasick. The boat had more pitch and yaw, as the sea was more active beneath us than at any other time this week. In fact, the cruise had been super smooth sailing up until that last day. I took some Dramamine and a nap and move about slowly, feeling a bit woozy, like being drunk. Before being outside the Gift shop that last night I had gone to see Candi Dulfer’s show in the club at around 8:00 PM. She was hot and her repertoire was mostly straight up funk a la James Brown/ Maceo Parker. She was a lot more than credible; she was spot on with her alto sax soloing, rapping, singing and the pacing of her show. Having toured with Prince and jamming over the years with a lot of funk heavy weights, she is a powerful presence and a dominant force to be reckoned with, especially internationally where that brand of funk has a big audience. I really liked her show, her sincerity and her command of her presentation. The last show of the week was the Brian Culbertson concert at 10:30 PM Saturday night. Brian has been on all three of the Super Cruises and his show demonstrated why he is an award winning festival favorite and why he will be back for Super Cruise IV. He has tremendous energy and an infectious smile and persona on stage. Playing the keyboard and trombone, he leads the band, and acts like he is having the time of his life with grand gestures, facial expressions and humorous posturing. He prances around the stage, striking poses, dancing and interacting with the band. Employing dynamics in the extreme, he alternates between funk and smooth jazz, using breaks, stops and sudden shifts in volume and textures. He creates a party onstage and the audience is invited. Later that night there was a pajama party in the club from midnight to 3:00 AM. I did poke my head in for a second to see how the crowd was getting down with deejay Spinderella and they seemed to be having fun. I went to the casino where I spent a lot of my spare minutes this cruise week and where I became friends with several ladies who also enjoyed Three Card Poker. This last night I was mostly at the table alone with the dealers. Two days before I had been up for the week, holding on to six black $100 chips. One day ago I had lost three of those chips and on the last evening I had lost them all. So I was playing with my money at that point, down $200. During the last hour from 1:30 AM until the casino closed down at 2:30 AM I had a great run of cards, hitting three of a kind three times, trip 8’s and three Kings, twice within three hands. Later I hit trips 8’s again and several other good hands and finally ending up $1,125! What a great time to win, right at the end, with no chance to lose it back! I shared my winnings with the band. I turned in at 3:00 AM after setting my phone alarm for 5:55 AM and got up at that time. I was squirrelly eyed and tired but excited to be docking back in Baltimore. It was cold and rainy but still a wonderful time to be getting off the boat; even with the extreme contrast to the over 90 degrees weather in the Bahamas and Key West just hours ago. We had breakfast; I collected the money from the CD’s sales (100 x $29.99 less 30% commission to the cruise line; wow!) and disembarked by 9:30 AM Saturday. We drove back to Richmond and I was so tired that I passed out for a deep-sleep nap almost right away. At 4:00 PM I was still feeling like I was still on the boat and using my sea legs. I was still almost drunk with sea motion even though I was well inland, when I got a call to go play tennis. Crazily, I agreed and at 5:30 PM I was out on the court, “freezing,” stiff, woozy and wondering about my own sanity, but warming up to play doubles tennis with three other wild and crazy tennis enthusiasts. Even now at a quarter to midnight I am still feeling like I am on the rocking ship. And that’s odd because for the vast majority of the hours on board you could barely feel the ocean’s motion. But I do “feel” it now. Still. Epilogue. 8:00 AM Sunday morning October 18, in my kitchen. I slept good and hard for over seven hours for the first time in weeks. A week with a ship load of music and activities, sudden chilly weather and three sets of tennis after driving from Baltimore on three hours sleep might knock you out! I am still a little bit tipsy but I can feel that today should be the last of that. The Capital Jazz Cruise III was a fantastic voyage for me. The music, the musicians and the warmth of the audience inspired me. I learned so much from the experiences and I am charged up with determination to do and be better; and that’s worth the price of admission to any gig or university master class. Of course I only had to pay with my time, energy and open mind. And what great payoffs! I have never made so many sales and new fans from any one gig in my life. If you consider that there are six discs in the 2012 Collectors Box Set then we distributed over 500 individual discs to music lovers who are likely to listen and in some instances turn some of their family and friends on to our music. So many patrons on the cruise told us how much they loved our show and our music and our energy; and several said they would be coming to see us when we come to DC or Baltimore or New York or Texas and wherever they were from. And I got solid contacts for bookings in Maryland, New York, London and Atlanta. No doubt I will be contacting the Capital Jazz people to lobby for a slot on next year’s Super Cruise IV already scheduled for the last week in October 2010 leaving out of Miami. I want my same performance slot, playing for the opening pool party. In the meantime, I am committed to doing and getting more: more practice, yoga, strategic planning, marketing, chops, and more polished professionalisms. Instead of being discouraged by the great music coming out of my more youthful compatriots and competitors, I am inspired by my own wealth of experience and the respect given to what I do. I am rededicated to giving up the funk and the best that I got, every time I have the chance to take it to the stage. Music is my ministry and my mistress. And the basis of my mysticism and magic. It is a source of inspiration for me and my shadow. I plan to continue to explore develop and share the inner and outer workings of juju, funk, soul, world, African, blues, reggae, hip-hop, Latin, gospel and jazz. Understanding that they, like we, are much more alike than dissimilar is an essential step toward oneness.