The All-Star Cruise is setting sail once again on Monday, January 21, 2008 from Port San Diego, California on the ship Carnival Elation, hosted by the Haven Entertainment. On board the cruise is platinum award winning pianist/composer/producer Alan Hewitt, which features three days of pre-cruise shows held at the Town And Country Resort in San Diego on Friday, January 18th, Saturday, January 19th and Sunday January 20th.
The shows bring together some of R&B, soul, and adult contemporary jazz legends with up and coming stars. The ship will make stopovers along the Baja Peninsula at Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada. The performers will not only be playing at the pre-cruise shows but also on the cruise ship enjoying the ride right alongside the ship’s voyagers.
Hewitt tells, "This is my third All-Star Cruise" and distinguishes, "This cruise is different because there is so much focus put on camaraderie. When we are on this cruise we are one. We see each other as friends and fans of the same music. The artists eat together, party together and make music together. That is what makes the magic of the music on this cruise so special. It’s something the musicians and fans can always remember with a smile."
To enhance the cruise experience for guests on board, Hewitt has organized a series of behind the scenes interviews with artists conducted by Jam Sessions host Nick Colionne. These sessions will give guests an up close look each day from the Backstage Pass Show broadcasted throughout the ship. Hewitt admits, "Unfortunately, I won’t actually be a cruiser. There are rehearsals, interview sessions and my new addition of the Backstage Pass Show which will be airing on the ship everyday. All of these things help to make the cruise experience great for our guests."
Alan Hewitt’s role is multiple-fold. His duties encompass assisting with talent coordination for the cruise as well as performing at the pre-cruise shows and on the ship. Not overwhelming for Hewitt who is a veteran of the contemporary pop/soul/R&B world having produced songs for such acts as Earth, Wind & Fire, Jonathan Butler, John Waite, Apollonia, Warrant, and Donny Osmond to mention a few. He has also been responsible for composing music scores for films, TV shows, and commercials internationally. His credits include compositions for Survivor Latin America, MTV’s The Osbournes, World News Now, Entertainment Tonight, Extra, ESPN, Oprah, and Animal Planet in addition to movies such as Gods And Generals, Swimming Upstream, Bridget Jones: Edge Of Reason, Held Up, and a number of others.
"In addition to performing," he reveals, "I’ve always helped out in other ways as well. The one thing that I realized was what a huge undertaking it is. It takes numerous people a whole year to make this one cruise happen. My manager and friend, Eddie Wenrick introduced me to Bob Jamieson (CEO and President of Haven Entertainment) and his lovely wife Judy on the 2007 All-Star Cruise. I knew who Bob was and how respected in the record business he was. We hit it off right away and became good friends. We all have fun together and that’s what makes it all worthwhile. After being a guest on the cruise, Bob fell in love with this exciting event and wanted to be a part of the synergy that unites fans and artists together. Bob’s company Haven Entertainment purchased the cruise and a new cruise company was born."
He conceptualizes, "After Haven Entertainment purchased the cruise, we looked at all the possibilities. We wanted to make this cruise a little different by meshing contemporary jazz with soul."
Hewitt and Jamieson commissioned R&B/Jazz Fusion guitarist Norman Brown to host the 2008 All-Star Cruise. Brown is a venerable musician and asset to smooth jazz. His album Just Chillin’ won him a Grammyâ in the prestigious Best Pop Instrumental category and singles from his latest release West Coast Coolin’ have made Radio And Records "Smooth Jazz Top 20 Countdown" and Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz charts.
Hewitt reflects about the artist line-up, "In addition to contemporary jazz favorites, such as Fourplay, Larry Carlton, and Kenny G., Haven Entertainment invited groups that our generation grew up with like The Four Tops, The Spinners, and Kool & The Gang. To add a little spice, we brought in the next generation of contemporary jazz stars (including) Norman Brown, Boney James, and others. We think we have one of the best line-ups ever assembled."
Indeed the All-Star Cruise’s line-up is not only diversified in bridging R&B, soul and contemporary pop music icons with the genres up and coming stars, but the repertoire bridges European jazz with some of America’s favorites. The line-up is well stocked in vocal R&B/soul groups like Motown legends and American pop icons The Four Tops whose hit singles "Reach Out (I’ll Be There)," "Baby I Need Your Loving," "I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)," "Standing In The Shadow Of Love," "Ain’t No Woman Like The One I Got," "When She Was My Girl," and "Tonight I’m Gonna Love You All Over Again" catapulted the band to stardom during the ‘70s soul renaissance. The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990 and the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame in 1999.
Fellow inductees of the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame, The Spinners will be performing as well. Their hit singles "Then Came You," "I’ll Be Around," "Games People Play," "Mighty Love," "Working My Way Back To You," and "The Rubberband Man" has inscribed numerous memorabilia some of which can be seen on the walls of Hard Café’s around the globe.
Spawned from The Spinners and The Four Tops is the ‘80s funk/soul/pop quartet Kool & The Gang whose singles "Get Down On It," "Cherish," "Jungle Boogie," "Funky Stuff," "Tonight," "Joanna," and "Celebration" are still fan favorites and continue to be re-recorded by present day artists.
Modern day vocal soul/funk groups are represented by the likes of Fourplay whose track "My Love’s Leavin’" with blue-eyed soul icon Michael McDonald firmly anchored the group in both soft rock and smooth jazz formats, and British contemporary instrumental group Acoustic Alchemy whose latest album This Way offers collaborations with Rick Braun on trumpet and members of Down To The Bone. Acoustic Alchemy are pioneers in pop instrumentals implementing Oriental-tempered strings meshed with reggae/funk movements. Their sound is fresh and presents a new facade of European jazz fusion.
Aside from the vocal groups are a wide range of pop artists, renowned jazz players and artists on the verge. Pop artists on the bill will include Kenny G. and Patti Austin. Born Kenny Gorelick, Kenny G. has been a staple of adult contemporary and smooth jazz radio stations since the mid-’80’s when his single "Songbird" from his LP Duotones in 1986 broke him into mainstream pop. His album Breathless in 1992 tallied his record sales to over 30 million worldwide as his version of soul-jazz fusion widen the spectrum of pop music.
A well known fan favorite is R&B/smooth jazz vocalist Patti Austin whose duets with James Ingram on "How Do You Keep The Music Playing" was the theme song for the film Best Friends and "Baby, Come To Me" gave her widespread exposure via the ABC soap opera General Hospital which regularly featured the love song.
Another performer on the cruise who acquired acclaim through the soap operas is nu-jazz saxophonist Paul Taylor whose stint on the soap One Life To Live utilized his musical talents as well. His recent album Ladies Choice features R&B vocalists Regina Bell, La Toya London, and Terry Dexter and has received high ranks on Radio And Records smooth jazz lists and Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts. Taylor also has a really cool myspace site at myspace.com/officialpaultaylorsax.
Speaking of saxophonists, the All-Star Cruise is nicely filled with them like the legendary Boney James who has a reputation for being "a mad scientist in the studio." His current album Shine on Concord Records features guest appearances by soul/funk vocalists Faith Evans, Dwele, and Phillip Bailey, jazz guitarist impresario George Benson, and alternative pop singers Esthero and Ann Nesby.
The cruise will also showcase chillout/funk saxophonists from outside of the US like Toronto, Canada’s Warren Hill who was named the 2003 Canadian Smooth Jazz Artist Of The Year and the 2005/2006 Canadian Wind Instrumentalist Of The Year, and London, England’s Paul "Shilts" Weimar who was the bandleader of the British urban jazz/funk ensemble Down To The Bone. Both artists have new solo albums out. Hill’s LP Pop Jazz features a rendition of "Play That Funky Music (White Boy)" with Brian Culbertson on the Hammond B3 and Jeff Golub on guitar that breathes new life into the pop culture tune, and Weimar’s disc Headboppin’ is a modern fusion of soul, funk, and infectious boogaloo-jazz.
A saxophonist on the verge is Marion Meadows whose moniker "the sexy saxman" is well suited to him. Meadow is a graduate of Boston’s Berklee College Of Music where he studied composition and arranging. He got his start playing the soprano saxophone in the Norman Connors Starship Orchestra. He released several successful albums through the late ‘90s and ‘00s in the smooth jazz coterie and is riding high on his latest release Dressed To Chill.
The artist line-up keeps the set steamy with the sultry, fluid windpipe sounds Althea Rene who can be classified as the sexiest flautist of modern times. She recently performed at the North Sea Festival in the Netherlands with saxophonist Candy Dulfer in addition to performing at the Jazz Fest West in Pasadena, California with Erykah Badu and Regina Bell. She has performed on stage with Norman Brown, Marion Meadows, Nick Colionne, Roy Ayers, Boney James, Nancy Wilson, Al Jarreau and many others. Before embarking on the path to becoming a professional musician, this lass was a Wayne County Deputy Sheriff in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan but after winning Best Instrumental on NBC’s Showtime At The Apollo in 1989, her eyes were opened to the possibilities.
Rounding out the artist line-up are a handful of guitarists including the cruise’s host Norman Brown, and two-time headliner of the All-Star Cruise and host of the fan favorite Jam Sessions Nick Colionne. The Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards recently named Colionne the winner of the International Instrumental Artist Of The Year. His new album Keepin’ It Cool has also garnered him many accolades from Radio And Records, Smoothjazz.com, Jazztrax.com, Jazztimes.com, Radiowaves.com. Smooth Jazz News, Jazz Lynx/Café Jazz, Todaysjazz.com, Scenicjazz.com, and Smoothjazztherapy.com.
Other guitarists on the set include the prodigious Cheili Minucci of Special EFX fame, the legendary blues axeman Larry Carlton formerly of The Crusaders and whose credit on Steely Dan’s "Kid Charlemagne" was named one of the three best licks by Rolling Stone Magazine, and finally newcomer Steve Oliver whose moxie playing and disposition has dubbed his albums as "an oasis of sunny delight." All three men have played with a list of Who’s Who in the contemporary jazz and pop realms.
Hewitt perceives about the effects of this dynamic line-up, "I think it will change the way cruises are booked from now on. People are already loving this line-up and in future cruises it opens the door to a lot of other artists who wouldn’t normally be seen at one of these events. It’s basically a mirror of where radio is heading with the mixture of so many great kinds of music in one place."
He externalizes proudly, "There are people that help to make everything run smooth. They do this all the time for huge concerts around the world and they make sure that everything runs seamless as it should."
The All-Star Cruise is as much about business as it is for pleasure. "The cruise is a blast for artists," Hewitt attests, "because they will often invite each other up on stage for a song or two. It’s always fun and creates instant energy to see performers play together that you may not see any where else. Also, the Jam Sessions with Nick Colionne are always a highly energized ride of pure joy for everyone."
The pleasure continues when the ship docks at its destinations in Capo San Lucas and Ensenada, Mexico as Hewitt’s anticipates, "I’m going to go swimming and maybe chill on the beach a bit sounds good doesn’t it?"
He may even take in some of the music of the natives on the Baja Peninsula as he asserts, "It’s always great to hear music in other places and definitely can be inspiring to you as an artist."
Hewitt and Jamieson express that 2008’s All-Star Cruise represents multiple formats and is a bonding of smooth and nu-jazz, contemporary pop, soul, R&B, funk, and world fusion. The artist line-up appeals to a mixed audience ranging in ages from 25 to 65. From grandparents to their grandchildren, the music shares qualities appreciated by all living generations of a family.
Hewitt endorses, "We want everyone on the cruise to feel as if they are a very special invited guest to the greatest party on earth. Much like a family reunion, we look forward to seeing them come back year after year."
Clips from 2007’s All Star Smooth Cruise