Cruisin’ on down the jazzy river in style


Back in the 1990s when I was in college, I worked as a DJ at my university’s jazz-themed radio station. While appreciative of the work of legends like Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis, I often resorted to spinning the records of people who had Monk and Davis old school sensibilities but a new fusion sound. One performer who stood out among that crowd was sax wizard Gerald Albright.

Wednesday, Albright and a collection of his jazz friends kicked off the ninth annual series of Smooth Jazz Cruises on The Spirit of New York and New Jersey yacht.

For two solid hours, jazz aficionados navigated through a nautical love affair as Albright jammed with friends Jeff Lorber on piano, Ricky Lawson on drums, Jeff Golub and Peter White on guitar, and Jessie J on sax.

I boarded The Spirit about 6:30 p.m. for one of two jazz cruises on tap for the night. Jazz fans in the house were an eclectic lot: they were young and old, sporting green-colored afros and blond wigs, wearing matching outfits or mismatched attire.

If you’re a fan of food like I am, that’s one key reason to put this cruise on your to do list. A $25 buffet serves up generous portions of delectable fare, including some of the best salmon I’ve ever tasted. Trust me, the food is slamming!

After piling my plate up, I returned to my second row seat to soak in the music. My friend, Jessica, and I made quick friends with those seated around us, bopping up and down in our seats to the jazz beats.

“Gerald, youre rocking this boat!,” one of our new friends shouted out as Albright amazed the crowd with his sax skills.

As The Spirit passed by a sun-kissed Jersey City skyline, guitarist Jeff Golub ebulliently told the crowd he was happy to be back in the metropolitan area after weeks of touring.

“Once you get past New Jersey, like around Pennsylvania and further out, it gets really weird,” joked Golub, who is a dead ringer for singer David Bowie. “This is home for me, man.”

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the showmanship of Peter White. Plain and simple, this guy knows how to please an audience. While Albright took breaks, White threatened to steal the show with his comic antics and guitar tricks.

After the show, I got a chance to have a few words with Albright. He performed at the Liberty Jazz Fest in Jersey City the first two years of its existence.

“I came with my own band last year to do the show on the boat, and its always an enthusiastic crowd,” Albright said. “Fortunately, I do nt get seasick. I guess Im so into the music and crowd, there’s no time to think about it.”

As my friend and I prepared to leave, one of our new found friends chatted us up, talking about the next cruise.

“Oh, you’ve gotta come back,” the woman raved. “I love Gerald (Albright) because he’s smooth, but these boys from London are just funky.”

Their name: Down to the Bone.

You don’t have to tell me twice. Let’s party on the boat!