Review: ‘Playboy Jazz Cruise’

As envious sailors in Marina Del Rey looked on, the 183-foot dining yacht California Hornblower percolated to some varied sounds of jazz on a late Sunday afternoon. Once again, a big band--Ann Patterson's Maiden Voyage--blasted through the Clerestory (mid-level deck) while on the Main Deck, an electric band headed by Verve Forecast recording artist Freddie Ravel catered to a somewhat younger set.

As envious sailors in Marina Del Rey looked on, the 183-foot dining yacht California Hornblower percolated to some varied sounds of jazz on a late Sunday afternoon. Once again, a big band–Ann Patterson’s Maiden Voyage–blasted through the Clerestory (mid-level deck) while on the Main Deck, an electric band headed by Verve Forecast recording artist Freddie Ravel catered to a somewhat younger set.

From its first voyage in 1989, the cruise instantly became one of the Playboy Jazz Festival’s most popular annual pre-concert promotions, a three-hour taste of what those exotic long-distance jazz cruises are like. The tickets were given away through radio stations KACE-FM, KLON-FM and KCRW-FM.

Downstairs, keyboardist Ravel pushed his sextet through some often hard-charging, heavily Latin-spiced electric jazz in his last set.

To at least one listener, the vigor of this group came as a pleasant surprise , for Ravel’s latest album, “Midnight Passion” seems like little more than a compendium of well-mannered Fuzak cliches.

Indeed, the rather tepid version of “Journey Through Ixtlan” on the album didn’t prepare one for the steaming rendition that Ravel presented on board as a closing number.

Ravel used the settings on his Korg and Roland synthesizers inventively, playing with a dash of Herbie Hancock in the right hand, while Ron Powell treated the dancers to some hot conga work and suggestive acrobatics.

Patterson’s Maiden Voyage was short several maidens that afternoon, so one beheld the strange sight of three male ringers in this normally all-female 16 -piece outfit. But no matter, the band still swung with a solid sound in its first set, ably taking on loping, mostly Basie-styled charts on tunes like “Takin’ A Walk” and “All Of Me.”

Alas, the voyage itself wasn’t as interesting as its predecessors.

Playboy Jazz Cruise

(California Hornblower; 1,000 capacity; free)

Production

Presented by Playboy Jazz Festival and Hornblower Dining Yachts. Reviewed May 24, 1992.

Cast

Bands: Ann Patterson's Maiden Voyage, Freddie Ravel (Freddie Ravel, Ron Powell, Alec Milstein, Vince Denim, Bernie Dressel, Anjani Thomas).
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