After Friday’s all-night Of Montreal dance party and Saturday’s cocktail party, where I successfully completed the dreaded wine, beer and liquor trifecta, I was in


Smooth Sailing

Our intrepid reporter braves KWJZ's smooth jazz Valentine's cruise.

After Friday’s all-night Of Montreal dance party and Saturday’s cocktail party, where I successfully completed the dreaded wine, beer and liquor trifecta, I was in no way prepared for a solo mission to a Sunday Valentine’s Day boat ride -- especially one involving smooth jazz. For six hours.

After choking down a quarter of an English muffin and two Advil for breakfast, I caught the bus downtown to pier 56, where the Argosy Cruises depart. This one was the ninth annual KWJZ Smooth Jazz Valentines cruise, featuring the soothing sounds of Deems Tsutakawa on keyboards and the saucy Korla Wygal on vocals, as well as a lunch stop at Kiana Lodge near Bainbridge Island. 

In line waiting to board the ship, I noticed the style preference leaned toward Kangol caps and sweater vests (this look was favored mainly by Caucasians among the ship’s rather diverse cruising population). While smooth jazz is generally regarded as a genre that caters to middle-aged yuppies, there were at least ten couples under the age of 25, though I’d later find out that two of those were attending with parents.

Once aboard, having passed a large cluster of Starbucks cups in a neat pile next to the gangplank, I immediately gravitated toward the bar. The drink of choice for this crowd was the Bloody Mary, with chardonnay as the runner-up. Drink in hand, I proceeded to the second deck, where I got my first taste of the day’s music, a silky-smooth tenor sax and classical guitar combo. I felt like I was waiting in the reception area of a floating dentist’s office. A sea of whitecaps and a light rain did not bode well for my hungover self.

Downstairs, Deems -- who resembles Mr. Miyagi in a Kangol -- and his crew eased into their set. I counted three songs in the first hour and a half, though there could have been at least 12 -- it was hard to say. About halfway through the second hour, when the band broke for a little banter, Deems said, “We’re going to do something kind of mellow here.” More mellow? Starting again, I heard what seemed to me to be the same bass line and drum rhythm, followed by an eerily familiar minor scale on guitar, and then the piano came back. I ordered another Bloody Mary.

Finally, after about two and half hours, we reached our lunch spot, leaving the boat to the refreshing sounds of silence. Kiana Lodge, replete with totem poles and animal heads mounted on the walls, is the type of place made for weddings and corporate retreats. They were serving roast salmon and spinach stuffed chicken along with a soggy Caesar salad and undercooked vegetables. Jack Kerouac wrote that the chatter of conversation in a crowded room is the closest sound words can have to jazz, so I was disappointed when best song thus far was interrupted for a surprise performance by Sound Wave, a local A cappella octet. We were treated to the group’s renditions of “Blue Moon,” “Mr. Sandman,” and other ‘50’s pop classics, before closing with Duke Ellington’s “Take the A-Train to Harlem."

On the way back, it was Korla’s (whose hair appeared to be an homage to former  Seattle Seahawks star Brian Bosworth) turn to rock the boat, with Tsutakawa and crew backing her. Though her website claims that “Korla's gift of soul has literally brought crowds to tears,” all cheeks appear to have remained dry on this trip. To her credit however, she managed to get two couples dancing.

As the boat neared shore, not even a lively funk/smooth jazz fusion, with Deems’ guitarist doing his best porn face as he shredded a minor-key solo, could raise the weary heads off other passenger’s shoulders. Somewhat sarcastically, I asked my new best friend, the bartender, if this was the liveliest cruise he worked all year. He replied, deadly serious: “No, not at all. We don’t get a lot of heavy drinkers on this one.”

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