Cool salt air, bright sunlight and bubbling ocean waters do not make a setting usually associated with jazz. But the more familiar environment of smoky, dimly lighted rooms took a holiday Sunday morning during the 12th annual West Coast Jazz Party's Jazz Brunch Cruise, when more than 400 jazz fans embarked on the Hornblower Yacht Entertainer in a 3 1/2 -hour cruise around Newport Harbor.
The music was nonstop on three different decks. The brunch table was overflowing with goodies, and the wine glasses were never empty. If it sounds like a jazz lover's idea of hedonistic heaven, that's pretty much what it was. But what really made the day was the fact that all this luxe atmosphere was the background for some impressively entertaining music.
Pianist Kenny Drew Jr., opening and closing the day on the Entertainer's top deck, offered an engaging set of classic tunes -- "Prelude to a Kiss," "Some Day My Prince Will Come" and "How Deep Is the Ocean" among them -- embellishing each with his rich, rhapsodic style. Bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Clayton Cameron added meticulously supportive, hard swinging rhythmic accompaniment.
Other pianists moved busily from one deck to another in a set of performances that involved a sequence of quick-change musical chairs.