Take 5 jazz room a pleasant surprise on Sky Princess

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The Take 5 venue is more than live music. It features shows written around themes, including one on pianist and composer Duke Ellington.
The Take 5 venue is more than live music. It features shows written around themes, including one on pianist and composer Duke Ellington. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

ABOARD THE SKY PRINCESS -- After a first look at the new Take 5 jazz area on the Sky Princess, I was prepared to be disappointed.

Touted as one of the new features that distinguishes the fourth in Princess Cruises' Royal class from its predecessors, Take 5 in the daylight looked like little more than a corridor space with a bar, a drum set, a piano and lounge seating for 100.

The chandeliers looked like the type of fixture one might find in a convention center, not in any jazz club I'd been to.

Returning later in the evening proved that Take 5 can be a successful jazz venue despite its limitations. The acoustics were better than I had expected, and with dimmer light and signature Take 5 illuminations projected on the floor, the area came together as a room for listening.

The jazz trio of guitar, bass and drums I heard performing "A Night in Harlem," provided very tasty instrumental versions of Duke Ellington classics such as "Take the A Train" and "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me." In between songs, the guitarist in the group told stories about Ellington, his musical co-composer Billy Strayhorn, the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem where jazz musicians performed, and other lore that provided background on Ellington's life.

"A Night in Harlem" is just one of a half-dozen shows programmed for Take 5. Others include a show on Latin jazz and one featuring women in jazz.

Located next to the casino on Deck 6 in the space where Club 6 is on other Royal-class ships, Take 5 has an attractive wood-inlay floor and enough deep-blue lighting at night to provide the requisite clubby atmosphere.

There is a bar adjacent to the performance space that serves themed cocktails such as the Ella Fitzgerald (Gray Goose vodka, St. Germain liqueur, raspberry liqueur, lemon juice and simple syrup, $10) and the Jazz Riff (Maker's Mark bourbon, honey syrup, lemon juice and prosecco, $10).

I ended up enjoying Take 5 more than I initially thought I would, although during my three-day pre-inaugural cruise I only had time for one show.  The quality of the musicians will make or break this concept, and I thought Princess did an outstanding job of finding a trio up to the job.

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