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For belonging to a popular music genre — progressive rock — often derided as pretentious, violinist and keyboardist Eddie Jobson seems humble about where he and his music have ended up: on a cruise ship.
"I can't believe my career has gone down to playing cruise ships," the English musician says with a hearty laugh. "Then again, it's not your typical cruise ship. It's not like you're just the act for a bunch of tourists on a cruise ship. It's like putting a festival on a boat."
During the last week of March, Jobson is heading out for a voyage on the MSC Poesia, visiting the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, with a re-formed U.K., including bassist/vocalist John Wetton, drummer Terry Bozzio, and guitarist Alex Machacek. The band is second on the ship's bill to Yes as part of its Cruise to the Edge, a prog-rock festival at sea that also includes Carl Palmer of ELP and Steve Hackett of Genesis, along with six other acts. Jobson also breaks the bad news that Tangerine Dream had to cancel due to an injury in the band.
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Once the cruise returns to Fort Lauderdale Saturday, March 30, U.K. will head to Miami for a rare, intimate performance at Grand Central. "We'd just done those shows with the trio, the Jobson-Wetton-Bozzio trio," Jobson explains. "And that was meant to be pretty much just a one-off reunion after 33 years because we hadn't played together since 1979.
"It was just an idea to put the band together for one tour — no album, just a live world tour. So we went around the world. And when they invited us to do the cruise, it was like, 'OK, let's do the cruise with Yes, and we'll do it one more time.' So that's how Miami came about."
Having played with Roxy Music, Frank Zappa, and King Crimson, Jobson can count himself part of several important prog acts that defined the genre in its '70s heyday. And then he rode the prog-rock wave into the end of the decade with U.K.
Jobson explains the band was born from the dying breaths of one of the most potent versions of King Crimson, which ended with 1975's Red. "Before they split up, they did a live album of the Red period, and they asked me to play on the live album.
"So I played on an album that was called USA, doing studio overdubs, and then the band split up. I moved to America, and a year later, they came to visit me after a Frank Zappa concert and suggested putting King Crimson back together again while not calling it King Crimson. The lineup was Robert Fripp, Bill Bruford, John Wetton, and it was to be me. I decided that was a good idea.
"I left Zappa. And around the time I left Zappa to go to England to do this band, Robert decided to drop out. And that's how U.K. was formed. So in my mind, I think of it as King Crimson except with me in charge, writing keyboard music, as opposed to Robert in charge, writing King Crimson-style guitar music."
The band would go through further lineup changes before disintegrating after only two studio albums, U.K. and Danger Money, that had little impact on the charts. "I think U.K. was sort of the last of the classic progressive-rock bands of the '70s," Jobson muses. "We were the last, final breath. And then everything started to get taken over by punk and then the New Wave of the early '80s. All those bands that were influenced by Roxy Music — which I was part of — ended up dominating the whole industry for the early '80s."
While U.K. singer Wetton joined the hit-making Asia and drummer Bozzio helped found Missing Persons, Jobson went to work as a solo artist. But he ultimately found comfort scoring for television and film while giving lessons.
The reformed U.K. is far from an endpoint for him, though. In fact, Miami happens to be the one city in the States to see a proper U.K. gig. And who knows when he and these particular friends might reunite again.
"This is not only the first gig in Miami of this lineup," Jobson says matter-of-factly. "It'll probably be the last."