*This year marks the 50th anniversary of the world renowned Playboy Clubs where many jazz greats got their start.
In keeping with that legacy, the 32nd annual Playboy Jazz Festival will present a world class lineup of talent featuring the highly anticipated debuts of emerging young artists, celebrated jazz icons, and returning Festival favorites.
Among the headliners for the two day event to be held Saturday and Sunday, June 12th and 13th at the landmark Hollywood Bowl are The Chick Corea Freedom Band, George Benson, The Manhattan Transfer, and Los Van Van.
Attracting over 35,000 fans annually, the Festival will showcase the diversity of jazz including everything from straight ahead to contemporary, blues to big band, salsa, and world music.
After mounting three hugely successful world tours, including the celebrated reprise of Return to Forever and his electro-acoustic quintet, the Five Peace Band, Grammy winner Chick Corea and his all-star Freedom Band featuring bassist Christian McBride, drummer Roy Haynes, and saxophonist Kenny Garrett is making a return appearance. Each a leader and star in their own right, the four are coming together for their only Southern California appearance. All acclaimed artists, Corea and Garrett each took home Grammys this year for their album Five Peace Live, which they appeared on together. Their collaboration onstage is sure to be another imaginative musical adventure by masterful musicians.
A ten-time Grammy winner and consummate entertainer, Festival favorite George Benson returns for his sixth appearance. Heralded as a world class guitarist and vocalist, the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master continues to play to sold out crowds all over the world and thrill millions with his playing. His duet recording with Al Jarreau, Givin’ It Up, scored two Grammy awards, and his latest release, Songs and Stories is a collection of tunes recorded with a litany of top talents. A compelling artist, Benson will engage festivalgoers once again with his extensive repertoire of platinum hits including “On Broadway,” “Turn Your Love Around,” and more.
Celebrating their 40th anniversary, The Manhattan Transfer is the first group to ever win Grammy Awards in both the pop and jazz categories in the same year. Considered one of the most important, innovative groups in music history (their ground breaking album Vocalese scored a monumental 12 Grammy nominations), the highly acclaimed harmony quartet is returning for a long overdue third appearance. Continuing to record throughout the 90’s with such legendary artists as Tony Bennett, Bette Midler, Smokey Robinson, B.B. King, and more, they will perform a selection of their many hits as well as songs from their latest CD, The Chick Corea Songbook, featuring much of the piano great’s best material.
The undisputed King of Cuban Dance Orchestras, Los Van Van is back after a ten year absence. Now that visa restrictions have been relaxed, fans will be thrilled to see Cuba’s most popular band, led by acclaimed bassist Juan Formell, returning to the Playboy stage for another pyrotechnic performance of their unique brand of ‘Songo’ music, which fuses the group’s infectious Cuban rhythms with synthesizers, jazz, rock, meringue, Brazilian music, and rap. The Grammy-winning orchestra has added two new vocalists and three trombones to the flutes, violins, piano and percussion that round out their unique sound. Prepare to party!
Sax for Stax, featuring contemporary jazz greats Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, and Jeff Lorber will take to the Playboy stage together for the first time to celebrate the legacy and timeless sound of the classic Memphis label, Stax Records. Each a leader on their own, between them they have played with a virtual who’s who of jazz, R&B, and pop, including such stellar artists as Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Luther Vandross, Nancy Wilson, David Benoit, Richard Elliot and more. The concept for the trio’s show, which features dynamic interpretations of some of R&B’s best songs, is inspired by Sax for Stax, the soul-kissed, funk album released in 2008 by urban saxophonist Albright, who has sold over a million albums in the United States alone. The three also toured together previously as part of the ‘Groovin’ for Grover’ phenomenon, paying tribute to sax great and Festival favorite, Grover Washington, Jr. Reunited, the hot group continues to play to sellout crowds wherever they go and will close the show on Saturday night.
An eight-time Grammy winner, vocalist Kurt Elling, called “the standout vocalist of our time” by the New York Times, is making his Festival debut. Considered by many to be the contemporary voice of vocalese, he sets his own deeply spiritual, compelling lyrics to solo works by Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny and others. He has performed with a stunning array of jazz legends, including Terence Blanchard, Dave Brubeck, Benny Golson, Al Jarreau, Joe Lovano, and more. With his soaring vocal flights and edgy lyrics, he is consistently at the top of the Downbeat and Jazz Times critics and reader polls.
Multiple Grammy-winning bassist and musical Renaissance man, Marcus Miller is also returning this year, with featured guest artist Grammy-nominated trumpeter Christian Scott. Having graced well over 400 albums in his two decade career, Miller has played with a myriad of legendary artists from Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, and Miles Davis, to Elton John, Eric Clapton and Mariah Carey, and is at the top of his game. One of the brightest young stars in jazz, Scott was heralded by Jazz Times magazine as “the architect of a new commercially viable fusion” and represents the next generation of horn blowers whose lineage began with the legendary King Oliver and continues with the likes of famed trumpeters Wynton Marsalis and Nicholas Payton.
Widely considered one of jazz’s great orchestras, The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra was the house band at the Hollywood Bowl from 1999 to 2001, while John Clayton also served as Artistic Director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Nominated eight times for a Grammy, bassist Clayton, his brother, saxophonist Jeff Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton, formed the group together in the late eighties. A success from the start, the Orchestra has played and recorded with such top artists as John Pizzarelli, Rosemary Clooney, Gladys Knight, and Diana Krall, with whom they did two albums. Making a return appearance, their repertoire will include a special salute to famed drummer Louie Bellson.
Also making his debut is saxophonist Javon Jackson, who came to international prominence as a member of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Jackson will be joined onstage by special guest Les McCann, the iconic soul-jazz pianist and vocalist. Recognized as a founder of the funky jazz genre established in the mid ’60’s, Jackson has performed on over 125 recordings and toured with such jazz greats as Elvin Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter and more. Incorporating a variety of styles into his music, his latest album, Once Upon a Melody, marks his return to acoustic jazz after a series of jazz-funk outings. Together, he and McCann will perform the mega hit “Compared to What”, from McCann’s seminal 1969 release, Swiss Movement.
A one of a kind group, Naturally 7 has pioneered a distinct a capella style they call ‘vocal play’, where each member of the group uses their voice to replicate the sounds of a musical instrument. Founded by Roger Thomas, his brother Warren, and five other singers, Naturally 7 catapulted into the spotlight during 2007, when they opened for internationally acclaimed singing star Michael Bublé on his worldwide tour. Making a much anticipated debut, the group has been on a whirlwind for the last 14 months guesting on Ellen, and The Today Show, performing for Quincy Jones 75th birthday and playing to an enthusiastic crowd in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Their now famous Paris subway performance of their hit “Feel It” (In The Air Tonight), has garnered over five million hits on YouTube.
A unique musical artist, Jake Shimabukuro is recognized as one of the world’s most exciting and innovative ukulele players and composers. Playing jazz, blues, funk, classical, bluegrass, flamenco, and rock, the multitalented musician’s goal is to show everyone that the ukulele is capable of much more than traditional Hawaiian music. His knockout performances attract sellout crowds wherever he goes, and his latest release, Live, includes interpretations of everything from Bach to Michael Jackson and the Beatles. He was a featured guest on Yo-Yo Ma’s holiday album and in 2009 he appeared with Bette Midler in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen at a fundraising concert in England. His appearance not only marks the Festival debut of a young visionary, but the first time Playboy has ever presented a solo ukulele player.
Making his Festival debut at just 23, “Trombone Shorty” Andrews is an artist with the virtuosity to draw the unqualified respect of some of the most iconic legends in jazz and the ability to deliver a show capable of mesmerizing international rock stars as well as an audience. A performer who commands the stage, the trombonist/trumpeter has worked with such diverse artists as Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Lenny Kravitz, U2, Green Day and more. The seeds of Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue’s “SupaFunkRock” sound were sown on the streets of New Orleans and the group has since evolved into a seven-piece touring phenomenon considered one of the hottest young bands from the Crescent City. Says Wynton Marsalis, “I’m his biggest fan.”
Named a 2010 National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master, vibraphone great Bobby Hutcherson and acclaimed pianist Cedar Walton, also named an NEA Jazz Master this year, will appear together for the first time as part of a quartet at this year’s show. Wise One, Hutcherson’s 39th album, is his offering to the spirit of John Coltrane, a gratitude filled homage to the man whose music acutely affected the vibraphonist’s own approach to his deep musical calling. Hard bop innovator Cedar Walton, known for complimenting musicians without getting in their way, has played in the bands of Lou Donaldson, Art Farmer, Art Blakey, and recorded with giants Freddie Hubbard, John Coltrane, and Joe Henderson.
Pioneering singer and composer Salif Keita’s appearance on Sunday marks the long awaited Festival debut of one of the world’s most unique performers. A royal descendant of the Emperor Soundjata Keita, whose 13th century empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Sahara desert, Keita has stayed on the cutting edge of musical evolution for forty years, expanding the boundaries of modern Malian and world music. His soaring voice exemplifies a singer at the summit of his art, and his music expresses the nuance of joie de vivre where hope leads to triumph.
A surefire party-starter, Robert Randolph and the Family Band is returning for their second Festival appearance. Known for his jaw-dropping pyrotechnics on the pedal steel guitar, the group has made the leap from playing in church to headlining music festivals and touring with rock stars. Randolph’s string wizardry is the focal point of the Family Band’s legendary live shows, leading to appearances with the Blind Boys of Alabama, Ozzy Osbourne, the Dave Matthews Band and Eric Clapton. Their latest release, produced by Grammy and Oscar winner T Bone Burnett is due out this spring.
After a knockout performance in a captivating debut last year, 25 year old bassist Esperanza Spalding is back for an encore by popular demand. Blending innovative vocal stylings with uncanny instrumental chops, she has already taken the jazz world by storm, performing with such distinguished musicians as Stanley Clarke, Dave Samuels, Pat Metheny and others. Clearly an up and coming star, she performed at the White House in February, 2009 and was also invited to play at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in honor of President Obama.
Grammy Award-winning trumpeter, bandleader, and recording artist Irvin Mayfield is the founder and artistic director of the lauded 16 piece New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Their music re-imagines unique New Orleans styles, blending them into a 21st century jazz sound that has quickly established him as one of the young giants of jazz. Playing at prominent performing arts venues and clubs throughout the United States, NOJO has become one of the most successful touring jazz orchestras in the country. In 2009 their release, Book One, garnered the Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, and the orchestra completed a 20-city tour of “New Orleans Then and Now,” considered a multi-media musical tour de force.
Also making their highly anticipated debut, three-time Grammy-nominated Tiempo Libre brings the rich traditions of Cuban music to the modern sounds of today. Celebrated for their dance-inducing performances, the first authentic all-Cuban timba band in the United States blends high voltage Latin jazz with the seductive rhythms of ‘son’. Now touring the world to sold out crowds, Tiempo Libre was featured on the finale of TV’s top rated Dancing with the Stars, and consistently wows audiences wherever they go
Returning as master of ceremonies for his 29th year is jazz aficionado Bill Cosby, who will again bring together his own group of noted musicians. Featured in this year’s Cos of Good Music are distinguished bassist and composer Dwayne Burno, three-time Grammy-nominated world class drummer and percussionist Ndugu Chancler, two-time Grammy-winning saxophonist Mark Gross, vibes great Jay Hoggard, Juno Award-winning Canadian pianist DD Jackson and trumpeter/flugelhornist Ingrid Jensen, also a Juno Award winner.
A creative force on the Bay Area music scene for more than a decade, the loose knit band of musicians known collectively as the Jazz Mafia, has made a major contribution to contemporary jazz through their hip-hop symphony Brass, Bows and Beats. Seamlessly combining Latin polyrhythms, boom-bap rhymes, melancholy ballads, swinging jazz and blistering solos, while adhering to symphonic structure, the multi-thematic, genre-defying work both embraces and expands jazz tradition. With top-tier brass players and a premium rhythm section, The Jazz Mafia form one of the most powerful assemblies of virtuosic performers on the West Coast that should make for another exciting Festival debut.
Opening Saturday’s show at 2:30 p.m. is The El Dorado High School Band (the first school from Orange County to ever perform at the Festival) under the direction of Richard Watson. The L.A. All District High School Jazz Band under the Direction of Tony White and J.B.Dyas will open the show on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
Darlene Chan, president of FestivalWest Inc. is the producer for the Playboy Jazz Festivals for the 32nd consecutive year. Hugh Hefner is executive producer and Richard Rosenzweig is president of the Playboy Jazz Festival.
Tickets are available through Ticketmaster now. Patrons can purchase tickets online at www.ticketmaster.com, over the phone by calling (213) 365-3500 or (714) 740-7878, at any Ticketmaster outlet or by downloading a ticket order form available at www.playboyjazzfestival.com. There is also a link to the Ticketmaster website on the Playboy Jazz Festival website.
Nina Gordon Public Relations