*Los Angeles – A festive, upbeat party mood was the norm during the 32nd Annual Playboy Jazz Festival presented in cooperation with the L.A. Philharmonic Association, June 12-13, 2010. The festival was held at the historic Hollywood Bowl.
I couldn’t make it to the Bowl in time to see the opening act, El Dorado High School Jazz Band under the direction of Richard Watson. I always try to begin the festival by enjoying the talents of the next generation of jazz legends.
I’m sure that the next act was the first in the history of the Playboy Jazz Festival to perform solo to my knowledge. Jake Shimabukuro is a unique musical artist, recognized internationally as an exciting and innovative ukulele player and composer. Festival attendees had to stop pulling their coolers etc. and take note of this talented artist showmanship on the ukulele.
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue served up a tasty set of “SupaFunkRock.” The audience and I thoroughly enjoyed every morsel dished out by the group. A sea of handkerchiefs could be viewed all over the Bowl to the following tunes “American Women,” “You Got The Same Thing On,” “Let’s Get It Started,” “Higher Ground,” an upbeat version of “St. James Infirmary,” and concluded with “When The Saints Go Marching In.”
Vocalist Kurt Elling was dressed to the nines for his Bowl debut. His trademarked vocal styling’s and scatting delighted the crowd. His tight band featured Ernie Watts-sax; Laurence Hobgood-piano; Harris Raghavan-bass; and Ulysses Owen on drums. I’m not sure if this was a coincident that Kurt Elling was singing “Golden Lady” at the same time as Hugh Hefner and his beautiful entourage was making their grand entrance to their boxed seats that were front and center. Kurt saluted Hef with a few choruses of “Hail to the Chief.”
Javon Jackson Band was bopping for most of their set before performing the classic tunes “Cold Duck Time,” and “Compared to What” with special guest Les McCann.
I must admit that I was one of many who kept looking on stage for instruments during the performance of Naturally 7. The crowd and I were blown away with this acapella group’s ability to imitate actual instruments. They were excellent on “Waiting for Your Love,” “Come Together,” and their sensational YouTube hit/version of “I Can F eel It In the Air” by Phil Collins. Check out this video on YouTube. You will not believe what you are hearing and or seeing without instruments. Everyone of their CD’s that were on sale sold out at the CD booth on site. Quite naturally, pun intended.
Marcus Miller Band with special guest trumpeter Christian Scott revisited the Tutu CD by Miles Davis. The band got busy with some funky grooves for the last half of their set. Don’t be surprise if Christian Scott returns to the Bowl for the Playboy Jazz Festival next year with his band.
The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra features an All-Star roster of Los Angeles based musicians. Their set of straight-ahead jazz was another of the many highlights of the festival.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar presented Chick Corea with a birthday cake to kick off his set. The band dived into some original tunes featuring some amazing solos by Chick Corea, saxophonist Kenneth Garrett and Christian McBride on bass. Legendary drummer Roy Haynes rounded out the band.
The cliché “the family that a play together; eventually jams together” applies to Pete Escovedo Orchestra featuring Sheila E., Peter Michael and Juan Escovedo. They were hands down crowd pleasers as the crowd got their groove on dancing the cha-cha and salsa to the contagious Latin rhythms laid out by the band.
Sax for Stax with Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum and Jeff Lorber closed out the first day of the festival with some smooth jazz.
I also missed seeing the opening act on Sunday, the L.A. All District High School Band under the direction of Tony White and J.B. Dyas.
The Jazz Mafia’s Brass Bows and Beats served up a smorgasbord of sounds of epic proportions. This was the largest group on the line-up of about 50 band members. They also served up a delicious four course meal of sounds featuring some hip-hop, jazz, big band jazz and some tunes that would fit perfectly as a soundtrack for a movie.
The Cos of Good Music is always a treat to hear each year. This year the band consisted of Bill Cosby and Ndugu Chancler on drums; Mark Gross-saxophones; Jay Hoggard-vibes; D.D. Jackson-piano; Ron Johnson and Dwayne Burno on bass and Ingrid Jensen wailing away on trumpet.
Robert Randolph Family Band was making a return engagement to the festival to deliver another explosive set of original tunes including the crowd favorite “It Doesn’t Matter.” Robert Randolph can add actor to his resume. He did a superb job portraying Bo Diddley in the movie Who Do You Love. This is a movie worth purchasing if you haven’t already had the pleasure of viewing in its limited release in theaters.
Esperanza Spalding is fast becoming a Media/Press and crowd favorite at the festival. This is another return engagement to the Bowl to showcase her boundless energy with a memorable set consisting of some Afro-Cuban jazz and Brazilian music with some funk and pop.
The Playboy Jazz Festival continued their association with the Crescent City acknowledged as the birthplace of jazz. Irving Mayfield & The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra didn’t disappoint the jazz purist in the house. The band also featured a rising new jazz vocalist Johnaye Kendrick for a few songs.
I could have listened to Bobby Hutcherson & Cedar Walton Quartet all evening. This wouldn’t be fair to others on the line-up. These two legends still remain true and pure to America’s number one art form-JAZZ.
Salif Keita was another highlight of the two day festival. This was his debut performance at the festival, which I hope will not be his last. Mr. Keita is an internationally known Afro-Pop singer who continues to delight audiences all over the world. Festival goers and I were treated to a special evening of World music.
The Manhattan Transfer and George Benson were extremely entertaining in their respective time slots.
Miami based Tiempo Libre brought down the house to closed out the 32nd Playboy Jazz Festival. Their was a huge conga line snaking out the Bowl to the parking lots and waiting shuttles. A good time was had by all.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected].