29th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival
In between, bassist Richard Bona channeled Jaco Pastorius while saluting his own African roots and Brazilian influences. In the next set, Terence Blanchard's trumpet blew hot as he merged African and Middle Eastern sounds. The charts were sparked by saxophonist Brice Winston, whom the leader described as "the eighth wonder of the world, a jazz musician from Tucson (Blanchard must not realize that Tucson and Phoenix have 30-year reputations for abundant jazz activity, producing New York-based stars such as drummer Lewis Nash, saxophonist Tony Malaby and Winston.)
Bassist Marcus Miller delivered funk-groove, adding harmonica and organ for Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground and The Beatles' "Come Together (prompting swaying audience singalongs). "When I Fall in Love fell victim to too much gimmickry via three electric keyboards, funky percussion and a bass clarinet.
Vocalist Dianne Reeves varied her set to include her usual message-songs and familiar ballads, but the result lacked energy from too many slow charts for an outdoor crowd.
Guitarist-vocalist Norman Brown's Summer Storm band closed the festival, featuring saxophonist Marion Meadows, keyboardist Jeff Lorber and singer Peabo Bryson (superb on "Show and Tell ). This combination of stars kept the energy at a super-high level, but many still left the Bowl early, invariably thinking of Monday morning responsibilities.
Addendum: A special treat in the Bowl's nosebleed section was a large quilt of a dozen vintage Playboy festival t-shirts, hand-made by collector John Berkheimer of Phoenix, attracting a constant stream of admirers.