The 30th annual Playboy Jazz Festival, one of the largest jazz festivals in the nation, will be staged in the Hollywood Bowl on June 14 and 15, 2008.
The diverse program in the 18,000-seat outdoor amphitheater will feature mainstream and contemporary jazz, big bands, R&B and Latin sounds. Among the headliners will be Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dr. John, Poncho Sanchez, Tower of Power, Keb' Mo', the all-women's band DIVA and RnR (Rick Braun-Richard Elliott).
New ticket options this year are online purchases at www.ticketmaster.com, by phone (213-365-3500 or 714-740-7878), at Ticketmaster outlets or by downloading a ticket order form available at www.playboyjazzfestival.com. There also is a link to the Ticketmaster website on the festival website. All box seats are sold out, but Saturday and Sunday seats still are available. The festival hotline is 310-450-1173.
The first Playboy Jazz Festival was staged in 1979 in the Hollywood Bowl, and since then has presented the who's who of jazz, from Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie to the next era of superstars such as Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, George Benson and Dianne Reeves. The festival is known for its revolving stage (simulating a record-player turntable), with one band rotating off as another arrives.
With an Oscar and 12 Grammy awards to his credit, Hancock is riding the wave of his latest CD, River: The Joni Letters," a tribute to songwriter Joni Mitchell that won the 2008 Album of the Year Grammy, only the second jazz album to win the award. During his half-century career, Hancock has explored jazz, rock, soul and funk. He will perform with bassist David Holland, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, saxophonist Chris Potter and guitarist Lionel Loueke, performing selections from the CD, as well as material from his extensive repertoire.
Vocalist Jarreau, returning for his fifth festival, has won Grammy awards in three categories of jazz, pop and R&B. His catalog of platinum and gold albums includes the hit singles, We're In This Love Together" and Moonlighting," theme from the popular TV series.
Returning to the Playboy stage for the third time, Grammy and Tony award-winning vocalist Bridgewater makes her festival debut with a group from Mali, including musicians and singers who will perform music from her latest album Red Earth, A Malian Journey." As celebration of Bridgewater's cultural roots, the concept blends Malian voices, music and traditional native instruments with American jazz. A versatile singer, her jazz styles vary from scat to the hard tones of John Coltrane to the cool blues of Duke Ellington.
Among the predictable crowd-pleasers will be the always-colorful Dr. John, performing New Orleans blues and boogie-woogie music. Recently inducted into the Louisiana Hall of Fame and widely known for his hit, Right Place, Wrong Time," he continues to tour with his Lower 911 band.
The R&B band Tower of Power will energize listeners with its signature horn-driven sound and high-energy performance that melds jazz, funk, rock and soul. Now experiencing a renaissance, the band continues to play to sell out crowds across the country.
Grammy-winning Latin jazz percussionist Poncho Sanchez always rouses the crowd to dance. He will be joined by guest singer-songwriter Eddie Floyd in a first-time performance together. Floyd, known for his classic hit, Knock on Wood," recently collaborated with Sanchez on the percussionist's new CD, featuring an updated version of that classic and other hits.
Two of the hottest superstars on today's contemporary jazz scene, Rick Braun (trumpet) and Richard Elliot (tenor sax), have formed their new R n R. Their eponymous CD became an instant No. 1 hit in the smooth-jazz genre.
One of the most enduring figures in modern jazz, octogenarian saxophonist James Moody will debut as the leader of his own group, having appeared previously at Playboy as a guest of Poncho Sanchez and Dizzy Gillespie. Best known for his signature composition, Moody's Mood for Love," at 82 he still plays with the fluid expression that made him a titan in Gillespie's All Star Band and one of the all-time tenor sax greats.
Singer-songwriter and blues guitarist Keb' Mo' will be back with his distinctive brand of Delta Blues. The singer-songwriter recently received his first gold album and a third Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Redefining the contemporary jazz scene is dazzling young pianist Hiromi. Fronting her own group, she creates an eclectic combination of traditional piano, bass and drums in the jazz, rock, funk and punk modes. Her first CD mesmerized the jazz community and her previous performance at Playboy captivated the audience.
The DIVA Jazz Orchestra will play the festival for the first time, led by drummer Shari Maricle. The 15-woman ensemble swings hard to generate the excitement of a historic big band, but with today's progressive sound and verve.
Returning as master of ceremonies for his 27th time is jazz aficionado extraordinaire Bill Cosby, who has organized a group of veteran musicians for the 10th year. Featured in the Cos of Good Music X" are pianist Benny Green, tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, keyboardist Jerry Peters, guitarist David T. Walker, Monk Institute Trumpet Competition winner Ambrose Akinsuire, bassist Dwayne Burno and percussionist Ndugu Chancler.
Also on the schedule are Grammy-winning trumpet great Roy Hargrove, who has performed at many previous festivals but this time leading the Roy Hargrove Big Band. The always-rotating Guitars & Saxes set, a staple of the smooth jazz genre since 1995, will perform a merger of urban and retro soul rhythms, blues rock and breezy, melodic guitar sounds, played by funky R&B-flavored saxophonist Gerald Albright; ultra-melodic British-born acoustic guitarist Peter White, blues-drenched electric guitarist Jeff Golub and grooving keyboard whiz Jeff Lorber.
Acclaimed songwriter Ivan Lins will perform with fellow Brazilian guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves, the pair's first performance together at Playboy. During his 35-year career, Lins has recorded 27 albums and brought his music to jazz and pop fans in the United States, Latin America, Europe and Japan.
Adding to the multicultural mix at this year's show will be Plena Libre, a 13-member Afro-Rican group, founded by bassist Gary Nunez. The Grammy winning group delivers sounds of Puerto Rico, taking its updated blend of roots music to many parts of the world, reclaiming the long-ignored folkloric music derived from the 100-year-old genre of Puerto Rican plen.
Veteran drummer Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Septet will perform an innovative approach to classic Thelonious Monk, exploring melodies and harmonies with four horns and a guitar, plus bass and drums. The septet features Bruce Williams (alto and soprano sax), Wayne Escoffery (tenor and soprano), Jay Brandford (baritone), Freddie Bryant (guitar) and Koyoshi Kitagawa (bass).
A performer new to the festival audience will be 27-year-old Robert Glasper, leading a piano trio about which Ben Ratliff of the New York Times wrote deserves comparison with the best of the newer piano trios, those led by Jason Moran, Bill Charlap and Brad Mehldau." Also making his debut will be singer-songwriter Ryan Shaw, 27, His repertoire blends original contemporary R&B songs, classics and obscure gems by Wilson Pickett, Jackie Wilson and Bobby Womack, aimed at reviving the passion and soul of The Golden Age of Rhythm & Blues" (1960-1972).
Hamilton High School Academy of Music's Jazz Ensemble A will launch the festival on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Opening Sunday's show at 2 p.m. will be View Park Prep Jazz Ensemble.
George Wein is producer of the Playboy Jazz Festival for the 30th consecutive year. Darlene Chan is associate producer for both the Playboy Jazz Festival and Festival Network, LLC. Hugh Hefner is executive producer and Richard Rosenzweig is president of the Playboy Jazz Festival.