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Playboy Jazz Festival at Hollywood Bowl this weekend (June 13 and 14)

Fest marks 31st anniversary

Posted: June 11, 2009 5:06 p.m.
Updated: June 12, 2009 6:03 a.m.

The Pete Escovedo Orchestra headlined the last two Loose Goose wine festivals in Santa Clarita and perform a Saturday set at the Playboy Jazz Festival. From left: Juan (conguero, percussion); Pete (timbales, percussion); Sheila E. (drums, percussion); and Peter Michael (percussion).

Sax legend Wayne Shorter, Grammy-winning vocalist Patti Austin, soprano sax superstar Kenny G, Latin-jazz kings Pete Escovedo and Oscar Hernandez, New Orleans favorite sons The Neville Brothers and New Birth Jazz Band, and Jimmy Cobb's all-star 50th anniversary tribute to Miles Davis' epochal "Kind of Blue" album are just a few highlights from the stellar lineup performing at the Hollywood Bowl this weekend as part of the 31st annual Playboy Jazz Festival.

Festival producer Darlene Chan and crew have again fielded a diverse lineup balancing legends of the past, present and future.

Among the legends-to-be is 24-year-old Cuba-born pianist Alfredo Rodriquez, a Quincy Jones protege whose performance at the festival Sunday will be his first on an American stage.

For veterans, the Nevilles, it never gets old.

"It's always great to perform at the Bowl," said Aaron Neville of "Tell It Like it Is" and "Don't Know Much" solo fame of the brothers' first Playboy Jazz appearance in more years than he can remember.

He said their Saturday set would be "some old, some new - a real gumbo of Nevilles and New Orleans music."

Brothers Aaron (vocals, percussion), Art (vocals, Hammond organ), Charles (vocals, sax) and Cyril (vocals, percussion) will include tunes from their band-produced "Walking in the Shadow of Life" album, which features sibs plus half a dozen sons.

"Cyril will play Professor Longhair's ‘Tipitina' and I'm doing a version of ‘Sara Smile' by Hall & Oates," Aaron said, with backing from "Mean" Willie Green (drums), Makuni Fakuda (guitar), Chris Severin (bass) and Michael Goods (keyboards).

"We'll get together before we go on stage and make up the rest of our set list," Aaron said.

Also a family affair, the Pete Escovedo Orchestra stars patriarch Pete (timbales) plus progeny Juan (congas/percussion), Peter Michael (percussion) and Sheila E. (drums), backed by a tight, horn-driven rhythm section.

The Escovedos, who headlined the last two Loose Goose Wine Festivals and have a solid fan base in the Santa Clarita Valley, plan to play signature songs on Saturday plus showcase a few from the orchestra's forthcoming "Love is All Around" album.

While the four leaders have extensive track records on their own, the new album marks "the first time (all four) have collaborated on something together," Pete said, adding that session guests included Prince, Joss Stone, Gloria Estefan, George Duke, and Earth, Wind & Fire.

"It was a great experience to finally do a family CD, after all these years of playing on each other's projects," Sheila E. said. "So we have new music to play at the Hollywood Bowl. This is our second time, and we're really excited."

Saturday's "Kind of Blue @50" homage to trumpet legend Miles Davis' 1959 "Kind of Blue" album by Jimmy Cobb's So What Band makes a direct connection to that epochal album, the classic era it represents, and to Playboy itself.

"The very first Playboy (magazine) interview was with Miles," said Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, 83, who staged the first Playboy Jazz Festival in Chicago in 1959.

Now considered one of the greatest jazz albums ever recorded, "Kind of Blue" is certified quadruple platinum for sales of more than four million copies.

Drummer Cobb, 80, a longtime Harlem resident, is the sole surviving player from those historic sessions half a decade ago.

"The sound was good and the guys were playing really good, but I never figured it would last 50 years," Cobb said. "It was probably just our time so I'm glad to have been part of it. And now we're going to try to reproduce it, so people can feel what we felt. The guys we have right now are kin to what was happening back then."

At the Bowl, Cobb will sit on a throne behind an all-star group featuring Wallace Roney (trumpet), Javon Jackson (tenor sax), Vincent Herring (alto sax), Larry Willis (piano) and Buster Williams (bass).

"If Miles were alive, he would have picked Wallace to do this," Cobb said. "In fact, Miles did pick him one time. The last little gig Miles did in France with Quincy Jones, he had Wallace standing right next to him. I guess (Miles) wasn't feeling well that day, and if anything happened where he couldn't play, Wallace could do it for him. That's how much Miles thought of Wallace."


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