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Updated: Playboy Jazz Fest throws 30th birthday bash at the Bowl

Free Community Concerts May 4, May 9, June 1

Posted: February 28, 2008 6:06 p.m.
Updated: May 26, 2008 6:19 p.m.

Pictured at the Playboy Mansion for the unveiling of the artist lineup for the 30th annual Playboy Jazz Festival in June are (standing, from left): Hugh Hefner, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Bill Cosby, Michael Lington, Poncho Sanchez, Ernie Andrews, Marcus Miller, Ndugu Chancler, Dan Taguchi, David T. Walker and Jerry Peters. In front are Raya Yarbrough...

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WEST LOS ANGELES - "Album of the Year" ("River: The Joni Letters") Grammy-winner Herbie Hancock, jazz-pop vocal legend Al Jarreau, New Orleans favorite son Dr. John, celebrated blues singer-songwriter Keb' Mo', Grammy- and Tony-winner Dee Dee Bridgewater, funk forefathers Tower of Power, the fiery Poncho Sanchez Latin Band and the unpredictable COS of Good Music ensemble are among the topliners slated to perform onstage at the Hollywood Bowl Father's Day weekend, June 14-15, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Playboy Jazz Festival.

Longtime festival emcee Bill Cosby and associate producer Darlene Chan, along with Playboy founder and Playboy Jazz Festivals executive producer Hugh Hefner and president Dick Rosenzweig, hosted a press conference at the Playboy Mansion Wednesday afternoon to unveil the artist lineup for the festival's birthday bash.

"The festival is one of the major party celebrations everybody looks forward to all year long," Hefner told The Signal in an exclusive interview.

Approximately 200 performers, festival officials and media reps from around the world gathered under a huge tent in the mansion's backyard, adjacent to the famous grotto and exotic bird aviary.

Saturday afternoon and evening's performers are Jarreau; Sanchez and band with special guest Eddie Floyd; the James Moody Quartet; Dr. John; Tower of Power; R n R featuring Rick Braun and Richard Elliot; Hiromi's Sonicbloom; Sherrie Maricle & The Diva Jazz Orchestra; COS of Good Music featuring Ambrose Akinmusire, Dwayne Burno, Ndugu Chancler, Benny Green, Billy Harper, Jerry Peters and David T. Walker; Robert Glasper; and the Hamilton High School Academy of Music Jazz Ensemble "A" under the direction of Dan Taguchi.

On Sunday afternoon and evening, Cosby will introduce Hancock with Dave Holland, Vinnie Colaiuta, Chris Potter and Lionel Loueke; Keb' Mo'; the Roy Hargrove Big Band; Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Jeff Golub, Jeff Lorber and Peter White; Bridgewater and Red Earth: A Malian Journey; Ivan Lins with special guest Oscar Castro-Neves; the Monk Legacy Septet featuring Ben Riley; Plena Libre; Ryan Shaw; and the View Park Prep Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Fernando Pullum.

The roster's diversity reflects the many styles of jazz, its generations of shared influences, and a bright future for America's only original musical art form.

Several of the festival performers were present, among them Hancock, Chancler, Walker, Bridgewater, Sanchez, White, Peters, Taguchi, Braun, and Jessy J (keyboardist with Guitars & Saxes).

Afro-Cuban ace Poncho Sanchez brought his band to the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center for a well-received performance last summer.

"Yeah, that was cool," he said. "We always do well in that area."

Sanchez said he was excited to be working with soul legend Eddie Floyd at the Bowl this June. "That's right, Memphis, Tenn., Stax Records, 'Knock on Wood' -- we're gonna do that for sure," Sanchez said. "And my latest CD is titled 'Raise Your Hand,' and that's also an Eddie Floyd number -- he wrote it with Steve Cropper. So we'll be doing that and some other new things and some favorites, too."

"For me, it's not a matter of any particular performer, it's always the whole event," Hefner said when asked which artist he was looking forward to seeing most this year.

"But I'm just thrilled and delighted to have Herbie (Hancock) here," Hefner said. "He's a friend who goes way back. We're so proud of him and his Grammy win, and what it means not only for him but also for jazz in general, the recognition of jazz. That makes it very exciting."

Hefner confessed both surprise and gratitude that the festival has partied on for three decades. "We've enjoyed continual support from the community," he said. "In other words, to have sell-out crowds most of the years is remarkable. Before the Playboy Jazz Festival arrived in 1979, the notion was that you could not fill the Hollywood Bowl with jazz. And (festival producer) George Wein had tried, without success. I didn't know it at the time, but the combination of Playboy's promotional ability and Wein's clear ability to find the artists and bring them in has been a winning combination."

"It's bigger than the 20th, or the 25th," Cosby quipped, when asked what he thought about the festival's 30th anniversary.

As emcee for many of those years, Cosby has a singular perspective. "We've lost an awful lot of great artists," he said. "I can focus on that time, what has happened in 30 years, what has happened to our masters. Some fantastic musicians have played the Bowl, and I feel strongly that for my smiling moments, I was right there, 12 feet away from the innovators, the greats, male, female, and the new music that came in under the umbrella of jazz."

This year, for the first time, Playboy Jazz Festival tickets are available through Ticketmaster, either online at, by phone at (213) 365-3500 or (714) 740-7878, at any Ticketmaster outlet, or by downloading a ticket order form available at

There is also a link to the Ticketmaster site on the festival site.

Leading up to the big birthday weekend at the Hollywood Bowl are three smaller community concerts, all free and open to the public.

Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers and Bobby Rodriguez' LatinJazz will perform at the Beverly Hills Civic Center starting 3 p.m. Sunday, May 4.

The L.A. Multi-School Jazz Band under the direction of Reggie Andrews will play at the Bradley Senior Center in Watts 11 a.m. Friday, May 9.

Michael Lington, Ernie Andrews, B-Side Players, Raya Yarbrough, and the Chatsworth High School Band under the direction of Larry Williams will take the stage 1:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, June 1 at Warner Center Park in Woodland Hills.

Lington, Yarbrough and Andrews attended the Wednesday press conference to represent the community concerts, which are part of the festival's outreach program to introduce new fans to jazz.

Bassist and bandleader Marcus Miller also spoke to the audience about the first Playboy Jazz Cruise, scheduled for Jan. 25 to Feb. 1, 2009.

The inaugural cruise will set sail from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. on Holland America's M/S Westerdam and visit the Caribbean ports of San Juan, Saint Barth's, Nevis, and the private island of Half Moon Cay.

Performers scheduled to join host Miller on board include Hancock, Dianne Reeves, Sanchez with Eddie Floyd, Keb' Mo', Moody, Hargrove, James Carter, Eldar, Roberta Gambarini, and the New Birth Brass Band.

For more information, call the Playboy Jazz Festival hotline at (310) 450-1173 or visit


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