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Jazz icons, young lions pace Playboy Jazz Fest stage June 13 & 14

Wayne Shorter, Miles tribute, Nevilles, Patti Austin, Escovedos, many more at Hollywood Bowl

Posted: February 27, 2009 2:39 a.m.
Updated: February 27, 2009 2:30 p.m.
Hugh Hefner: Playboy Jazz Festival founder and executive producer for 31 years. Hugh Hefner: Playboy Jazz Festival founder and executive producer for 31 years.
Hugh Hefner: Playboy Jazz Festival founder and executive producer for 31 years.

Some of the most exciting and internationally renowned names in jazz will come together when the 2009 Playboy Jazz Festival, now in its 31st year, presents a stellar lineup of talent Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14 at the landmark Hollywood Bowl.

The two-day event, which annually attracts more than 35,000 fans, celebrates the entire spectrum of jazz. This year's slate of performers will feature an eclectic mix of veteran jazz icons, today's hottest young stars, world music performers, and Festival favorites.

More than half a century after launching his multi-faceted career, Grammy-winning saxophonist Wayne Shorter is regarded as a living legend in jazz. His work with such illustrious groups as Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis' famous mid-1960s quintet (with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams) and fusion supergroup Weather Report (which he co-founded with Joe Zawinul), is enough to ensure him a spot in the Jazz Hall of Fame. Returning with his noted quartet featuring acclaimed musicians Brian Blade, John Patitucci and Danilo Perez, Shorter will again take festival-goers on a musical journey of creative expression and musical interpretation as only he can do.

Carrying the torch of their rich, New Orleans R&B legacy, The Neville Brothers are sure to shake things up when they bring their blues-soaked, funkified bayou grooves to their highly anticipated performance. Bonded by blood as well as their musical passions, The Nevilles have each had lengthy careers as both solo performers and members of the group that bears their family name. After 28 years of playing together, the Brothers (Art, an inspiring singer and blistering keyboardist; Charles, a sax player known for his love of bebop; vocalist Aaron, considered one of today's seminal soul singers, and youngest brother Cyril, who brings a roughewn mix of R&B and bayou funk to the band;) continue to provoke and excite audiences around the world. Together, they are sure to ignite the crowd.

One of the world's most popular Grammy-winning artists, Kenny G has become the biggest-selling instrumental musician of today, with global sales exceeding more than 75 million albums. Making his first return to the Playboy stage since his 1986 Festival debut (and his subsequent 1987 and 1988 appearances) that first introduced him to the public, Kenny G will once again entice fans with the signature sound and memorable melodies that catapulted him to stardom. Now a multi-platinum sensation, he will perform material from his extensive repertoire of hits and his latest CD, "Rhythm and Romance," a celebration of his love for Latin music. His return appearance brings him full circle from unknown artist to superstar.

Since breaking through to solo success, Grammy-winner Patti Austin has become one of the world's most popular and versatile vocalists. A mainstay on the Billboard charts (for such hits as "Baby Come to Me"), she has 17 solo albums to her credit and has performed her award-nominated hit songs on both the Grammys and the Oscars. The ultimate jazz/R&B/pop crossover artist, Austin capped her star-studded career in 2008 with a Grammy Award for her critically acclaimed album "Avant Gershwin," proving she can swing with the best of them.

Nearly 50 years since its original release in 1959, Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" has become the trumpet legend's best-selling album as well as the best-selling jazz record of all time. And in 2002, "Kind of Blue" was one of 50 recordings added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. To commemorate this milestone, legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb (the only surviving member from the original recording) will lead a live, onstage presentation -- Miles Davis: Kind of Blue: 50 Years On, showcasing new, straight-ahead interpretations of the album's original classic pieces. Making his long awaited Festival debut, Cobb and his So What band, featuring all-star musicians Wallace Roney (trumpet), Javon Jackson (tenor saxophone), Vincent Herring (alto saxophone), Larry Willis (piano); and Buster Williams, will highlight the legacy and lineage of the players from the original studio recording.

Always a crowd pleaser, Grammy-winning guitarist Norman Brown is back with another rendition of his popular multi-artist ensemble Summer Storm, featuring popular contemporary jazz superstars bass player Wayman Tisdale and saxophonist Eric Darius, with Gail Johnson. Known for his breezy guitar licks, smooth grooves and silky melodies, Brown's career has gone into overdrive since his 2002 Grammy for "Just Chilliin.'" Five years after Brown created the rotating group of top smooth jazz artists, Summer Storm is still a hot ticket with fans across the country.

Whatever the context -- whatever the style -- trumpet great Jon Faddis epitomizes the best in jazz, possessing a virtually unparalleled range and full command of his instrument. In the last decade, Faddis has recorded with Ray Brown, the Heath Brothers, Joe Henderson, Milt Hinton, J.J. Johnson and Lalo Schifrin, among others. He will be joined by members of the Jon Faddis Quartet, including David Hazeltine (piano); Kiyoshi Kitagawa (bass); and Dion Parson (drums); all of whom performed with him on his 2006 CD, "Teranga."

A premier improviser, Jack Sheldon is one of only a handful of trumpet players known for his inimitable signature style. Along with Lester Young in the ‘30s, Dizzy Gillespie in the'40s and Zoot Sims in the ‘50s, Jack Sheldon is one of the "Original Lions" of the famous 1950s West Coast Sound. An integral part of that scene, he played a key role in developing that era's be-bop-inspired sound, as showcased in the Blue Note Records retrospective "West Coast Classics." A five-time recipient of the prestigious Playboy International Artist of the Year award, Sheldon continues to dazzle audiences in his live performances with his extraordinary technique and dexterity. Sheldon will make his Festival debut with his famous big band, The Jack Sheldon Orchestra.

Fueled by rave reviews for their music and live shows, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings have become a worldwide sensation. With their distinctive sound, R&B roots, and funk-threaded '60s soul music,

few devotedly retro acts are as convincing. Likened to Bettye LaVette and Tina Turner (in the Ike years), few singers are as good at instilling notes with heartache and deep meaning. What Jones brings to the funkified table has legs of its own, and they belong to Binky Griptite, Bugaloo Velez, Homer Steinweiss and Dave Guy, aka her Dap-Kings. Pop fans have experienced the group as the back-up band behind superstar Amy Winehouse's hit single "Rehab" and her multiple Grammy-winning album, Back to Black. Their highly anticipated Festival debut is sure to rock the house.

Bandleader, multi-instrumentalist, master timbale player, composer and Grammy nominee Pete Escovedo has been a major force in Latin music since the late 1960s. Expanding the boundaries between smooth jazz, salsa, Latin jazz, rock and contemporary pop, Escovedo also is the patriarch of a gifted musical family which includes his children Sheila (aka Sheila E., vocalist and drummer), Juan (a conguero and percussionist) and Peter Michael (drummer). Frequently, they all perform together as a family or in different pairings, as well as on their own. This year, they'll be playing together at the Festival as The Pete Escovedo Orchestra.

Considered one of today's most promising jazz artists, 24-year-old bassist, bandleader, songwriter and vocalist Esperanza Spalding is making her much anticipated Festival debut as the leader of her own band. Having developed a distinctly individual sound, she has been captivating audiences everywhere with her innovative vocal stylings. On Feb. 25, she performed at The White House when President Obama presented The Library of Congress' "Gershwin Prize for Popular Song" to Stevie Wonder. She was also  just signed by retailer Banana Republic to be the face of their national spring and summer 2009 campaigns.

Returning as master of ceremonies for his 28th year, jazz aficionado extraordinaire Bill Cosby will again bring together his own group of veteran musicians. Featured in this year's Cos of Good Music are: noted bassist and composer Dwayne Burno; three time Grammy nominated drummer/ percussionist Ndugu Chancler; eclectic Israeli born clarinetist and sax player Anat Cohen, (also making her Festival debut with her own band); master percussionist Luis Conte; and Tanya Darby, a world class trumpeter spotted by Bill Cosby during her gig last year with the all female big band Diva; and multi-faceted composer and pianist Geoffrey Keezer.
Fresh from being the surprise hit of the recent Playboy Jazz Cruise, the eight members of the New Birth Brass Band are at the forefront of the recent New Orleans brass band renaissance. All virtuosos younger than 30, the group fuses hip-hop, funk, ragtime, modern jazz and Mardi Gras Indian chants with traditional Crescent City jazz into an eclectic sound distinctly their own. Having played with everyone from Wynton Marsalis to Dizzy Gillespie, the group has garnered national attention with features on MTV and articles in several high profile publications.

After a 10-year absence, the undisputed master of African JuJu music, King Sunny Ade, returns to the Festival stage. A true international star, Ade continues to thrill audiences in his native Nigeria and throughout the world with his dynamic live performances. Born into a family of Nigerian Royalty, the singer, guitarist, bandleader and entrepreneur is credited with bringing Nigeria's cross-cultural hybrid of traditional African music and western pop to international prominence. He and his colorful group bring myriad innovations to the dance-inspiring blend of multiple electric guitars, synthesizers, multi-layer percussion, rhythmic integration and traditional call-and-response music that always thrills the crowd.

At the pinnacle of his career, bassist Dave Holland has settled into the unassuming role of jazz master. The British born, multi-award and poll-winning bassist, composer, arranger and bandleader leads two of the most vibrant groups in jazz, the Dave Holland Quintet and the Dave Holland Big Band. Making his Festival debut with his big band, Holland is also known for his collaborations in two of the top jazz collectives of the decade, the ScoLoHoFo quartet (comprised of Holland, John Scofield, Joe Lovano and Al Foster) and the Herbie Hancock-piloted all-star quartet including Wayne Shorter and Brian Blade.

During his five-decade career, pianist Monty Alexander has built a reputation for exploring the worlds of American jazz, popular song, and the music of his native Jamaica with a sincere spirit of musical expression. Appearing for the first time with his reggae band, Alexander has made 70 albums as a leader, and has performed and recorded with such top artists as Frank Sinatra, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Quincy Jones and many others. In 2008, Alexander conceived and directed the acclaimed program Lords of the West Indies at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

A pillar of contemporary Latin jazz and salsa, pianist, producer and arranger Oscar Hernandez is regarded as one of the most gifted, prominent musicians on the Latin music scene. Now living in Los Angeles, Hernandez and the new Conga Room All Stars will heat things up with their Festival debut. Also the leader of the Grammy-winning 13-member Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Hernandez is known for his early ethnic, urban sound and work as musical director, composer and arranger for the acclaimed Rubin Bladés Band. Credited with putting Bladés on the map, Hernandez has performed and recorded with the late ‘Queen of Salsa' Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Julio Iglesias, Johnny Pacheco, Earl Klugh, Oscar De'leon, Willie Colon and many others.

Making her Festival debut with her own band, as well as the Cos of Good Music, Israeli-born clarinetist and sax player Anat Cohen is one of the primary musical voices of her generation. Playing three kinds of saxophone, (soprano, alto and tenor) her unique ability to segue between musical genres as diverse as Brazilian Choro, mainstream jazz, Klezmer, Afro Cuban rhythms and classical music are what define her as one of the most distinctive musicians today.

Twenty-three-year-old Alfredo Rodriguez launched his career as a go-to producer and musical director for some of Havana's most famous musicians,(including his father) and as a musical composer for a number of popular Cuban television shows. In a rare outing outside Cuba at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2006, his incredible performance caught the attention of legendary producer Quincy Jones. Jones was so impressed, he returned home and immediately instructed his staff to find a way to work with the young talent. Since then, Rodriguez defected to the United States and was granted political asylum in 2008. Now Jones' newest protégé, Rodriguez will make his Festival debut, one of his first performances in the United States.

The Los Angeles County High School For the Arts Jazz Ensemble opens Saturday's show at 2:30 p.m. under the direction of Jason Goldman. Opening Sunday's show at 2:00 p.m. is the North Hollywood High School Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Jonathan Kenion.

Darlene Chan, president of FestivalWest Inc., is the producer for the Playboy Jazz Festivals for the 31st consecutive year. Hugh Hefner is executive producer and Richard Rosenzweig is president of the Playboy Jazz Festival.


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