BEVERLY HILLS-This year’s Playboy Jazz Festival will feature a dash of something new as well incorporating a lot of old-school flavor to it. Fans of the annual celebration of jazz can expect a splendid mix of sauces that is sure to leave them with a taste for more. This year’s master of ceremonies won’t be the beloved and incomparable Bill Cosby, who has been part of this event about as much as any other individual associated with the yearly Father’s Day weekend tribute to jazz and blues.
That distinguished honor will go to the wonderfully talented funnyman George Lopez. If the announcement of this year’s talent at the Playboy Mansion is any indication, Lopez will likely hit the ball out of the ballpark with his quick wit and masterful improvisation of joke delivery. In layman’s terms, the guy is flat-out funny.
Longtime R&B and soul crooner Jeffrey Osborne and music-techno genius Herbie Hancock, both announced performers for the 35th Playboy Jazz Festival, can attest to this.
Lopez hilariously chided Osborne during the two-hour meet-and-greet between performers and the media about coming back to Staples Center and signing the national anthem for the Los Angeles Lakers so that they can get back to their winning ways.
Osborne, the former lead singer for the funk group LTD, go-hand-in-hand with the Lakers almost as well as the purple and gold colors on the jerseys the players wears, singing the national anthem for the team’s season home-opening game for nearly three decades. Lopez then took aim at Hancock with a soft needle about his likeness.
But the real story, of course, is about the music that makes the Playboy Jazz Festival such a phenomenon event. The music coming from the world-class performers announced for the two-day line-up is basically a Who’s Who in the musical armchair called jazz. Osborne, making his Playboy Jazz Festival debut, will team up and headline with the legendary George Duke on first day of the festival. It is a good time for Osborne to be front and center on jazz’s greatest platform.
His latest release is a jazz CD aptly titled, “A Time for Love.” Hancock will make a special appearance with the gifted Naturally 7, whom iconic producer Quincy Jones referred to as “Take 6 on steroids.” In 2010, Naturally 7 was an immediate hit with the Playboy Jazz Festival crowd with their incredible abilities to make music through their natural audio skills that they call “vocal play” and largely without technological instruments.
This group is special. To fully appreciate this band and their style of music-one must come out and hear and watch them perform. Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band and the amazing Grace Kelly Quintet will shake things up.
Anchoring down the last day of show will be Sheila E., who set the Hollywood Bowl on fire down last year with an electric performance. If she was nervous about playing to the right tune that the Playboy Jazz Festival fans would accept last year, she won’t have such worries this time around.
Performing several numbers with her father-the great Pete Escovedo-Sheila E. didn’t just make it rain at the Playboy Jazz Festival, she brought the thunder and called down the lighting with a spectacular performance.
No doubt, the talented drummer will be called upon to deliver another knockout performance. But she won’t be the only heavy hitter on Sunday’s lineup card. Pianist Bob James and horn man David Sanborn will be hooking up. India Arie will be making her first appearance. Quincy Jones and songstress Patti Austin and the great Hubert Laws will be on stage as well.
The strongest emotion, however, may well be reserved for the tribute that the Brubeck Brothers Quartet does in honor of the late, great Dave Brubeck, who passed away last December.