You missed it.
The 2013 Playboy Jazz Festival was off the meat rack Father’s Day weekend at the Hollywood Bowl.
I’m not going to lie. I never even liked jazz until now.
The crowd’s reaction to Saturday’s performances by Gregory Porter, Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band featuring James Carter, Naturally 7 featuring Herbie Hancock, and George Duke featuring Jeffrey Osborne, had me convinced that I was missing something significant in my life.
From the–I can’t see nothing seats–to the VIP floor seats–standing room only was the theme.
To keep the crowd company and rollin’ on the floor laughing was none other than one of Cali’s favorite comedian’s George Lopez.
“I aint gonna lie,” Lopez joked, “A lot of men’s childhoods would have been bleaker without Hugh Hefner.”
What’s been happening here in the last 35 years, Lopez adds, “has not been duplicated anywhere else in the world…Bill Cosby is such an instrumental part of all of this.”
Lopez is humble when he talks about the opportunity he’s been afforded and proudly announced the first Mexican American Playmate of the Year Raquel Pomplun. “When everything goes right, it goes right!” Lopez shouts.
On the real though, Lopez was dapper, dapper indeed. He had on dark blue jeans, a fresh T(shirt) and the bombest Jimmy Choo vans I had ever seen.
“Depending on how you feel about leather, I won’t tell you if they’re real or not, Lopez said. “I don’t want to get no paint thrown on me.”
Hefner was there, of course, still in awe of the 35 years of success of the Playboy Jazz Festival. During a lengthy session with the media backstage on the first day of the festival, Hefner spoke on Lopez’s work as host.
“I am very pleased with the choice and the response,” Hefner said about Lopez. “It’s a wonderful humorous and Latin connection that has expanded into Spanish and other cultures. It’s perfect.”
Moving right along would be class in a bottle, Mr. Gregory Porter. This jazz singer is cold, untouchable and a performer who is must-see.
He’s humble and has the ability to put a beautiful sound to the social ills of the world.
“In terms of genre, I don’t fear stepping over some lines in terms of soul, gospel or anything like that because they [music] are very close cousins,” Porter said.
Porter’s musical inspiration comes from loving everything about love itself, nature, and his son. He routinely uses these subjects as sources to help him write his songs.
When asked about a collaboration with R&B artists, Porter replied that he was blown away that Jill Scott knew his music.
“My realest experience, though, was when someone had told me that Erykah Badu knew my work and replied, “Oh! His black ass can sing!”
“I’m honored by that,” Porter said smiling, “I’m truly honored.”
As the festival progressed, Poncho Sanchez, his Latin Jazz Band and James Carter did their thing on stage, mixing it up with a soulful Latin sound that had the crowd screaming for more.
“We just got home two nights ago.” Sanchez said about the band’s recent travels. “We just did Boston, Vermont, D.C. and B.B. Kings in New York City, and now we here.”
I’m glad. He had me doing moves I didn’t even know I could do.
“Of course, Sanchez added, “You know us; we’re always doing some good salsa because people like to get up and dance.”
The sun is beginning to set and people are beginning to simmer down.
Naturally 7, the group with no instruments enters the stage. Did I say no instruments?
Yes, I said no instruments. How do they make their music you might ask?
Well, Roger Thomas is the group’s arranger and sings baritone. Walter Thomas is the master at creating percussive sounds, and also sounds like a guitar or a clarinet. Garfield Buckley imitates the harmonica. Rod Eldridge is the trumpeter. Dwight Stewart is the band’s second baritone. Napoleon “Polo” Cummings emulates an electric guitar, and Hops Hutton sings the bass lines.
The group performed with the legendary Herbie Hancock. To watch them on stage with this musical extraordinaire was a treat in itself.
“We’ve never been on stage with an individual instrument. This was unique in itself and we all felt really, really honored to have somebody of that stature to be willing to join us on stage,” Roger Thomas said.
“We honored Hancock for the BET Honors Tribute a couple of years ago, “Hutton said. “That might have been where they got the idea from.”
Their voices are amazing and its a wonder how they maintain them.
“We found that sleep really is one of the main ways to recuperate,” said Hutton. “None of us drink or smoke either. God gave us this gift and we don’t have any instruments to lean on so its kind of all that we have.”
To fuse their vocal play with the lyrics of a hip hop artist would be crazy right?
“That would be sick,” Hutton said. ” But we actually kind of did that with Ludacris for Quincy Jones’ Soul Bossa Nova CD, a couple of years ago. Luda was rapping over it and we were the background, we came up and did some lead singing too. It works.”
And I believe them.
These brothers are a naturally talented group of good guys with a blessed future.
But don’t take my word for it.
To experience Naturally 7 is to hear them. It’s called “vocal play.” It’s also the name of their latest CD. These brothers have been around for thirteen years and are finally looking forward to their first official US release entitled “Hidden in Plain Sight,” scheduled to be released this fall.
“We want our new listeners to feel something special and want to know more about us,” said Cummings. “We’re passionate about what we do and in all our music our theme is to love one another and love God.”
Good luck, fellas.