Hugh Hefner will present his 34th Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl next month. Many legendary names of jazz, blues and pop — Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Etta James — have graced the bowl’s stage throughout the festival’s history.
The Hollywood event will be Saturday, June 16, until Father’s Day, June 17.
This year’s headliners include Boney James and the Christian McBride Big Band on Saturday, with legendary jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis closing up the show on Sunday.
Bill Cosby is set to be the festival’s master of ceremonies.
The Hollywood Bowl is the ideal venue for kicking off the summer concert season. Tall, thick trees surround the theatre, keeping the sun out for most of the afternoon, which makes twilight at the bowl a cool, jazzy affair.
“I’ve had a lot of things to be proud of in my life, but nothing more, quite frankly, than the Jazz Festival,” said Hefner.
Concertgoers are invited to bring their own beer, food and picnic supplies.
Other notable performers are Los Angeles-based Latin hip-hop group Ozomatli. Unfortunately, the group will be without DJ Cut Chemist, a local legend and one of their founding members. Ozomatli will take the stage shortly before Ramsey Lewis on Sunday.
On Saturday, Nashville blues singer and guitarist Keb’ Mo’ will perform.
Julian Quintero has been attending the jazz festival with his father, John, for the past four years.
“My father goes every single year. He’s probably gone for the past 27 years. I’ve been going with him every Father’s Day weekend,” said Quintero. “It’s a really good event; it’s usually an older crowd, but it’s a really modern crowd.”
Quintero said that getting the opportunity to bring food and alcohol makes this concert a one-of-a-kind event.
“Hefner’s there every Saturday … Sunday he’s not there. He’s out being a father to I don’t know how many kids,” Quintero said.
Also on the bill for Saturday is the Global Gumbo All-Stars, a group of solo artists who get together and perform some of their best work. Lionel Loueke is the group’s vocalist and guitarist.
“Gumbo is a good title for it. Basically it’s four guys, each one doing a couple of their own songs,” said Jack Leitenberg, Loueke’s manager.
Leitenberg said it’s more than just a jam-out session for the Global Gumbo All-Stars, since they all perform together a few times a year. Last year, Quincy Jones performed alongside the group. He said that the word “gumbo” shouldn’t get the group confused for a New Orleans band.
“The only reason it’s called Gumbo is because it’s like you throw everything together in a pot and see what happens, so it has nothing to do with the style of music they’ll be playing,” Leitenberg said.
The festival’s headliner, Ramsey Lewis, 76, is a world-renowned jazz pianist. He has more than 80 albums, dating from 1956 to 2011, and has won three Grammy Awards.
Lewis’ manager, Shelby Shiaratzeh, says Mr. Lewis has been touring with a new electric-style band, which will take the stage with him at the jazz festival.
“He hasn’t done it in a while, but I don’t think this is his first time doing it,” said Shiaratzeh. “Over the past year he started working with an electric band sound, so he’s got an acoustic and electric base … He’s also added a Fender Rhodes to the mix, so it’s kind of a throwback to the Sun Goddess album.”