The Jazzcat

Playboy Jazz Festival 2006

by on Jun.22, 2006, under News


Another perfectly blazing hot day at the 2006 Playboy Jazz

Festival, you can almost guarantee that the sunshine, the music and the

summertime apparel will be in full bloom!

The line-up this year was the perfect balance of jazz,

world, funk and smooth with the jazz department this year winning the battle.


The Hollywood Bowl is divided into sections and generally,

those with the seats closer to the stage tend to be the music listeners and

those with seats further up tend to be the music partiers. One thing is

definitely for sure, everyone came to hear good music and they got their wish!


I arrived just as the international sensation Hiromi ended

her set with an electrifying funk piece dedicated to two great artists of

another genre, Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. The Cos of Good Music was up next

with, of course Bill Cosby leading his band of stealer professionals. Walter

Blanding Jr. on tenor, Dwayne Burno on bass, Ndugu Chancler on drums, Gerald

Clayton on piano, Kevin Eubanks on guitar and Steve Turre on trombone and conch

shells. Steve Turre blew a trilogy of conch shells each with their own distinctive

sound and flavor. Ndugu Chancelor is a master drummer and his sound was the

fuel behind the force of a collective that exemplified it’s name.


Cosby, with a drum kit on stage of his own, announced that

the Cos of Good Music would be dedicating the music to one of our fallen and

beloved angels of the music, Hilton Ruiz and to the city that has lost so much

in recent times, New Orleans.

Jazz musicians always give respect and love to their peers, their people and to

those who have forever appreciated and supported the music.


The Golden Striker Trio features three prominent individuals

who come together and produce music that exemplifies the ultimate in class,

tradition and style. With black suits and green ties that match the settings of

the stage, Ron Carter, Mulgrew Miller and Russell Malone hold the line straight

ahead bringing a historic sound to the ears of the modern day spectrum of jazz

appreciation. Their appearance may match the décor but their sound is that of

distinction. The combination is the best that a trilogy of generations can

produce. Double melodic grooves mellowed the crowd as the cool breezes blow

Funny Valentines of joy!


Hold it. Wait a minute. Is that Hef I see walking to his

front row center box escorted by six blonds? Why I think it is. I didn’t know

he made his entrance like that too! Well, it just goes to show you that

multiple streams of income is the way to go!


Baaba Maal from Senegal

took us on a trip to the planes of Africa. The

rhythms, repetitive lilts, distinctive kora plings and melodic fabric of

guitars along with the vocals of Maal are transcendent. An exercise in fun,

rhythm, art and celebration of culture and happiness, Baaba Maal and his band

of African musicians bring awareness to the global and political aspects of a

country and a people through music and song.


If you want to talk about a composer, arranger and tenor

player whose poise, playing and story telling prominence are a continuum to a

life of love for humanity and the music, then you would be speaking of the

great Benny Golson. Benny is Mr. Feel Good! He is the father and grand father

you always wanted and if you skinned your knee, a few words from Benny and the

pain will turn into a happy bedtime story. He is the classy charismatic pied

piper of the tenor saxophone and healer of woe. If you did not know Clifford,

you will certainly remember him as Benny never doe a show without giving

tribute to his good friend and great contributor to jazz music in his timeless

piece called, “I Remember Clifford” for Brownie, Clifford Brown. He is a cat

who writes the standards and continues to be one.


Stefon Harris along with the Clayton Hamilton

Big Band Orchestra performed a wonderful tribute to the late great Milt

Jackson. It is always a pleasure to see John Clayton onstage at the

Hollywood Bowl and the big sound of his band is all due to the many

accomplished performers he has in his orchestra. Cats like Charles

Owens, Ricky Woodard, George Bohanan, Clay Jenkins, Keith Fiddmont,

Tamir Hendelman, Christoph Luty, the great Snooky Young and more all

contribute majorly to the big in Big Band.. The band of course is

co-lead by Jeff Hamilton and brother and son of Mr. and Mrs. Clayton,

Jeff Clayton!



sensation Jamie Cullum rocks the crowd with his version of Broadway, rock, soul

and hip-hop jazz. I ain’t sayin’ he’s a gold digga, I’m just saying that he

certainly has quite a bit of youthful, playful atomic energy and is quite an

inspiration to the mates in his band. From scratching turntables, to jumping

off the piano, to playing notes with his booty, Cullum is all over the place

and the crowd adores him. They even partake in a Jamie Cullum sing-a-long. Is

it Elton, Billy Joel, Jamie Foxx or Kanye West? No, it’s Jamie Cullum!


This was quite an interesting transition for my man Branford

Marsalis to spin into. He is one of the few younger cats that has maintained

his own band over the years and carved his own spot in the universe of the music.

Not because the music is out, but because he speaks through it without filters.

What you hear is pure unadulterated truth in a musical message that, if you

choose to hear, you may realize that the world is wonderful, but has some

unresolved issues including and beyond the scope of jazz that need your

attention. And, although the crowd is a bit distracted with itself on a hot,

sunny, champagne, fruit and shrimp cocktail day after a few entertaining magic

tricks here at the bowl, the quality of the message permeates and will be felt.

These cats take the business of music seriously and although his band is full

of love, humor and comradely, the gospel must be spoken. From romantic lush

beautiful harmony to straight ahead cognitive provoking composition, Branford,

Joey Caldarazzo, Eric Revis and Jeff “Tain” Watts”

shoot a straight from the hip performance. A tribute to the sounds of great

jazz music!


George Duke and Stanley Clark turned the Bowl upside down

with a trip back to “School Days” reminiscing about their “Sweet Baby”. These

cats have made their life performing in and mastering all genres of music; everyone

from Cannonball to Frank Zappa to the sounds of Brazil. These boys have been at the

top of their game for a long time and when they get together to do a bass and clavinet

duo, you can send in the rubenesque lady.


Sundays experience at the Bowl was a little different for

me. You see, the letter on my ticket stubs reflected the last quadrant of the

alphabet as opposed to the first. The variables change slightly with an increase

in altitude. Certain extraneous factors wreak havoc on your senses distracting

you from your ultimate musical experience. For instance, the level of the

audience noise starts to peek more than the music, you might get hit with beach

ball even though you are no where near a beach, the age of your average adult

literally decreases as the day increases due to beverages that increase the

projection of their vocal cords and white clouds of gas appear which increase

vertigo and limit your mobility. If you are powerful enough to dodge all of

these factors and concentrate on what’s happening on stage, you might actually

see, hear and enjoy some more good music!


I arrived too late to see a full performance of the man of

the day, McCoy Tyner. I saw the Lula Washington dancers on stage prancing

around the piano master and his trio. When I finally reached my destination, I

was able to catch the last tune. I don’t believe that the audience realized

what it meant to have such a legendary master and icon of the music on stage

here at the Bowl. This was more than a treat, it was and is a part of history

and I believe that people will in retrospect realize that they should have paid

more attention.


But, the audience was ready to party and Ozomatli came on

just in time to fill that request! If you take sounds, rhythms, raps and percussion

from South Central to the Middle East, mix them up with a few scratches and

toss them into a Bowl, add a few garlands of beach balls and you have the

perfect party mix for a Sunday afternoon.


I took a walk and ran into Eldar. I missed his performance,

but I am sure he rocked the boat with his dynamic youthful display of piano

perfection. I also missed my girl Lesa Terry as well with her Women’s of Jazz

orchestra who I know had to play some beautiful numbers. There were so many

great acts that came on so early in the day. Don’t make that mistake of

sleeping in on the second day at the Playboy Jazz Festival or you will miss out

on some extraordinary performances.


I did get a chance to see David Sanchez and Regina Carter

perform with Eddie Palmieri and his Afro Cuban Jazz All Stars. Latin love at

its best! The energy of Latin music always moves people to dance and celebrate.

Many members of the audience formed a human train and paraded up and down the

isles of the bowl.


The Playboy Jazz Festival is always quite an experience.

2006 had some great jazz performances and as always a good time was had by all.

See you in the summer of 007!


LeRoy Downs

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