Jazz fes­ti­val’s strong lineup

The Play­boy fes­ti­val re­turns with a stel­lar lineup

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Chris Bar­ton chris.bar­ton@la­times.com Twit­ter: @chris­bar­ton

A look at must-see acts at the Play­boy Jazz Fes­ti­val.

Even af­ter 37 years, the Play­boy Jazz Fes­ti­val re­mains the big­gest event of its kind for South­ern Cal­i­for­nia mu­sic fans.

Now in its sec­ond year as a co-pro­duc­tion with the L.A. Phil­har­monic (and Her­bie Han­cock, its cre­ative chair for jazz), the lat­est in­stall­ment of the fes­ti­val is among its strong­est in years, par­tic­u­larly for those who never fully em­braced its an­nual nods to­ward the crowd-pleas­ing smooth-jazz genre.

Whether jazz is a form best ex­pe­ri­enced in 17,000-plus venues like the Hol­ly­wood Bowl is a topic for a sep­a­rate con­ver­sa­tion, but there’s no deny­ing Play­boy’s power to pull jazz fans to­gether for an early sum­mer cel­e­bra­tion. Fol­low­ing are seven acts from both days not to miss.

SATUR­DAY

Melissa Al­dana

A Berklee Col­lege of Mu­sic grad­u­ate who stud­ied un­der the likes of Joe Lo­vano and Greg Osby, this Chilean­born tenor sax­o­phon­ist was marked as a tal­ent to watch since be­com­ing the first fe­male win­ner of the Th­elo­nious Monk In­sti­tute’s sax­o­phone com­pe­ti­tion. She built upon that prom­ise last year with an as­sured de­but on Con­cord, which gave her in­tri­cate, pa­tiently un­furl­ing ven­tures am­ple op­por­tu­nity to shine in a nim­ble trio. Ja­son Mo­ran’s Fats Waller Dance Party

Ozomatli, King Sunny Ade and Tower of Power may in­spire more danc­ing, but no­body on this week­end’s bill will de­liver more joy than this eclec­tic trib­ute to one of pop mu­sic’s ear­li­est stars. First per­formed in 2011, Mo­ran’s joy­ful love let­ter to Waller was dis­tilled into his brassy, R&Bshaded 2014 al­bum “All Rise,” which was aided by guest vo­cals from Meshell Nde­geo­cello. Al­ready one of the most in­ven­tive jazz artists to­day, Mo­ran’s bois­ter­ous stride pi­ano runs are bound to grab the ear, even while his fond­ness for per­form­ing in a gi­ant replica of Waller’s cigar-chomp­ing head grabs your eyes. Gerald Wil­son Orches­tra

The mas­ter may have left us last year af­ter his death at 96, but Gerald Wil­son’s in­no­va­tive mu­sic and un­par­al­leled ear for har­mony re­mains a last­ing pres­ence. Here, un­der the di­rec­tion of his son An­thony Wil­son, his mu­si­cal le­gacy will be cel­e­brated along with his en­dur­ing im­pact as a gi­ant of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia jazz, which most re­cently man­i­fested in the cel­e­brated de­but al­bum by one of his pro­tégés, buzz-heavy sax­o­phon­ist Ka­masi Wash­ing­ton. Wayne Shorter and Her­bie Han­cock with the Monk In­sti­tute of Jazz Per­for­mance En­sem­ble

How can you go wrong see­ing two un­ques­tioned masters who separately and to­gether have con­trib­uted to a small li­brary’s worth of land­mark record­ings? Here the long­time col­lab­o­ra­tors will be joined by the 2016 class at the Th­elo­nious Monk In­sti­tute at UCLA, a seven-piece stu­dent en­sem­ble that in­cludes per­form­ers from as far as Is­rael and Australia and as nearby as Downey. This set may not amount to a fi­nal exam, but its hard to imag­ine bet­ter teach­ers.

SUN­DAY

Terence Blan­chard’s E-Col­lec­tive

One of the deans of con­tem­po­rary jazz, this trum­peter has been heard on nu­mer­ous sound­tracks for the films of Spike Lee as well as his own record­ings, which have re­li­ably show­cased a keen ear for young tal­ent. Blan­chard ex­plores the in­ter­sec­tion of jazz and funk with his lat­est al­bum, “Breath­less,” which in ad­di­tion to fea­tur­ing grooves that should pair well with a cool sum­mer night also fea­tures some timely, much-needed so­cial com­men­tary backed by a pair of ris­ing stars in gui­tarist Charles Al­tura and pi­anist Fabian Al­mazan. Snarky Puppy

Maybe the most un­for­tu­nately named act on this (or any other) fes­ti­val bill, this 12-piece col­lec­tive also stands out with a fu­ri­ous com­mit­ment to de­fy­ing mu­si­cal cat­e­gories. Last year it stormed the Gram­mys with a win in the R&B per­for­mance cat­e­gory for “Some­thing,” a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Lalah Hathaway, and the group ven­tured to Europe to record its genre-skip­ping new al­bum, “Sylva,” which in­cludes the back­ing of the Nether­lands’ Metropole Ork­est. The name might sound silly, but the mu­sic is no joke. Blue Note 75th An­niver­sary Presents “Our Point of View”

The ven­er­a­ble jazz la­bel as­sem­bled what may be the best band of the week­end while drawing from the im­pres­sive tal­ent on its cur­rent ros­ter, in­clud­ing Robert Glasper, Am­brose Ak­in­musire, Ken­drick Scott, Der­rick Hodge, Mar­cus Strick­land and Lionel Loueke. The irony that much of their “point of view” will be ded­i­cated to takes on Blue Note clas­sics isn’t lost here, but see­ing the sparks fly from their in­ter­play should spur en­tic­ing vi­sions of what could have been if th­ese artists’ full bands were on the bill as well.

Nitin Vadukul

TERENCE BLAN­CHARD and his E-Col­lec­tive combo will be among the top-f light mu­si­cians on hand at the Hol­ly­wood Bowl this week­end for the Play­boy Jazz Fes­ti­val. Blan­chard and Co. ap­pear Sun­day.

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