The annual Playboy Jazz Festival took place on June 13 and 14th at the Hollywood Bowl, in Los Angeles, CA. The line-up on both days ranged in style from Contemporary to Reggae while diversity abounded.
Clouds couldn't keep the crowds away that Sunday afternoon as a number of extraordinary musicians took to the stage.
A Quincy Jones discovery - Alfredo Rodriquez - an incredible Pianist and his ensemble shared many tunes with a Latin tinge on Jazz favorites. His style was flourishing and invigorating despite the constant chatter as he utilized the upright Piano to his own advantage.
The ensemble with Mr. Rodriquez consisted of Drums and Bass. I unfortunately was unable to secure the names of these wonderful musicians that blended so wonderfully with Mr. Jones discovery, Alfredo Rodriquez. Through each piece, he skillfully moved through the music in an engaging manner.
The endless conversation was limited once the distinguished Saxophonist - Wayne Shorter was announced featuring the following musicians:
Brian Blade - Drums
John Patitucci - Bass
Danilo Perez - Piano
Only the instruments were absorbed in a vocal exchange that left the Jazz purists spellbound and those there for the sights turning their heads toward the stage.
There was a continuation of great exchanges between Mr. Shorter and his extraordinary ensemble of musicians of which were individually mind-blowing, while leaving the Hollywood Hills ablaze with Jazz.
Wayne gave an uncompromising execution of an array of pieces that were Avante Gaurd to Straight-Ahead. The effect was stunning.
Brian Blade on Drums gave a performance that will not soon be forgotten with his beautiful movement and steady pulsation. He is a supreme musician that encompasses a raw and riveting musicality.
Danilo Perez was completely composed while delivering arrangements that were infectious and innovatively fulfilling. Everything he played touched one's soul.
John Patitucci played breathtaking bass accompaniments and solos that were praiseworthy.
Wayne Shorter and his ensemble wrapped up our excursion with a superb rendition of Me. Shorter's "Maiden Voyage". Mmm, Mmm... Marvelous!
The concert took a turn in the Jazz Journey with Monty Alexander - Pianist and his ensemble - The Roots consisting of Drums, Percussion, Bass, and Melodica
Monty gave us a mixture of music that was creatively woven by Straight-Ahead Jazz, Reggae, Jamaican, and Blues, seasoned with Spirituals.
Beginning his expedition with Reggae....he quickly switched the funky beat to a run of John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" affectively moving into the Spiritual, "Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child”.
There was lots of vamping on "Joshua fought the battle of Jericho" with more Reggae and just a hint of Latin. Mr. Alexander and The Roots expressed an idyllic yet poignant portrait.
It was full of soul and exuberance as he stepped into a Rhythm and Blues version of "Glory, glory Hallelujah", sneaking in numerous Jazz licks that were all Monty's own articulating the very core of music.
An almost sacred experience was had when Monty and the ensemble played Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas' "I Wish I knew How It Would Feel to be Free once performed in a riveting fashion by the stellar Nina Simone.
Monty put his own imprint on the treasure with chord progressions ans soloing that was priceless.
I regretfully could not secure the names of each ensemble member. However, each musician shared their own glorious musicianship on Drums and Percussion, and Bass.
Monty gave us a versatile venture on the Melodica - a beautiful instrument that sounds like a harmonica and organ played like a wind instrument.
Miles Davis' "Milestones" was mixed in on one of Monty's compositions in that kicking, comping jazz style weaving in and out of a Reggae groove.
Another gorgeous original tune, "Harlem Express" was a tribute to Mr. Alexander's Jamaican roots.
The ensemble kept music lovers on the edge of their seats and we transcended the surrounding distractions through the quiet intensity of Monty and the Roots. He never left Straight-Ahead in his presentation as it streamed through his technique.
They ended their set with an acknowledgement to Bob Marley with a lovely arrangement of "No Woman, No Cry", with explicit runs by Monty accompanied with breadth by a intutive Drummer and tremendous Bassist.
Patti Austin veered from her usual format to share a few golden oldies. Patti got the crowd on their feet with a tune made famous by legendary Jimmy Hendrix,”Hey Joe".
Ms. Austin and her Rhythm section and other vocals shifted into a James Ingram tune, "Baby, Come to me" performed in a soulful style that all Patti.
She gave us a wonderful tribute to the late Luther Van Dross with "So Amazing". It was elegant.
The Playboy Jazz Festival has become somewhat of a "music" festival in the last few years, catering to audiences that want to experience a wide variety of music...and I suppose activity judging from the many that seemed oblivious to the fact musicians were creating art of the spot.
But, that...is entirely another story.
I suppose "Jazz" has different denotations for some.
I am a bit perplexed though by how inattentive, unconnected, and at some points insensitive a group can be at a concert.
Perhaps, Starbucks? Coffee Bean? Hollywood and Highland Shopping Center? would have been a better meet and greet location for non-music lovers???
A stunning final piece was performed in genius format by Patti Austin and her ensemble. The Bill Withers tune, "Lean on Me". This got people on their feet and joining hands in a great convergence.
There were a few other ensembles that gave their music interlude on that chilly Sunday afternoon at the Hollywood Bowl.
In the spirit of love I say, Yeah!
Let music, merging, peace, joy, liberation, creativity, and the Arts prevail!
Let Jazz rule right in the middle of all that great vibe.