31st annual Playboy Jazz Festival.

Author:Richardson, Ricky
 
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The 2009 Playboy Jazz Festival (PJF), in conjunction with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, featured some of the most exciting and internationally renowned names in jazz. Now in its 31st year, the PJF presented a stellar lineup on Saturday, June 13th, and Sunday, June 14th, at the landmark Hollywood Bowl. The two-day event, which annually attracts over 35,000 fans, celebrated the entire spectrum of jazz. This year's slate of performers featured an eclectic mix of iconic jazz veterans, today's hottest young stars, world music performers, festival favorites and a few celebrities--actor/comedian/ singer Jamie Foxx, actress Claudia Jordon, comedian John Witherspoon and famous photographer/author Howard Bingham.

Saturday, June 13th

The weather gods looked down favorably upon the festival. Saturday was overcast and pleasantly cool, a welcome respite from previous summer heat waves.

The festival gates opened at 11:30 a.m. for early arrivals and the music began promptly at 2:30 p.m. The talented students from the L.A. County High School for the Arts Jazz Ensemble (directed by Jason Goldman) fooled me and a couple of other early birds. The polished, well-honed band delivered a crowd-pleasing set.

The festival audience also experienced how people party in New Orleans: The New Birth Brass Band had the crowds dancing around the Bowl and waving handkerchiefs in the air. The group opened with When The Saints Go Marching In and continued with I'll Fly Away, and Mardi Gras In New Orleans. They paraded around the Bowl in a second-line rhythm, with several women joining in with parasols. The small ensemble filled the Bowl with the funk-driven brass sounds of the Crescent City, and concluded its set with St. James Infirmary.

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The Cos of Good Music--featuring Dwayne Burno, Ndugu Chancler, Anat Cohen, Luis Conte, Tanya Darby and Geoffrey Keezer--were tight. They opened with a wonderful intro by Geoffrey Keezer on Les McCann's Compared to What. Bill Cosby directed the band (when he wasn't behind a drumset).

Jon Faddis' Quartet, featuring Jon Faddis (trumpet), David Hazeltine (piano), Kiyoshi Kitagawa (bass), and Dion Parson (drums) played a set of swinging straight-ahead jazz, to the delight of the purists. Jon Faddis blew some high notes into the stratosphere that were probably heard for miles beyond the Bowl.

Bassist/singer/songwriter Esperanza Spaulding was simply sensational. She is definiteiy on the fast track to...

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