*Day 2 of the 41st Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, which was again hosted by comedian George Lopez, had a tough day to follow because Day 1 was off the chain, hook and hinges. Day 2 had more of what was featured in Day 1: light up Playboy ears, Jello shots, alcohol, partying, a revolving stage and oh yeah, good and sometimes great music. Was it as good as Day 1? Maybe not, but what Day 2 lacked in music, it made up for in atmosphere, fellowship and camaraderie and it didn’t hurt that I had the same cast of characters seated around me for Day 2 as I had for Day 1.
The 3:00 PM bell rang with The LAUSD/Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Band, who are the best of the best of the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) and once again showed why we will be hearing from some of them in the future. Michael Mayo was up next and showed off his New England Conservatory education and why he is such a sought after vocalist. Saxophonist Donnie McCaslin added his jazz/rock style to the festivities and Gambian Sona Jobarteh put her kora, 21-string African harp, on display. The Cookers, which is composed of some of the most established musicians in the business, blended quite nicely. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band was a particular favorite of mine on Sunday. I realize I have a thing for New Orleans brass bands, but I must not be alone, because people were shaking all over the place.
Just like on Saturday, with the Ndugu Chancler tribute, Maceo Parker and the Maceo Parker Band paid tribute to the late Ray Charles by predominantly performing Ray Charles songs, much to the disappointment of some of the festival goers, who were hoping for James Brown songs. Mr. Parker mentioned the Maceo Parker Band used to be the Ray Charles Orchestra, but folks still missed the connection. They figured it out when he put on his dark shades, channeled Ray Charles and started performing “Georgia on My Mind. He even walked like Ray Charles. Who knows; maybe it was Ray Charles coming through.
Boz Skaggs’ “Lowdown” was one of my favorites back in the day, so I was looking forward to seeing him perform it, which is how he started his set. It did not start exactly as I expected. It seemed a tad off, but it picked up and I got into it and enjoyed the performance. Actually I enjoyed Boz’ performance the most of those who performed on Sunday. He did a very good rendition of Bobby Blue Bland’s, “The Feeling is Love.” He sounded very passionate and sincere on “Look What You’ve Done to Me” and finished his set with “One For the Road.” He was all that and a bag of chips.
The Family Stone, unfortunately, minus Sly, was the last act of the day. To say I am a Sly and the Family Stone fan would be an understatement. I was very interested in seeing and hearing them, sans their fearless leader. Instead of Sly Stone, we had his daughter Phunne Stone keeping the family tradition going, along with original member Jerry Martini. They sang all my favorites, beginning with, “Sing a Simple Song” and ending with “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). In between, they sang, “Everyday People,” “Dance to the Music,” “If You Want Me to Stay,” “Stand” and “I Wanna Take You Higher.” In my best Randy Jackson voice, without Sly, they were “just okay for me dawg.” They were not bad; just not great. I am freely willing to admit that it had more to do with my love of Sly Stone’s ability and sound than it had to do with their inability because they actually held their own.
All in all, another successful Playboy Jazz Festival in the books. Kudos to the LA Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl for putting on such a memorable event. See you next year!
Photo credit: Mathew Imaging
Marilyn Smith is a Los Angeles based writer/reviewer. Contact her via [email protected]