A rambunctious, multi-genre musical block party, the 38th Playboy Jazz Festival is a late-spring Los Angeles tradition on par with purple haze jacarandas and June gloom.
Long a show built on keeping the Hollywood Bowl moving (right down to its rotating stage), Playboy has long drawn from funk, global rhythms, blues and R&B for its picnic-ready mix, and this year is no exception.
In addition to a headlining set by the space age funk explorer Janelle Monáe and return appearances from recent festival favorites such as Pete Escovedo and daughter Sheila E, Jon Batiste & Stay Human and Naturally 7, Playboy also offers a snapshot of some of the most talked about players in contemporary jazz amid its festive backdrop.
Here are five to keep your ears open for this weekend (while keeping your eyes out for flying beach balls).
Cécile McLorin Salvant: An inventive and elastic vocalist, Salvant won a Grammy this year for her 2015 album “For One to Love.” Backed by a band that includes pianist Aaron Diehl, the French Haitian singer emerged as an expressive songwriter in her own right on that record, but she also has an arresting ear for covers, freely toying with the racial and sexual politics beneath songs such as the ‘60s Burt Bacharach-Hal David song “Wives and Lovers” and the cringingly dated ’30s obscurity “You Bring Out the Savage in Me.”
The Bad Plus with Joshua Redman: Though this propulsive trio initially earned notice in the early ’00s for deconstructed takes on alt-rock favorites that included Aphex Twin and the Pixies, it has reached new heights in recent years, with album-length tributes to works by Ornette Coleman and Igor Stravinsky and with their own inside-out songbook.
The Bad Plus never seemed to want for new textures, but in Joshua Redman they found a saxophonist eager to open up the throttle and twist along the same road, wherever it might lead.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: The continuation of a New Orleans lineage also reflected in his uncle, saxophonist Donald Harrison, on the Playboy bill, this trumpeter has long been one of the forces pulling jazz into the future. Already a rising star four years ago, Scott augmented his given name with two cities tied to his African heritage with a sprawling self-titled double album that touched on politics and police abuse in his home city.
His 2015 album “Stretch Music” further challenges what a jazz record can sound like, framing his haunted trumpet tone with textures and rhythms that liberally draw from electronic music, indie rock and hip-hop.
Joey Alexander: If you heard only one new jazz artist last year, chances are it was this Indonesian piano prodigy, who at 12 years old has performed at the White House, New York City’s Lincoln Center and a whole variety of TV chat shows.
As much as Alexander’s raised profile and acclaim carry with them a faint whiff of a novelty act, jazz has long loved embracing its young geniuses, and listening to Alexander take on “My Favorite Things” and “’Round Midnight” on his debut album “My Favorite Things,” you’d be hard pressed to hear anything other than an artist to watch.
John Beasley’s MONK’estra: A fixture on the L.A. music scene, this pianist has been heard as a musician and arranger on “American Idol" as well as numerous contributions to various films and commercials including “Skyfall” and the upcoming “Finding Dory.”
But as a Grammy-nominated bandleader he remains among the city’s top talents, and this hard-swinging big band dedicated to honoring the music of Thelonious Monk offers some welcome twists on Monk’s beautifully twisted music buoyed by a hard-hitting lineup that has included saxophonist Bob Sheppard and drummer Ronald Bruner Jr.
Playboy Jazz Festival
Where: Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave.
When: Saturday-Sunday, 3 p.m.
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