More Free Concerts Than Ever in Playboy Jazz Fest

This year, the annual Playboy Jazz Festival will be tooting its bluesy horns all over town.

The festival, which has traditionally attracted some of the finest talent the jazz world has to offer, will mark its 10th year this June. And though the main event in June at the Hollywood Bowl is sold out, a prelude series of free concerts kicks off this weekend. They’re free and open to everyone.

“Since Day One, we’ve had community events,” says Darlene Chan, associate producer of the Playboy Festival, “but this is the most we’ve ever had.”


Noting that some of the performers who played at the original festival are “sadly no longer with us--Benny Goodman, Count Basie--it’s heartening to see how many of them are still attending. Like Les Brown, Dizzy Gillespie.” Today, the 2nd Annual UCLA Jazz Festival, co-sponsored by the Playboy Jazz Festival, gets under way at the UCLA Westwood Plaza, UCLA Campus, beginning at noon. The featured performers are Grant Geissman, Paul Russo with Daline Jones, guitarists Strunz & Farah, Steve Bach, the UCLA Jazz Ensemble and a special surprise band that will be headlining the event.

Those attending are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnic lunches. Glass bottles, cans and alcoholic beverages, however, are not permitted.

Sunday’s event at West Hollywood’s Plummer Park, co-sponsored by the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, will be a “Salute to the Seniors” dance concert, starring veteran Les Brown and his Band of Renown and co-starring Peggy Gilbert’s Dixie Belles. Plummer Park is at 7377 Santa Monica Blvd. Again, picnics are suggested, and the music begins at 1:30 p.m.

The free concerts continue Friday with the Watts Senior Citizens’ Concert at the Watts Labor Action Community Center, 10956 Central Ave. The Locke High School Band, under the direction of school band director John Davis, will be featured. The concert runs from 10 a.m. till noon.

On May 30, the festival event is a “Salute to the Winners,” at the Fiesta de las Artes on Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach. This show features the winners of the Western States Jazz Festival, a competition held at the Montclair High School for jazz bands from junior high and high schools, junior- and 4-year colleges. This year’s winners hail from Pioneer Junior High School, Hemet High and Cal State Long Beach. KKGO Radio will broadcast the winners’ performances live from 1 to 3:30 p.m.

On June 12, Keyes 4 Cars Salutes the 10th Anniversary Playboy Jazz Festival with acclaimed tenor saxophonist Kirk Whalum headlining. Whalum will also substitute for guitarist Larry Carlton in the Hollywood Bowl event June 18 and 19 (Carlton was critically wounded in a thus-far unsolved shooting incident at his residence last month). Whalum’s most recent album, “And You Know That!” is currently No. 1 on the contemporary jazz charts.

The Keyes 4 Cars community event will be at Monarch Quad, Los Angeles Valley College, 5800 Fulton Ave., Van Nuys. This performance, beginning at 1:30 p.m., will also be broadcast by KKGO Radio.

Los Angeles City Hall will host a noontime performance June 17, with guest stars Harold Land and his Quintet. Land was the first performer at the first Hollywood Bowl Playboy Festival. That evening, beginning at 8 p.m., the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will screen a retrospective program of films of Playboy Jazz Festival performances through the years, organized by film archivist Mark Cantor.

The Playboy Jazz Festival was inaugurated in 1959 in Chicago. After a hiatus of 20 years, it reopened at the Hollywood Bowl in 1979 for the 25th anniversary of Playboy Magazine and became an annual event. Comedian Bill Cosby, who emceed the 1979 festival, returns for this year’s Bowl concert.

Because of scheduling conflicts, Freddie Hubbard, originally billed for the Hollywood Bowl performances, will be replaced by composer, producer and steel pan drum player Andy Narell.

For further information: call Playboy Jazz Festival Hotline, (213) 450-9040.

For information regarding the UCLA Festival: call (213) 825-6564.