The 19th annual Playboy Jazz Festival will have a distinctly contemporary sound this year. The program, as always, includes a little something for every taste. But the lineup announced Thursday for this year’s event--which takes place June 14 and 15 at the Hollywood Bowl--is liberally peppered with acts somewhat removed from the jazz mainstream.
Among the pop- and fusion-oriented names on the bill: singer Chaka Khan, blues artist John Lee Hooker, keyboardist Bruce Hornsby (a veteran of the Grateful Dead), guitarist-singer George Benson, saxophonists Grover Washington Jr., Gato Barbieri and Najee, and Etta James & the Roots Band.
Fortunately, the festival also includes a number of attractive mainstream jazz acts as well. Joe Henderson will make a West Coast debut with his big band (playing charts from his latest Verve album); the Count Basie Orchestra will play; veteran drummers Roy Haynes and Elvin Jones will appear with their current groups; Bill Cosby (who will serve as emcee for his 17th year) has assembled another colorful “Cos of Good Music” band featuring Nat Adderley, Cedar Walton and others; trumpeter Nicholas Payton appears for the first time at the festival leading his own group; and the local ensemble, the Meeting, includes talented local musicians Patrice Rushen, Ndugu Chancler and Ernie Watts.
Best of all, this year’s festival is rich with Latin jazz. The talented Cuban dance orchestra Los Van Van is slated to perform (subject to State Department approval), as will Tito Puente, with singing star India. And trumpeter Roy Hargrove leads an ensemble titled “Crisol” that will spotlight the legendary Cuban band leader Jesus “Chucho” Valdes and saxophonist David Sanchez.
Redman Returns: Saxophonist Joshua Redman makes another of his frequent Southland appearances (he played before a standing-room-only crowd at the House of Blues last fall) Sunday night at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. The much-praised young performer has burst into major prominence in the past year or so, with a particularly avid following among young listeners. Redman’s latest Warner Bros. album, “Freedom in the Groove,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard jazz charts, and he has rapidly become one of the best-selling jazz artists in the world.
How does Redman feel about all the commercial success and the impact it might have on his music?
“I’m happy about it, of course,” says the soft-spoken Harvard graduate. “But what makes it really worthwhile is the fact that it’s coming from me playing the music that I want to play. Because I really couldn’t do it any other way.”
At the Alex performance, Redman will be accompanied by Peter Martin, piano; Peter Bernstein, guitar; Christopher Thomas, bass; and Brian Blade, drums, all of whom appear on “Freedom in the Groove.”
Mingus Mix-Up: The confusing situation regarding the first release from Revenge Records, a company established by Charles Mingus’ widow, Sue Mingus, to undercut the many pirated Mingus recordings, has apparently been clarified. The first release, which chronicled a Paris concert in April 1964, duplicated an error perpetuated in a bootleg version, as well as in an LP version released by Fantasy in the mid-'70s as “The Great Concert of Charles Mingus.” The error mistitled Mingus’ dedication to Eric Dolphy, “So Long, Eric,” instead identifying it as his far better-known composition, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.”
Sue Mingus said, “We have now [in a second pressing] corrected this error, once and for all.” Mingus also said that any CD version of the Paris concert (as well as another program performed the same day) other than the Revenge version “is pirated and will no doubt sell for far more than the $20 price of the two-CD Revenge release.”
New Label: Add Arkadia Records to the growing list of potentially significant new boutique jazz labels arriving on the scene. “Just what the world needs,” said Bob Karcy, the company’s president and founder, “another jazz record label. But we’re not just another jazz label. . . . Our bottom line is not records sold, but music made. Nothing boosts sales like great music.”
The company is a subsidiary of V.I.E.W. Video, a premiere home video producer. Long-term agreements have been signed with Billy Taylor, David Liebman and Benny Golson, with Liebman and Golson albums scheduled for later this month, and 20 to 25 other new releases planned for 1997. Among Arkadia’s interesting reissues, there will be a completely remastered album of Django Reinhardt with Coleman Hawkins.
Vinyl Vendors: Got some old jazz records sitting around gathering dust? Some collector out there would probably love to have them. Starting on Sunday, and every fourth Sunday in the month thereafter, the Lighthouse, 30 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach, will have an LP trading and sales area, opening at 11 a.m. To make the event even more attractive, there will be live music by a group featuring saxophonists Red Holloway and Herman Riley, with Claude Williamson on keyboards and Trevor Ware on bass. (310) 376-9833.
Around Town: Saxophonist Joe Lovano is at the Jazz Club in the Orange County Performing Arts Center tonight and Saturday. . . . Bob Florence brings a collection of his richly detailed big-band jazz compositions to the Moonlight Tango on Tuesday for a celebration of the release of a new album called “Earth” on MAMA records . . . Pianist Brad Mehldau, a new star in the making, does a two-nighter at the Jazz Bakery on Tuesday and Wednesday. . . . Also on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Clippers host “Jazz Sports L.A. Night” at the Sports Arena. The game--between the Clippers and the Philadelphia 76ers--as well a percentage of the ticket proceeds, will be dedicated to the Jazz Sports programming of the Thelonious Monk Institute. Students from South-Central high schools will perform before the game and at halftime. Information: (213) 745-0450.
Free Music: The Bobby Bradford Mo’tet is featured in a free jazz event at the L.A. County Museum of Art today at 5:30 p.m., (213) 857-6000. . . . Pedrini Music’s Saturday afternoon free jazz program showcases Ira Bodin, bass; Steve Weingart, piano; Leslie Drayton, trumpet; and Frank Wilson, drums, 1:30 p.m., (213) 283-1932. . . . Also on Saturday, the Phil Upchurch Trio plays a free concert in Gallery VI at the Armand Hammer Museum, 2 p.m., (310) 443-7020.