The lineup for the 35th annual Playboy Jazz Festival has been announced, and in addition to the weekend-long concert’s signature mix of jazz, funk and R&B;, the festival also revealed that comic and former late-night host George Lopez will take over for longtime host Bill Cosby this year.
Cosby had served as master of ceremonies at the festival since 1979, and last year the comedy legend stepped down after becoming as much a part of the show’s fabric as the Hollywood Bowl, parasols and picnic baskets.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Lopez said from the Playboy Mansion, where the announcement for the June 15-16 event was made Thursday. “I’ve always been around jazz through some of the hits that made it to the mainstream. ... I love music, it’s a huge part of my life.” Lopez added that he hoped this could turn into a regular hosting role, but for now only this year is confirmed.
Lopez will be surrounded by a typically eclectic lineup, which will feature a blend of familiar faces and intriguing newcomers. Smooth-jazz keyboardist George Duke with guest Jeffrey Osborne lead the first day of the festival, along with the a cappella vocal group Naturally 7, who will be joined by the L.A. Philharmonic’s creative chair for jazz, Herbie Hancock.
In one of the festival’s most fascinating turns, recent Grammy winner the Robert Glasper Experiment will also perform Saturday in another high-profile turn for the inventive jazz pianist after a breakthrough year.
Latin jazz bandleader Poncho Sanchez will pay tribute to the 1962 album “Olé Coltrane” with James Carter stepping into the role of saxophone titan John Coltrane, and Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band will also perform, joined by guitarist Lee Ritenour. In another collaboration, singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo will perform with trumpeter Hugh Masekela.
Sunday’s concert features the return of bandleader Sheila E, along with Trombone Shorty’s raucous band Orleans Avenue, India.Arie, vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and an ‘80s-evoking meeting of keyboardist Bob James and saxophonist David Sanborn. The Brubeck Brothers, Chris and Daniel, will also be there to pay tribute to their father, the late pianist Dave Brubeck.
In another interesting addition, pianist and former TED Conference speaker ELEW (born Eric Lewis) will bring a genre-skipping style he calls “Rockjazz” to the bowl in a collaboration with the Jazzantiqua Dance Ensemble.
In another nod toward festival tradition, both dates of the show will be opened by high school jazz bands, with the L.A. County High School for the Arts Ensemble performing Saturday and the LAUSD Beyond and the Bell Jazz Band performing Sunday. The full lineup is available at the festival’s website, playboyjazzfestival.com, and tickets are on sale now.