Music Preview: 2018 PLAYBOY JAZZ FESTIVAL (The Hollywood Bowl)

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by Tony Frankel on June 2, 2018

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles


OK, you’ve heard about it for years. But now you’re ready to take the plunge (and you should be) to attend the world famous Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. These two marathon days, June 9 & 10, 2018, can seem a bit intimidating, so let me help you out, and offer clips of a few of the acts that’ll be on hand.

Each day begins at 3:00 pm and for the next eight hours or so you will be exposed to all forms of jazz, from be-bop to fusion and improvised to arranged. Prepare to enter into realms unknown as the word “jazz” encompasses musical varietals as vast as those in modern music. You’ll also see headliners (Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin), established up-and-comers (the infectious Monsieur Periné below), and relative newcomers (amazing pianist Matthew Whitaker, also below).

The more laid back you are at the festival, the happier you’ll be. It can be hot during the day (bring hats and sunscreen), and sometimes a neighbor is a little too loud when your favorite act is on, but relax. This is as much a communal event as it is a celebration of jazz. And it’s continuous, with each band already set up on a turntable so that one act beautifully morphs into the next; you can take a break anytime.

It’s an awesome line-up this year; I’ve either seen or heard the performers, and it’s actually a bit startling that they’ll all be in one place, and tickets aren’t nearly as pricey as you’d think: seats start at just 27 bucks for the entire day. I’m happy just thinking about it! Expect big bands such as The Count Basie Orchestra under the direction of Scotty Barnhart — see my review of their Disney Hall appearance — and the ever-evolving, ever-fascinating Snarky Puppy (video below).

There’s also a tribute this year for the late, great trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. An all-star constellation of jazz performers dubbed the Hubtones honor him this year on the occasion of what would have been his 80th birthday. Performing selections from his vast body of work, Nicholas Payton, Randy Brecker, Jeremy Pelt, David Weiss, Benny Green, Vicente Archer, and Roy McCurdy pay tribute to Hubbard’s punchy tone and fierce spirit.

And the great Tower of Power, that iconic horn section which has backed up the greatest acts in history and performed their own brand of swinging funk, is celebrating their 50th anniversary. Expect the legendary rhythm section and blasting horns that have made Tower of Power a landmark institution for decades. “Everybody in the band is saying ‘Wow, what is happening?’” Castillo says about the invigoration provided by their latest album. “You get to an age where we’re at and things can start to run down but it seems like for us that things are really kicking into high gear.”

Already you may be thinking, “How do I plan ahead to see just the acts I want to see?” Well, that’s the beauty of the festival — you don’t have to plan because it’s a party. In fact, the line-up you see listed when you buy tickets is not the order of appearance; that will be known on the day you go. We do know that George Lopez is returning this year as Master of Ceremonies.

The good news about breaks is that the Bowl has updated their food choices: Chef Suzanne Goin and restaurateur Caroline Styne have introduced new offerings. If you haven’t seen the newly-built Plaza Marketplace — located in the completely renovated Box Office Plaza — it’s awesome, offering pre-entry shopping for picnics on the grounds. “Grab-and-go” prepared foods will be available along with fresh breads, cheeses, snacks, and wine; you can also arrive hours before the show starts with a sit-down relaxing lunch; or snack throughout the day; or have a meal delivered to your box, or… the choices are seemingly unlimited. And by all means, try some of that mean caramel corn. Get ready to jazz it up!

Check out these food options:
Mobile Ordering for Popcorn, Drinks, Beer & Wine
The Wine Bar by a.o.c
the backyard
Picnic Boxes
Street Food and Snacks
Lucques at the Circle
Supper in Your Box Seats

The 2018 Playboy Jazz Festival
The Hollywood Bowl
Saturday and Sunday, June 9 & 10, 2018 3:00 – ?
for tickets, call 323.850.2000 or visit The Hollywood Bowl

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

David Duenas June 11, 2018 at 1:03 pm

This has to be one of the worst Playboy Jazz Festivals I’ve ever been to — it put me to sleep. Most acts were horrible on Sunday (Tower of Power was amazing). I don’t know who picks these acts but you need to reconsider that person — I would have left but I was waiting for Tower of Power.


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