Roster mingles top combos, challenges expectations

Multi-star bands like Quincy Jones’ Global Gumbo All-Stars, Spectrum Road and the Cookers highlight the 34th edition of the Playboy Jazz Festival, set for June 16-17 at Hollywood Bowl.

Perennial emcee Bill Cosby, who will host the festivities for the 31st time, provided comic relief at the Playboy Mansion where the program was announced Thursday afternoon. Commenting on his own all-star band with revolving personnel that has been a fixture at Playboy for years, the Cos’ of Good Music, he quipped: “First song out of the box is ‘Cherokee!’,” mischievously picking something difficult.

The June weekend’s groupings lean toward satisfying those who think a festival should represent something out of the ordinary. Fest closing act Spectrum Road, Cream’s Jack Bruce, John Medeski (of Medeski Martin and Wood), Living Colour’s Vernon Reid and Cindy Blackman-Santana, might be described as jazz rock. While the Cookers — featuring veteran stalwarts Eddie Henderson, Billy Harper, George Cables, Cecil McBee and Billy Hart — harken back to the acoustic mainstream circa the mid-’60s. Both groups will perform Sunday, June 17.

The Global Gumbo All-Stars, which played a most successful gig at the Bowl last summer, returns in a slimmed-down form under Playboy’s aegis on June 16, with Richard Bona, Lionel Loueke, Francisco Mela and Alfredo Rodriguez among the musicians.

That day’s roster will also feature bassist Christian McBride’s big band for the first time at Playboy, while popular smooth-jazz saxophonist Boney James makes his fourth appearance. Other acts on that date include evening closer Ozomatli, Sheila E., Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and the progressive New Orleans brass band Soul Rebels.

Singer-songwriter Robin Thicke makes his Playboy debut June 17, and pianist Ramsey Lewis makes his first appearance here with an electric band. The Terri Lyne Carrington Mosaic Project, Keb’ Mo,’ the classic jazz Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Chile’s eight-piece Chico Trujillo, and “Afro-urban” singer-songwriter KG Omulo round out the lineup.

After a few years of having been moved forward a week on the calendar, the fest has now been moved back to its traditional Father’s Day weekend slot.

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