Playboy’s Jazz Festival Series 2010 Line Up

Jazz N LA — By on May 25, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Bill Cosby

It’s Here Again, Folks!

By Buddy Sampson

The Playboy Jazz Festival has been innovative over the years, marrying traditional jazz with new artists and new forms of jazz. Wait a minute. Stop the presses! I’ve getting a case of deja vu. Didn’t I write that last year? Okay, let’s start over. The Playboy Jazz Festival, which The Scoop Newspaper, now The Scoop LA has covered for over 15 years is the party of the year. The Playboy Jazz Festival at the Bowl always has the usual complement of fun people, beach balls and all the food and drink you can buy, bring or consume. So why is this year different?

Well let’s start with the line up. The Saturday, June 12th, 2010 show kicks off with the El Dorado High School band, which is under the direction of Richard Watson. I love getting to the show early, because you not only beat the traffic with all the late comers, you can hear some good music from a young band and chill without the pressure of the lines, which begin around 3PM (hey! trust me on this one.) Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue are next and I’m anxious to hear what the 23 year old musician sounds like. I know you’ll love him. Jake Shimabukuro will follow and he will be playing the ukulele. Okay, don’t laugh. I’ve heard several jazz greats play the ukulele and it sounds great in the jazz idiom. I bet that Shimabukuro is going to tear the house down.

Naturally 7 is another group I’d love to see. They sing a capella and I love that kind of stuff. It’s told they imitate instruments. Cool. I just hope they do something to get my date in the mood. That’s all I ask. The Javon Jackson Band featuring Les McCann, is next. Now do I really have to comment on the timeless Les McCann? He’s going to do his classic song, “Compared To What.” I remember as a kid hearing that song and wondering what all the beeps were about in that record. Now with all the lyrics in rap songs these days, his song seems like “Bambi” compared to today. It helps that McCann’s stage mate, Javon Jackson has played with everyone, including Elvin Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine and more. I’m looking forward to that set. There’s The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, with a salute to Louie Bellson, my favorite bass player in the world, the Marcus Miller Band with Christian Scott and Pete Escovedo and Orchestra, featuring Sheila E (I’m so glad they are starting later-they will have the audience partying.) Los Van Van was scheduled to perform, but had to postpone due to contract issues. Pete Escovedo and Sheila E will do just fine, thank you! Vocalist Kurt Elling will take the stage and I will be looking for my lady, because maybe that will be a time to make my move. Maybe he’ll sing something romantic for us. I sure hope so. He sings his butt off. Aw, and then be prepared to be rocked. Sax For Stax will be taking the stage, featuring Gerald Albright w, Jeff Lorber and Kirk Whalum. By that time, I’ll be ready to dance. And you’ll be in the mood, too, One of my favorite keyboard players, Chick Corea, will close the show with Roy Haynes, Christian McBride and Kenny Garrett. People sometimes leave during the last set. This one you won’t want to leave. The musicianship will be amazing. Besides, you won’t be able to leave anyway until people come to their cars. Stay and enjoy the music. And folks, that’s just Saturday’s show.

The Sunday show promises to be just as good. I’m heading to church and hope to be over the hangover from Saturday’s show. I’m getting to the Bowl early again- yes at 1:30PM. Who wants to deal with all that traffic and latecomers? But for the fact that I’m going to be early, I’m going to catch the L.A. District High School Jazz Band, which is under the direction of Tony White and J.B. Dyas. Jazz Mafia’s Brass, Bows and Beats are next. They are a hip hop/jazz band. I sure hope they groove. My hangover will have died from the previous day and I’ll be ready to dance. Bill Cosby’s Band, “The Coz of Good Music” will take the stage and he’s assembled Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Dwayne Burno on bass, my good friend Ndugu Chancler on drums, Mark Gross on saxophone, Jay Hoggard on vibes and DD Jackson on piano. Cuban group Tiempo Libre (which means Free Time) will bring their rhythms to the Bowl and I believe they will get the Sunday party started. Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra will be followed by vocalist/bassist Esperanza Spalding and if you haven’t heard Esperanza, you will be blown away by her beauty, talent and stage presence. Robert Randolph and the Family Band will next be taking the stage, and I’ve seen them perform before. They are awesome. Randolph plays the heck out of some steel guitar and you will love him. Salif Keita will be taking the stage next and while I’m not familiar with him, I know that African rhythms and music always are a hit at The Bowl.

Bobby Hutcherson and Cedar Walton will perform and seeing the vibraphonist play with the amazing pianist is sure to be a highlight of the show. The Manhattan Transfer’s fine vocal styling will grace The Bowl and closing the show will be guitarist/vocalist George Benson. Shoot, I’m excited just reading what I wrote. I hope you’ll join us at The Bowl. But in case you’re like me and can’t wait to get to The Hollywood Bowl, Playboy has a couple of events coming up before then. Get to Valley Cultural Center’s “Concerts In The Park” on June 6th. Sal Marquez will headline the event. Lao Tizer will also perform. But I’m looking forward to the surprise artist of the show, Oleta Adams. You can trust me that I’ll be looking for my girl when she performs.

Also, check out Playboy’s Jazz on Film, June 10th, located at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center on Washington Boulevard. You’ll have the opportunity of seeing footage of jazz you’ve never seen before. So although I have deja vu and I’m definitely getting older, what makes Playboy different this year is the music. You’re going to see something you’ve never seen before. I promise.

The Playboy Jazz Festival is the party of the year. It usually sells out, so be sure to hurry and get your tickets. For more information visit

Nat Adderley Jr.

Nat Adderley Jr.

Helping Others To Shine

He’s worked with Beyonce, Luther Vandross and many legends of popular music.

“I see my life playing the piano,” says Adderley Jr.

Nat Adderley Jr. has encroached musical bounderies with relative ease, although he’s very reluctant to admit it. A gentleman born in the roots of jazz, having come from great stock, (his uncle was musical legend Cannonball Adderley,) Nat has performed on many contemporary projects, with some of the biggest artists of our time.

There are few musicians that are able to cross multi-genre lines with relative ease. Why? Because the learning curve from one genre to another can present its share of challenges. Nat Adderley Jr. realizes those challenges. “With jazz it’s hard,” he laughed. “Real hard to play. I would say most people, not all, but I think most people that really are strong on one side, in one idiom are not as strong as they think when they hop over the fence and try to play the other thing.” However, the humble musician, arranger and pianist has done quite a job straddling the fence between a few musical idioms. Adderley has established a huge niche for himself for his critically acclaimed work with the late great Luther Vandross, penning and arranging Vandross’s first pop hit, “Stop To Love.” He also has arranged or composed several other Vandross hits,  including “Wait For Love,” the Grammy-nominated “Give Me The Reason,” “Superstar,” “Here and Now,” “If Only For One Night,” “Creeping,” “If This World Were Mine,” “So Amazing,” “There’s Nothing Better Than Love,”and “Love Won’t Let Me Wait, ” among many others. He produced tracks Vandross’s last seven studio albums, which included “My Favorite Things,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Going Out Of My Head,” and “Knocks Me Off My Feet.” He also produced “The Closer I Get To You,” a Vandross duet with music superstar Beyonce which can be heard on Beyonce’s mega-successful work “Dangerously In Love,” which won the Grammy in 2004 for best R & B performance by a duo or group.  “She is a session singer,” said Adderley Jr. of Beyonce who sang with Vandross on Luther’s “Dance With My Father” recording. “I always respected her a lot. I always thought she was great. But she’s quite a session singer as it turns out.They booked two four hour sessions to record. The first session was 5-9PM, I remember. So I called about 8 o’ clock.” Adderley was surprised at Vandross’s next statement.”Luther said, ‘we are done,'” he said, impressing on Beyonce’s professionalism and prowess. “Beyonce is excellent. She’s quite a musician besides being the performer and the gorgeous person you know about.”    In 2003, Nat produced Luther’s “Live 2003 at Radio City Music Hall.”  Nat was Luther’s musical director from 1981 until his death. Additionally, he’s worked with Johnny Gill, Kirk Whalam, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin and several of pop’s biggest musical icons.

He also works with saxophonist Tom Scott and several other artists, and performs all over the world from New York to California, Asia and Europe. But although jazz is his true love, he was made a living playing more comtemporary music. “For the first time in my life after all this time, being more into Pop and R&B- I was always playing jazz in clubs here and there but clearly my career has been being in Pop and R&B,” said Adderley Jr., who received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Yale University in 1978. He worked on Ruben Studdard’s last record, which gave him an opportunity to work with legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. “I took that project because it was them and Ruben,” he laughed. “But the jazz has just taken everything I have.” Clearly, jazz is a much more difficult idiom to perform than popular music. On the marriage that some artists attempt, Adderley respects the innovations of some of today’s artists. “In terms of new artists, they’ll sample jazz records sometimes and riff over it or they’ll put it in time, put it right on that beat and rap over it, he explained. “But it’s all related. Wherever you are, you can draw influences and bend them into what you’re doing,” he said.

Someday, the jazz stylings of Nat Adderley Jr. needs to be captured on record to preserve the outstanding legacy of his amazing contributions to the music industry.”I’ve never done a record under my own name,” he admitted.”I’ve been accosted by people all over the place for years and years, saying ‘When are you going to do your record?’  I just never wanted to. I always preferred being a sideman in jazz and the pop stuff, I’ve just always wanted make others look good. I wanted to do the arrangements and produce, but it was always for somebody else. But where I am now, I guess I’ll have to try to approach that sometime soon, this year I guess.” If he did do a project, it would spotlight his individual artistry. “It would be instrumental, very musical and more playing,” he explained. “I’m just trying to concentrate on playing more right now. I would say that 15 years ago, I was concentrating on songwriting more and 20 years ago I was concentrating on producing and before that I wanted to arrange, I just wanted to be an arranger. So now finally after all these years I see my life playing the piano.”

Nat Adderley Jr. will be bringing his music to Catalina’s Jazz Club, on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 8PM. Billed as “Nat Adderley Jr and Longineu Parsons, The Music of Cannonball Adderley and Nat Adderley,” the evening promises to be enchanting, with classic melodies and songs like “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” “Autumn Leaves, ” and several other Adderley standards expected to be rendered. Produced by Leonard Herring Jr. the unit will feature Nat Adderley Jr. on piano and keyboards, sensational bassist Trevor Ware and Roy McCurdy on drums. “To have Roy there, it’s just beyond comprehension,” said Adderley Jr. of the industry veteran, who first played with Cannonball Adderley in 1965. “I just want to cry, it’s just incredible. He talks about everything and plays everything just like it was just yesterday.He plays everything so good and it feels great. I’m looking forward to it. ”  Longineu Parsons will be on cornet and Diron Holloway will grace the stage playing alto saxophone. “It’s brand new, but we’re feeling good about it,” said Nat Adderley Jr., who has every right to feel that way. After all, the unassuming arranger, composer and producer has been making others shine for years. Now it’s his turn to take his well-deserved spotlight.

Gail Jhonson

Gail Jhonson-The Princess of Rhythm and Melody

By Buddy Sampson

Gail Jhonson has made a big name for herself in the music industry. The stunning keyboard artist/vocalist with the infectious smile has garnered deserved attention for her precise sense of rhythm, funk and melody.

Jhonson has had many rich experiences performing. The Philadelphia born pianist and keyboardist has shared the stage with Pink, Morris Day, Vanessa Williams, Dave Koz, Jermaine Jackson, Sheila E and Bobby Womack among others. She currently works as musical director, keyboardist and vocalist for Smooth Jazz artist/guitarist/singer Norman Brown. Her immense talent has enabled her to travel all over the world. She made a jaunt last year to Africa with Brown. “”It was great to be in Mozambique,” said Jhonson, who also traveled to South Africa as well. “We went to South Africa in August, to Johannesburg and of course, it was a moving experience. It was a big jazz festival and Phil Perry, Marion Meadows, Paul Taylor and all the smooth jazz cats were all there. I got to meet people from all over the world that love it there.”

Jhonson has been in considerable demand because of her fluid and passionate playing on her instrument. Recently, she worked with Detroit trumpeter Lin Rountree. She also has been involved in activism, having sent an instrumental track to a company called Prvcy Wear. “Prvcy Wear is a company that gives 10% to breast cancer awareness,” said Jhonson. “They love smooth jazz and made a compilation CD that had Lalah Hathaway, Will Downing, Brian Culbertson, Eric Darius and others. It’s a whole host of people that are on that CD and I happen to be on it.” Her track on the CD, which was released in November 2009, Lives Expired, has been receiving critical acclaim. “It was definitely an honor to be in the host of all my peers that are really doing great things in music right now,” said Jhonson, who has also been nominated for Best Jazz Artist for the American Black Music Awards (ABMA). Last year, the lovely young lady was the featured artist at a popular revue in Hollywood, Catalina’s. “That was really extra, extra special,” she reflected. “I never signed so many autographs and sold so many CD’s.”

But Jhonson isn’t stopping there. She also performs in a critically acclaimed all female ensemble, Jazz In Pink, that features Jhonson on keyboards, Karen Briggs on violin, Althea Rene on flute and Mariea Antoinette on harp. She feels that it’s time that female musicians get their due. “My idea is to set up a foundation for any woman, any young girl that wants to build a career in music, to be a manager, a musician, an agent or whatever they want to do in music,” she said. “I really want to work with women to come into the organization and let’s go on stage and play ourselves silly. Women play jazz. And there’s a lot of good ones out there, too that have dedicated their lives to playing music and Jazz In Pink is a forum for us to be able to do that.”

Gail, who also performed in a critically acclaimed group, Natural Experience, in Philadelphia as a youngster, credits growing up and playing in Philadelphia as crucial to her development as a musician. “I think it (being from Philadelphia) gave me a sound foundation,” said Jhonson, who also attended Berklee College of Music, nabbing a degree in Composition. “We grew up in a time when the Uptown Theater (a popular concert hall in Philadelphia) was like our Times Square, our Madison Square Garden, our big mecca of music.” The Philadelphia Sound, credited to producing/songwriting team Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff of Philly International Records, helped to establish a distinctive feel that influenced her. “Thom Bell(a producer/songwriter who worked with The Spinners, The Delphonics and The Stylistics) and all those great writers and stuff, had a big influence on me,” she reflected. “You can find that influence in my music, if you listen to it. It was a good foundation for me personally and professionally.”  And her music is powerful. She has three CD’s to date, “Pearls,” “Keep The Music Playing” and “It’s About Time,” all of which have generated praise from music critics and peers alike.  Jhonson has such a terrific sense of rhythm and funk that she even has a tutorial lesson book, Funk Keyboards, for those that want to learn how to play rhythmically on the instrument.

But why do groups like The Time, Pink and some of the best artists of our time want Gail Jhonson on their projects? Well, it’s because she’s the undisputed Princess of Rhythm and Melody.

Visit her website at Gail Jhonson will be performing March 14th 2010, at The Gas Lamp in Long Beach.


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