The Playboy Jazz Festival, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary, has announced a new lineup jam packed with jazz, funk, and R&B greats. This year the show will be saying farewell to longtime host Bill Cosby, who relinquished the position last year after more than 30 years on the mic, and hello to Grammy-nominated comedian George Lopez. This year’s festivities will also honor music icon Quincy Jones as he celebrates his 80th birthday.
At a recent press conference held at the Playboy mansion, the new master of ceremonies recounted the phone call he received from the event’s long-time host.
"There probably is not a more tremendous honor than to get a call from Bill Cosby asking you to take over as host," shared Lopez, who then went on to do a classic imitation of the venerable comedian. "Only as Bill Cosby could give advice’ he said to me, [mimicking Cosby’s voice]‘Do not let the musicians in your dressing room; they will eat all your food and drink all your drink!’ Lopez added, "I'm very excited! I'm also a huge fan of Playboy."
Playboy fans will no doubt appreciate the impressive roster of artists set to kick off the festival on the first day. On June 15th, R&B singer Jeffrey Osborne will be making his festival debut as a special guest of keyboardist and pianist George Duke.
"It [Playboy Jazz Festival] couldn't have come at a better time”, remarks Osborne, “since I do have a new cd that's been out a couple of weeks that George Duke produced. I'm getting a chance to work with George at the festival too. I've always wanted to work with Herbie [Hancock] and I've always wanted to work with Quincy [Jones], but he had this guy named James Ingram," Osborne jokes. "I love jazz; I grew up on jazz. My father was a great trumpet player and my uncle, Hilton Jefferson, played soul saxophone with Duke Ellington."
Adding to what is sure to be a momentous event, featured performers will also include a cappella group Naturally 7, who will be joined by the legendary Herbie Hancock. Grammy winning vocalist Angelique Kidjo is also returning to the Playboy stage, with special guest and trumpeter Hugh Masekela. Additionally, festival-goers will see Gregory Porter, Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band, Lee Ritenour, newly Grammy-award-winning artist Robert Glasper Experiment, and Grace Kelly Quintet. Ole Coltrane will feature Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band, who have been coined as a “festival favorite.”
Day two's headliners include but are not limited to Grammy award winning singer India Arie, Sheila E., Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and Taj Mahal and the Real Thing Tuba Band.
Remaining true to form, both festival dates will also highlight high school jazz bands. Quincy Jones commented on the importance of jazz curriculum in schools:
"That's our [African Americans] classical music [jazz]," says Jones. "A third of my life has been dedicated to the consortium to really get the definitive American curriculum in schools, because every country in the world knows more about our music than we do. We can't afford to do that [ignore the contributions of jazz, an art form created by African Americans], because jazz music is too big."
Jazz lovers everywhere can honor this rich legacy by patronizing this event. To see the full lineup, visit playboyjazzfestival.com. Tickets are now on sale.