Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Playboy Jazz Festival

James Moody

In another locale, a 30th anniversary would have at least warranted a commemorative speech from its founder or main organizer, or even a special all-star band jam/segment. But at the Playboy Jazz Festival, held at Los Angeles’ landmark Hollywood Bowl, the focus was completely on the “present” and the past is, well, so yesterday. Wise-cracking, jazz-loving emcee Bill Cosby’s band, Cos of Good Music, his yearly collective, burgeoned with talent and probably was the closest thing to an all-star group at the festival. Its 2008 installment featured Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, Dwayne Burno on bass, Benny Green on piano, Billy Harper on tenor saxophone, Jerry Peters on Hammond B3 organ, David T. Walker on guitar and longstanding member Ndugu Chancler on drums.

Cosby’s ensemble played early when many of the Playboy Jazz Festival attendees were arriving and setting up for the first of two long days of bantering, drinking, dining, sunning and, somewhere in the midst of all that, taking in some music. The bandleader, helping out on drums, was undaunted and well accustomed to the inattentiveness of the crowd, and dedicated a lively number to departed icon organists Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy Smith. The hard-bop classic “Moanin'” followed and maintained the energy with first-rate group interplay and a dynamic solo from Akinmusire that surprisingly impressed the seemingly uninterested listeners. Wrapping up a swinging and well-balanced segment, the group played a festive Latin-flavored piece, full of soulful brass choruses and solos.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published