Playboy impresario Hugh Hefner, an important advocate for jazz through his magazine, festival, nightclubs, TV show, compilations and books, died on Sept. 27 at his iconic home, the Playboy Mansion, at age 91. A terrific account of Hefner’s contributions to jazz culture can be found in Patty Farmer’s 2015 book, Playboy Swings, the JT review of which, by Jeff Tamarkin, we’re reposting here. Also check out the JT review of the most recent Playboy Jazz Festival.
For Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, music, specifically the jazz that he adored, was always part of a greater game plan. From the start “Hef” envisioned his venture defining a total lifestyle, of which the flagship magazine and its nothing-to-the-imagination centerfolds were never the whole story. Playboy, since its 1953 inception, published quality prose, and music journalism and jazz-focused readers’ polls were part of the mix. The very first issue — the one offering then-scandalous, now-epochal nude photos of Marilyn Monroe — included a feature article on the Dorsey brothers, and in subsequent issues writers and critics regularly weighed in on the pros and cons of current jazz, recommending with authority the LPs that every hip Playboy reader should spin at his next cocktail party.