The Playboy Jazz Festival celebrated its 40th anniversary at the Hollywood Bowl this year, and since its inauguration, much has changed. The lineup in 1979, as listed in the Los Angeles Times on June 2 of that year, included Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughan, Joe Williams, Harold Land, and a special tribute to Charles Mingus featuring Joni Mitchell on the first day; Lionel Hampton, Willie Bobo, Art Blakey, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, and Weather Report on day two. Bill Cosby was the master of ceremonies for both days.
In 2018, comedian George Lopez returned for his fifth year as MC, and mainstream jazz wasn’t highlighted as much as it was back in the day. Nonetheless, there were some memorable moments in that department. At the top was Hubtones: Freddie Hubbard’s 80th Birthday Celebration, with an ensemble of first-rate trumpeters—Nicholas Payton, Randy Brecker, Jeremy Pelt, and bandleader/MD David Weiss (who frequently worked with Hubbard in the latter’s final years). Pianist Benny Green, bassist Vicente Archer, and drummer Roy McCurdy provided expert support during sublime renderings of Hubbard’s classics, including “Up Jumped Spring,” “Birdlike,” and the much-sampled “Red Clay” as the finale.