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Playboy Jazz Festival Reviewed

Performances included Cécile McLorin Salvant, the Bad Plus Joshua Redman, Joey Alexander Trio and more

Vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant with pianist Aaron Diehl
Pianist Joey Alexander
The Bad Plus Joshua Redman: tenor saxophonist Redman and bassist Reid Anderson
Master of ceremonies George Lopez greets vocalist Seth MacFarlane
Tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson with saxophonist Jimmy Heath (background)
Alto saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. with representatives from the Congo Square Nation tribe
Fourplay: Pianist Bob James, bassist Nathan East, guitarist Chuck Loeb and drummer Harvey Mason (from left)
The Escovedo family: Juan, Peter Michael, Sheila E. and father Pete (from left)

Programming a jazz festival is perilous. How does one strike the right balance of straight-up jazz with more eclectic acts? Fortunately, the team behind the Playboy Jazz Festival have it down to a science. The festival’s 38th-annual presentation, hosted June 11-12 at the Hollywood Bowl and emceed for the fourth consecutive year by comedian George Lopez, served up an ever-shifting mix of styles that enthralled listeners throughout the weekend.

The festivities launched on Saturday with the LAUSD/Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Band, a tight ensemble of up-and-coming Los Angeles high school musicians. Pianist John Beasley fronted another big band, the MONK’estra, as they attacked his staggeringly intricate arrangements of Thelonious Monk compositions, notably a brilliant synthesis of “Green Chimneys” with “Straight, No Chaser.” Sunday brought California State University, Northridge’s Jazz A Band. The dusky-toned tenor saxophonist Jordan Leicht was a standout among its promising soloists.

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