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Review: Playboy Jazz Festival 2012

From soul to fusion to smooth: all things and then some

John Medeski (foreground), Jack Bruce (background), Playboy Jazz Festival 2012
Vernon Reid, Playboy Jazz Festival 2012
Spectrum Road, Playboy Jazz Festival 2012
Terri Lyne Carrington's Mosaic Project, Playboy Jazz Festival 2012
Terri Lyne Carrington, Playboy Jazz Festival 2012
Bill Harper, David Weiss, Playboy Jazz Festival 2012
Cindy Blackman Santana, Playboy Jazz Festival 2012
George Cables, Billy Harper, David Weiss, Eddie Henderson, Craig Handy, Playboy Jazz Festival 2012
Left to Right: Bill Cosby, Tia Fuller, Ingrid Jensen, Erena Terakubo, Playboy Jazz Festival 2012
Bill Cosby and The Cos of Good Music, Playboy Jazz Festival 2012
Bill Cosby, Playboy Jazz Festival 2012
Jack Bruce, Playboy Jazz Festival 2012

The 2012 Playboy Jazz Festival attempted to be all things jazz-related and then some, to fill the historic 20,000-person Hollywood Bowl amphitheater. Despite the audience’s near-legendary penchant for mingling, nibbling, guzzling and doing very little listening, they actually responded appreciatively to mainstream, unadulterated groupings. Many aspects of PJF (number 34) were rote, with few surprises to keep the audience and longtime master of ceremonies Bill Cosby awake. It was his final stretch at the helm, after 31 years, and he says this year it’s definite.

There were pop, funk and R&B jaunts that enthralled concert-goers: New Orleans’ Soul Rebels with Leo Nocentelli, Ivan Neville and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux; super soul singer Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings; smooth jazz reedman Boney James; Nigerian rocking soul vocalist KG Omula; and blue-eyed soul/pop heartthrob singer/pianist Robin Thicke. Singer/guitarist Keb’ Mo’ somewhat covered the blues category; he intermixed the inspirational “The Door” with the gritty blues of “Government Cheese” and “Further on Down the Road.” It ignited the Bowl when local blues/jazz diva Barbara Morrison sat in to totally rock the house.

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