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Review: The 2015 Playboy Jazz Festival

Salvation and swing, dynamism and dance, tradition and transcendence

Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, Playboy Jazz Festival, 2015
Preservation Hall Jazz Band trombonist Ronell Johnson, Playboy Jazz Festival, 2015
Third World drummer/percussionist Tony "Ruption" Williams, Playboy Jazz Festival, 2015
Vocalist Aloe Blacc, Playboy Jazz Festival, 2015
Ozomatli saxophonist Ulises Bella and trumpeter Asdrubal Sierra, Playboy Jazz Festival, 2015
Eddie Palmieri, Playboy Jazz Festival, 2015
Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, Playboy Jazz Festival, 2015
Melissa Aldana, Playboy Jazz Festival, 2015
Morgan James, Playboy Jazz Festival, 2015
Tower of Power horns, Playboy jazz Festival 2015

Jazz honored its past and charted new horizons June 13-14 at the 37th annual Playboy Jazz Festival at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl. Comedian George Lopez, in his third year as master of ceremonies, kept the energy high as he presented a lineup that testified to jazz’s breadth and depth.

Crowd-pleasing vocalists kept the Bowl consistently rocking. On Saturday, Morgan James offered scorchingly sexy soul and, with her composition “Say the Words,” a ballad “to maybe make Aretha jealous.” High-powered “folk-soul” superstar Aloe Blacc married Sam Cooke vocal flavor with dance-driven, near-supernatural cool, while the volcanic voice of Ray Green, backed by one of R&B’s mightiest horn sections, ignited Tower of Power’s Saturday-closing set. Sunday brought soul siren Ledisi, who preached tough-love wisdom with a swagger that recalled Tina Turner in her prime.

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