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Three Into Two Is the Musical Equation

June 13, 2002|Don Heckman

Think of each day of the 24th annual Playboy Jazz Festival on Saturday and Sunday as a sequence of three overlapping segments, each with its own program of music contributing to its own special vibe. Here's how the two days break out (with approximate timings). The festival will be at the Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. For information, call (213) 480-3232.


Fun in the Sun (2:30-6 p.m.): The festival kicks off with a taste of the future of jazz in a set by the L.A. Multi-School Jazz Band (directed by Reggie Andrews). Swingster Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers will brighten the afternoon, setting the stage for some laid-back listening to three fine straight-ahead jazz acts: the Charles Mingus 80th Birthday Tribute Big Band, singer Nnenna Freelon and Joe Lovano & Gil Goldstein's "Salute to Caruso."

Conga Line Time (6-8 p.m.): As the sun begins to dip over the hillside and the beach balls fly, the now well-oiled crowd will snap out of its listening mode in search of foot-tapping action. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Pete Fountain, the Afro-Cuban jazz of Arturo Sandoval and the salsa of Maraca offer plenty of opportunities to boogie through the aisles.

Prime Time (8-11 p.m.): When darkness falls and the bright lights are turned on, who better to step into the spotlight than the world's most visible jazz artist, Wynton Marsalis. One of the festival's perennially popular acts, singer Etta James, is next, with the soul/funk rhythms of Marcus Miller capping off the evening.


Working on the Tan (2-5 p.m.): Second-day celebrants are advised to bring along a sun block with a higher SPF number. But the music begins with a distinctly cooler tone via the smooth-jazz trumpet of Chris Botti. The rest of the programming displays the intriguing eclecticism often present in the festival's afternoon segments via the rhythms of the Gypsy group Les Yeux Noirs (The Dark Eyes), Bill Cosby's all-star assemblage the Cos of Good Music, and the Latin jazz of Tolu (with Justo Almario and Alex Acuna).

Let's Boogie (5-7:30 p.m.): The lowering sun once again triggers the need to toss off warm afternoon-cold wine lethargy and get the endorphins flowing. The Count Basie Orchestra (conducted by Grover Mitchell) has the answer. So does returning blues artist Keb' Mo', once again expected to galvanize the fans and fill the aisles, with singer Patti Austin wrapping the segment with a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald (accompanied by the Basie ensemble).

More Prime Time (7:30-10:15 p.m.): The bright lights return, arcing through the summer night to showcase the all-star "Directions in Music," featuring Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove. As the evening winds down, the pop jazz of guitarist Lee Ritenour and the funk rhythms of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe bring the segment, as well as the 24th Playboy Jazz Festival, to a lighthearted close.

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