Terence Blanchard, Robert Glasper and Ledisi Close Out the 2015 Playboy Jazz Festival: Live Review
Solid sets by veteran and next-generation acts, bracketed by two breakout performances, marked the second day of the 37th annual Playboy Jazz Festival (June 14) at the Hollywood Bowl.
Setting the pace with the day’s first take-notice performance was the Jones Family Singers. As the second act on the bill that opened at 3 p.m., the act had the difficult task of playing to a still half-full house. But that didn’t stop the gospel act -- five sisters, two brothers and father -- from turning in an unforgettable performance that drew inspiration from the blues, R&B and rock. The group’s high-energy set included a revivalist takeoff on the Jacksons’ “Can You Feel It” as well as an exuberant take on the standard “Shout.” As host George Lopez proclaimed, “We just had church in the Hollywood Bowl.”
The joyous spirit continued with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The legendary group’s New Orleans brand of jazz sparked a second-line procession that snaked around the lower perimeter of the Bowl --complete with patrons waving white handkerchiefs. The next generation of jazz was personified by Our Point of View. A part of Blue Note’s ongoing 75th anniversary celebration, the super group -- comprised of Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge, Kendrick Scott, Lionel Loueke, Marcus Strickland and Ambrose Akinmusire -- regaled the audience with such original tracks as Strickland’s “The Meeting.” During the set, Glasper announced the band will begin recording an album this week at the Capitol Tower. Both Glasper and Blue Note president Don Was will share production duties.
Drawing from his latest album Breathless, New Orleans native son and fellow Blue Note artist Terence Blanchard brought a groove-based fusion of funk, R&B and blues into the mix when he and new quintet the E-Collective hit the stage. The warm greeting the group received was extended to another Crescent City export, singer/songwriter Ledisi. Piercing through the chilly night air, her commanding vocals were showcased to full effect via a set list that included fan faves “Pieces of Me,” “Alright” and “I Blame You.”
The evening’s other breakout performance starred the Brooklyn, New York-based collective Snarky Puppy. Making its Playboy Jazz debut, the eight-piece band -- led by bassist/composer/arranger Michael League -- tossed up left-of-center, energetic instrumental tracks blending R&B, funk, gospel and jazz influences. Noted one festival-goer before Snarky Puppy left the stage to a standing ovation, “These motherf***ers are awful tight.”
Also part of the second-day lineup before a nearly sold-out house were the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band featuring the legendary Jimmy Heath; Third World, turning in a powerful performance as a last-minute substitute for a visa-plagued King Sunny Ade; jam band Ozomatli, celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the Los Angeles Unified School District/Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Band.