Riveting performances by 2008 Grammy album of the year honoree Herbie Hancock, contemporary jazz pianist Hiromi and singers Ryan Shaw, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Keb’ Mo’ kept things jumping at the Playboy Jazz Festival (June 14-15). Now in its 30th year, the festival – hosted once again by Bill Cosby – attracted over 35,000 fans to Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl during the two-day event.
Billboard caught up with several of the performers backstage, who chatted about upcoming projects:
– Relaxing after performing songs from his Grammy-winning album, “River: The Joni Letters,” and such signature tunes as his 1983 hit “Rockit” (with dancers from Debbie Allen’s dance academy), Hancock noted he has four other projects on the table. And that’s not counting his gig as the special guest on the maiden voyage of the Playboy Jazz Cruise with host Marcus Miller (Jan. 25-Feb. 1, 2009).
“My problem is what I should and shouldn’t reveal,” he said with a laugh. “One album that will probably be released this year would be a repackaging of previous material I’ve done. However, other creative elements will be added to make the material fresh and not just a simple repackaging. We’re still discussing what songs will be chosen.”
Still in the talking stage are two other projects. One involves Hancock doing a possible tour with classical pianist Lang Lang and an orchestra, to be followed by an album featuring both musicians. The second revolves around several tracks that Hancock has done with Brian Eno. Of this latter project, he says, “These tracks are still in the infant stage. They need melodies, arrangements and production. We haven’t gotten to that point yet.” Global in scope, the fourth project is centered around “bringing peoples of the world together,” explains Hancock. “I don’t want to give away the store on this yet. But we’re looking at real creative ways of approaching this that haven’t been done before.”
– Al Jarreau is finishing up his first holiday CD for Rhino. “These are familiar songs, like ‘O Come All Ye Faithful,’ but done with the Al Jarreau touch,” says the singer. Among those working on the album are musician Larry Williams and arranger/musician Joe Turano, both of whom worked with Jarreau on his 2006 Grammy-winning pairing with George Benson on “Givin’ It Up.” In addition, Jarreau and Rhino are collaborating on a second compilation culled from his 30-year career, “More of the Best.” The first, the 14-track “Love Songs,” was released earlier this year.
– Throwing in some Otis Redding (“Try a Little Tenderness”), Jimmy Cliff (“Many Rivers to Cross”) and the Beatles (“Let It Be”), Ryan Shaw termed his first appearance on the Playboy Jazz bill and the Bowl stage as “cool and an honor. The time slot [he was the third act] was sort of tough: people are still walking in, settling down. But I did my best to wake them up.” Grammy-nominated for best traditional R&B vocal for “I Am Your Man” from his 2007 Columbia debut “This is Ryan Shaw,” the singer/songwriter also sang oneof his new songs, “Choosin’,” a candidate for the new album he’s getting ready to record. “We’ve got a good little bunch of songs already,” says Shaw, who heads to Europe in July to tour and do more writing. His goal is have most of the new album’s recording done by September, with his second album slated for the top of the year.