By Taylor Jordan
The 29th annual outing of the Playboy Jazz Festival this Saturday and Sunday will offer a musical mix to alternatively tune up people's toe-tapping rhythms and soothe the savage beasts of work and weekday tedium. Entertainer Bill Cosby again serves as master of ceremonies.
James, a Riverside resident now who was born in Los Angeles, raised in San Francisco and won the hearts of music lovers worldwide, will be among the Sunday headliners.
The Saturday show from 2:30 to 11 p.m. will feature bluesman Buddy Guy, trumpeter Chris Botti, master saxophonists Phil Woods with Bill Charlap, Brian Lynch, Steve Gilmore and Bill Goodwin, Afro-Cuban balladeer Isaac Delgado, sizzling songstress Angelique Kidjo, the County Basie Orchestra directed by Bill Hughes, young saxophone lion James Carter Organ Trio and Johnny Polanco Y Su Conjunto Amistad.
Carter will also perform in the 2007 version of the Cos of Good Music featuring bassists Dwayne Burno and Ron Johnson, drummer Ndugu Chancler, saxophonist Vincent Herring, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, pianist Larry Willis and guitarist/vocalist Ray Parker Jr.
Grammy-winning trumpeter Randy Brecker, his brother, will co-lead with Grammy-winning saxophonist Bill Evans, the Saturday salute to the late, great jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker. The Brecker brothers helped blend the sounds of jazz, rhythm-and-blues and rock and enjoyed critical, artistic and fan approval for more than two decades for their pioneering and cutting edge collaborations and solo turns. They won two Grammys this year for their last collaboration, "Some Skunk Funk."
Evans is equally well-known as a keyboardist, producer and writer. Also a pioneer, he was among the first to blend hip-hop and jazz and was instrumental in putting together Miles Davis' 1980s' comeback band. Together since 2003 as the Randy Brecker-Bill Evans Soulbop Band, the duo will offer soul, bebop, hardbop and contemporary jazz for their Saturday set. Playing with them will be Hiram Bullock, Dave Kikoski, Victor Bailey and Rodney Holmes.
The Eagle Rock High School Jazz Ensemble, directed by Greg Samuel, will open on Saturday.
James, a Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame honoree and three-time Grammy winner, will take center stage on Sunday and passionately prove how she won the title of high priestess of the blues.
Born in 1938 as Jamesetta Hawkins, she began singing in the church at age 5. She was only 15 when famous R&B bandleader Johnny Otis discovered her, reversed her first name and set the stage for her to become a household name musically on five continents. It took only one year for her to get her first hit recording, "Roll With Me, Henry," in 1954.
James toured extensively through the 1950s and 1960s, appearing and performing with such pioneering artists as Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Esther Phillips, Little Richard and Otis Redding. In 1960, she joined the Chess Records stable of superstars which included Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. She recorded more than 30 albums and had 23 hit singles in the next 16 years.
Opening for the Rolling Stones in 1979 and 1981 expanded her audiences and admirers. Few artists are confident enough to record or sing such Etta James' classic, signature songs as "At Last," "Trust In Me," "Sunday Kind of Love" and "Fool That I Am." She has steadily expanded her musical expressions to include jazz, pop and the American songbook. In 1994, she won her first Grammy with "Mystery Lady: The Songs of Billie Holiday." She was inducted into the Rock ‘N' Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
A popular Playboy Jazz artist, James' Sunday performance is her seventh at the festival.
Afro-Cuban, Latin jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval's Mambo Mania Big Band in its world premier performance, classic jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, Norman Brown's Summer Storm with Peabo Bryson, Marion Meadows and Jeff Lorber, multi-instrumentalist Marcus Miller, African bassist and singer Richard Bona, Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas, pianist Taylor Eigsti Quartet and Malcolm-Jamal Warner's Miles Long.
Eigsti, 21, will be the young lion on the set for the 80th birthday celebration for master saxophonist James "Red" Holloway. Holloway, the trend-setting octogenarian, will perform with master bassist Richard Reid and baritone vocalist Kevin Mahogany. Surprise guests may also show up to jam with Holloway.
Tickets are still available at the Hollywood Bowl Box Office and Ticketmaster outlets. Ticketmaster charge-by-phone lines are (213) 365-3500 and (714) 740-7878. Tickets may also be purchased through Ticketmaster online at www.ticketmaster.com. Additional information may be obtained on the Playboy Jazz Festival hotline, (310) 450-1173, or the website, www.playboyjazz.com.