DC/Maryland/Merriweather Post – Capital Jazz Festival and the Hollywood Bowl – Playboy Jazz Festival

I said “My GAWD! This is amazing, y’all.” Capital Jazz used to happen in a little downtown park in Washington DC. We need to raise a flag and hail this as one of the rarest “Jazz spurts” moments on the planet. Being at Merriweather Post at all is amazing! We drove past a whole section of camping tents with people lounging on lawn chairs with ice chests and coolers of food and drink, and would you believe booths of arts and crafts and multiple venues of performers. This is the long lost tradition of the music festival usually confined to more recent pop fests. The traditional jazz festival has had its fair share of occasions like this. You gotta pray for more!

We walked on with our big George Duke celebration Tribute Band, but just before us, Rick Braun and Dianne Reeves made Fourth of July fireworks on the 7th of June. It was truly “ON” when we hit the stage with Marcus Miller, Byron Miller, Greg Phillinganes, Paul Jackson, Little John Roberts, John Beasley, Josie James, Jeffrey Osborne, Phil Perry, and Dianne Reeves and Stanley Clarke. We really punched their ticket good. I know they were satisfied and exhausted. I’m exhausted just saying all of the names that appeared that day to do music. When we closed with George Duke’s “Reach for It” it was pandemonium bonkers.

I almost forgot to mention the George Duke Tribute Album! The week flew by and suddenly we were at the Hollywood Bowl doing the closing set at the Playboy Jazz Festival hosted by George Lopez. He was warm, funny, and enthusiastic. One year ago George Duke himself played this same slot at the Playboy Fest.

The Hollywood Bowl always becomes a planet unto itself on whatever occasion it hosts. This occasion was a great coming together of icons—the Bowl and Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Jazz Festival! The Playboy Jazz Festival dates back to 1959 in Chicago, where Hugh Hefner had been a jazzer since the 50s. The first issue of Playboy featured an interview with Miles Davis…just the beginning. There were countless issues with articles about groups and personalities from the jazz world, jazz being recognized by many as America’s preeminent art form that spawned rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and even John Lennon singing “here come ol’ flattop, he come groovin’ up slowly”…Come Together! Now that’s a legacy. Well I guess that’s three legacies.

Anyway, with a mention of Rashid and John Duke, George’s sons, and Corine, his wife, we did our second tribute to George in seven days. One of the most beautiful moments of the evening is right there in the middle when a photo of George’s big smile is shown and the audience hears him sing “Missing You” with its oh so touching spoken introduction. Man oh man oh man oh man…George could write. Melodies set in chord changes, which moved your emotions with lyrics to match.

The evening flew by with not enough time to say all that we wanted to say. We’ll probably always feel this way about doing a proper tribute to George.

The audience rocked so hard and grooved so well when Ndugudu and Josie funked the Bowl with “Reach for It”. They were there when that song was born and tonight’s version was hip bumping and soul satisfying for 18,000 people.

I couldn’t see him but I know Stanley Clarke was grinning again when Josie sang “Sweet Baby”, co-written by George and Stanley and the biggest hit that either ever had. Having Dianne Reeves on both the record and at these tributes along with Stanley has been so wonderfully warm and perfectly thrilling in a “who could ask for more” fashion. Susan, Ryan, and Jen (Ryan’s fiancé) were there and squealed about how fiery and funky the music was, even me. Ryan loved Stanley “tearin’ that bass up”.

So many hellos and well wishes…too many to mention here! Hi, Andy Garcia (what a body of work). He grinned as Arturo Sandoval and I sang Charlie Parker’s version of “Groovin’ High” in the dressing room doorway. What a precious moment; one for the ages.

And so was the whole night.

At one moment or another, we’ve all looked at each other and said, “we have to do this again.” And so I’ll say it again…this is not enough…we will do this again. Thank you Capital Jazz and Playboy Jazz Festival, and all of the staff and crew involved. Hope to see you soon!


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