top of page
  • Jonathan Widran


When Hugh Hefner died in September 2017, Andrew Dalton of the Associated Press wrote that he “turned silk pajamas into a work uniform, women into centerfolds and sexual desire into a worldwide multimedia empire that spanned several generations of American life. With Playboy, he helped slip sex out of the confines of plain brown wrappers and into mainstream conversation.”

While Hef’s life, work and impact as the so called “leader of the sexual revolution” will long be debated, the one aspect of his legacy that should stay in the “good for the culture” column is the way he turned his passion for jazz into one of the world’s most popular and iconic jazz festivals. When the magazine was still in its first decade, Hefner put on the first Playboy Jazz Festival in 1959 in his hometown of Chicago. The first indoor jazz festival, it drew more than 68,000 total fans for five shows at the Chicago Stadium. Performers included Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie Oscar Peterson, Louis Armstrong and Bobby Darin. The event we now know as the Playboy Jazz Festival originated at the Hollywood Bowl in 1979 to celebrate the mag’s 25th Anniversary.

On the weekend of June 9 and 10, the venue will play host to the 40th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival. It is the LA Philharmonic’s fifth year presenting the event, and in keeping with its storied tradition, the lineup on both days will feature a powerhouse slate of emerging artists and superstars from many different subgenres across the jazz spectrum. Comedian George Lopez returns for his sixth year as Master of Ceremonies.

Saturday’s headliners include legendary contemporary jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour and pianist/Oscar winning film composer Dave Grusin (whose dual album Harlequin is one of my favorite contemporary jazz works of all time!); Grammy winning R&B/neo-soul singer/songwriter Anthony Hamilton; three time Grammy winning jazz-rock-funk fusion jam band Snarky Puppy; and the Miles Electric Band, featuring Miles Davis alumni John Beasley and Robert Irving III on piano and keys, Badal Roy on tabla, guitarist Blackbyrd McKnight, percussionist Munyungo Jackson, bassist Darryl Jones, percussionist Mino Cinelu, saxophonist Antoine Roney, turntablist DJ Logic and Miles’ nephew Vince Wilburn, Jr. on drums.

Rounding out Saturday’s lineup are The Edmar Castaneda Quartet with Special Guest Gregoire Maret; Afro-Cuban singer Dayme Arocena; blues legend Roy Gaines & His Orchestra Tuxedo Blues; The Matthew Whitaker Trio, led by the 17-year-old wunderkind pianist; Colombian ensemble Monsieur Perine; and The LA County High School for the Arts Jazz Ensemble.

Sunday’s lineup includes two very special celebration performances. The first is an 80th birthday celebration of modern jazz and bebop trumpet great Freddie Hubbard, who died in 2008 at 70. “The Hubtones” ensemble includes Nicholas Payton, Randy Brecker, Jeremy Pelt, David Weiss, Benny Green, Vicente Archer and Roy McCurdy. Legendary Bay Area funk/soul horn band Tower of Power’s performance commemorates their 50th Anniversary; formed in 1968 by saxophonist/vocalist Emilio Castillo and baritone saxophonist Stephen “Doc” Kupka, the group started out as The Motowns before renaming themselves Tower of Power.

Also performing on Sunday are The Ramsey Lewis Quintet; Charles Lloyd & The Marvels with special guest Lucinda Williams, featuring Bill Frisell, Stuart Mathis, Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland; soul-pop-reggae songstress Jazmine Sullivan; The Count Basie Orchestra under the direction of Scotty Barnhart; Cameroon born bassist Richard Bona and his band Mandekan Cubano; jazz/funk/fusion genre-benders Kneebody; post hip-hop ragtime defining duo Parlor Social with Dessy Di Lauro and Ric’key Pageot; and the LAUSD/Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Big Band under the direction of Tony White and J.G. Dyas.

The Playboy Jazz Festival, like most events at the Hollywood Bowl, rolls like a massive block party with 18,000 jazz fans, sharing music, conversation, wine and incredible food. For millions of music lovers, the Bowl – one of the largest amphitheaters in the world - is synonymous with summer in Southern California. Playboy Jazz weekend is the ultimate gateway to a summer of amazing music and endless fun.

For more information, please visit:

Miles Electric Band

Dave Grusin & Lee Ritenour

Snarky Puppy

bottom of page