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(Published: February 16, 2012)

Featuring a world class lineup of talent, the 34th annual Playboy Jazz Festival will present an eclectic roster of Grammy-winning artists, acclaimed jazz icons, rising stars and Festival favorites, Saturday and Sunday, June 16th and 17th, at the renowned Hollywood Bowl.

Showcasing the entire spectrum of jazz, the event annually attracts over 35,000 fans from all over the world. Among the headliners for the two day concert are Ramsey Lewis, Robin Thicke, Ozomatli, Sheila E., Boney James and Christian McBride.

Having played the Festival on numerous occasions, Grammy-winner Ramsey Lewis will take to the Playboy stage for the first time with his popular Electric Band. Known for such chart topping hits as "The In Crowd", "Hang On Sloopy" and more, Lewis continues to captivate fans with his legendary piano playing and the innovative style that have earned him three Grammy awards and seven Gold records. He will perform hits from his classic Sun Goddess album as well as his latest CD, Ramsey Taking Another Look

Currently riding high with the success of his fifth album, Love After War, R&B singing sensation Robin Thicke is making his highly anticipated Festival debut. Before his stunning breakthrough as a hit making singer-songwriter, the Los Angeles native was already composing and producing for such superstar artists as Michael Jackson, Marc Anthony, Christina Aguilera and many others. His debut CD sold nearly two million copies, spawning the mega-hit "Lost Without U", which topped four Billboard charts simultaneously and was named ASCAP's Song Of The Year. His current release, Love After War, features Lil Wayne and debuted on the Billboard 200. Festival fans will be able to experience firsthand the talent that has won Thicke thousands of faithful fans and catapulted him to multi-platinum status.

Celebrated Los Angeles culture-mashers Ozomatli, whose rapid rise to stardom has taken them from hometown heroes to United States Department Cultural Ambassadors, are returning to the Playboy stage for their fifth appearance. Their notorious urban-Latino collision of hip-hop and salsa, dancehall and cumbia, samba and funk, meringue and comparsa, East L.A R&B and New Orleans jazz mixed with Jamaican reggae and Indian raga should once again move the crowd to its feet.

Sure to turn up the heat is the return appearance of the Emmy and Grammy-nominated Sheila E. Making her Festival debut as a leader, she has previously performed several times at the Festival with her legendary father, percussionist Pete Escovedo, and their family's famous band, with whom she still tours. A star in her own right, she has served as the musical director for such superstars as Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, and Prince. Known for her mega hit, "The Glamorous Life", she also performed with Prince on his Purple Rain Soundtrack leading to such solo hits as "The Belle of St. Mark" and "A Love Bizarre". She also toured with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr band in 2001, 2003 and 2006 and more recently performed alongside Marc Anthony in the American Idol Season 10 finale.

With four gold albums, three Grammy nominations, a Soul Train Award, and an NAACP award nomination to his credit, Boney James is considered by many to be one of the most influential jazz artists of his generation. Back by popular demand, James will bring his soulful grooves back to the Festival for the fourth time. Having sold over 3 million copies of his 12 albums, (Eight of which made #1 on the Billboard contemporary jazz chart), James produced, arranged and co-wrote his latest CD, Contact. Although the new CD still features James' signature sound, it has an added intensity inspired by his personal life after a serious car accident. Continuing to break down barriers with his music, James continues to make ‘contact' with his fans, connecting with them through his music all over the world.

Philadelphia born bass virtuoso and Grammy winner Christian McBride is one of the most recorded musicians of his generation. Having appeared on close to 300 recordings as a sideman or leader before the age of 40, McBride has played with such high caliber artists as Sting, The Roots, Kathleen Battle, Carly Simon and James Brown to name a few. Making his first Festival appearance with his big band, McBride's first big band album, The Good Feeling, just won the 2012 Grammy for "Best Large Jazz Ensemble". He has performed and recorded with such jazz giants as Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Roy Haynes, Joshua Redman, and many more. In 2006, he was named to the position of "creative chair for jazz" with the L.A. Philharmonic, taking over from Dianne Reeves. Although he lives in the musical worlds of hip hop, soul and classical music, he continues to be a trailblazer as a band leader and has composed a number of pieces for larger ensembles, showcasing his hallmark energy and versatility.

Since the release of their second album Naturally in 2005, Sharon Jones & the Dap- Kings have become a worldwide sensation. Steeped in the gilded and gritty sounds of gospel, 60s soul and funk, the nine-piece band continues to electrify fans with their fiery live performances and intoxicating, heart-throbbing sound. Their latest CD, I Learned the Hard Way, moved 100,000 copies in just four months out and they have been playing to sell out crowds all over the world. Returning for a second appearance after their triumphant debut a few years ago, Jones & the Dap- Kings will no doubt rock the house once more.

Bringing their ‘party' to the Festival for the first time, The Soul Rebels with special guests Leo Nocentelli, Zigaboo Modeliste and Ivan Neville were founded by New Orleans natives Lumar LeBlanc and Derrick Moss, all of whom are making their Festival debut. An eight piece ensemble harnessing the power of horns and drums in the party-like atmosphere of a dance club, the group honed their skills where most New Orleans bands do -- in the street. Nocentelli, the group's guitarist, has recorded with such major artists as Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and Sting. Modeliste, a pioneer of second line funk, has worked with Keith Richards, Robert Palmer and Dr. John. Both of them are original members of the legendary Meters, New Orleans' most famous funk band. Singer-songwriter Ivan Neville, also a multi-instrumentalist, is the son of Aaron Neville and leader of the group Dumpstaphunk. Together they've updated the brass band tradition and taken it a step further by adding hip hop and half sung, half rapped lyrics. The group averages 250 shows a year, playing everywhere from South Africa to Europe and the United States.

Bringing an international flavor to the Festival are the Global Gumbo All-Stars. A creation of the legendary Quincy Jones, the group features acclaimed bassist Richard Bona, noted guitarist Lionel Loueke, drummer Francisco Mela, and young piano phenomenon Alfredo Rodriguez, in a rotating ensemble of top singers and musicians from around the world. Born in Cameroon, bassist Richard Bona has worked as the musical director for Harry Belafonte and toured with Pat Metheny as a percussionist and vocalist. A native of West Africa, Lionel Loueke has performed with Herbie Hancock, Angelique Kidjo, Wayne Shorter, Santana and Sting. Cuban drummer Francisco Mela is a favorite among such elite jazz musicians as Joe Lovano, John Scoffield and others. Since being discovered by Quincy Jones at the Montereux Jazz Festival, young pianist and Jones' protégé, Alfredo Rodriguez has sky rocketed to success, performing with such legendary jazz artists as Herbie Hancock, and McCoy Tyner, playing many of the world's top jazz Festivals.

Returning as Master of Ceremonies for his 31st year, jazz aficionado Bill Cosby will bring his own group of specially chosen musicians to perform. Featured in this year's Cos Of Good Music are: Pianist Farid Barron; noted bassist and composer Dwayne Burno; three time Grammy nominee, world class drummer and percussionist Ndugu Chancler; veteran saxophonist Tia Fuller; guitarist Matthew Garrison; esteemed trumpeter Ingrid Jensen; master jazz percussionist Babatunde Lea; exceptional saxophonist Erena Terakubo. Farid Barron, Tia Fuller, Matthew Garrison, and Erena Terakubo are all making their Festival debut.

Celebrating their 50th anniversary, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is synonymous with Dixieland and the best of New Orleans jazz and blues. Making a return appearance, the group once again will bring the spirit of the Crescent City to the Playboy stage in another rousing performance. Renowned for their rotating group of local New Orleans musicians who tour throughout the world, the group's mission is to preserve the legacy of the traditional New Orleans and Dixieland jazz typically played on the Mississippi riverboats until the early 20th century.

A Festival favorite, Keb' Mo' will bring the African-American folk-soul vibe of his 2011 collection, The Reflection to the show. A three-time Grammy winner, The Reflection is Mo's first new album since Suitcase in 2006. Featuring such diverse artists as Vince Gill, Dave Koz, India Arie, and David T. Walker, The Reflection is unique as it's not a blues album, but an accumulation of all of Mo's various influences - pre-disco, R&B, American folk, gospel, blues and more that contribute to create the sound uniquely so his own.

Renowned drummer, composer, and producer Terri Lyne Carrington will make her Festival debut with a live performance of her Grammy-winng The Mosaic Project (2011) at this year's show, featuring noted female artists Gretchen Parlato, Carmen Lundy, Tia Fuller (also playing in the Cos Of Good Music), Ingrid Jensen, Helen Sung, Linda Taylor and Mimi Jones, all of whom are making their Festival along with Carrington. After 20 years of touring with such luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Al Jarreau, Stan Getz and many more, Carrington took a hiatus from recording, and returned in 2005. Recently she returned to her hometown of Boston where she was appointed a professor at her Alma Mater, Berklee College of Music.

Although most of the members of the exciting new all-star septet The Cookers have played the Festival at one time or other, this is their debut performance together as a group. One of the hottest bands around, The Cookers summon up an aggressive mid 60s spirit with a potent collection of expansive post-bop originals, marked by all the pyrotechnic playing expected of some of the heaviest hitters on the scene today. Billy Harper, Cecil McBee, George Cables, Eddie Henderson, and Billy Hart all came up in the heady era of the mid ‘60s, while David Weiss and Craig Handy are from a more recent generation. Their version of the band was solidified in 2007 and they have been playing venues around the world ever since. .

Marking their first festival appearance, the all-star group Spectrum Road features devoted Williams protégé Cindy Blackman-Santana on drums, John Medeski (Medeski, Martin & Wood) on keyboards, Vernon Reid (founder and primary songwriter of the rock band Living Colour) and the legendary Jack Bruce (from the psychedelic rock power trio Cream). Spectrum Road is named for one of the incendiary tracks on the Emergency! album by The Tony Williams Lifetime. From his stunning debut with Miles Davis at 17, through his pioneering fusion work with John McLaughlin, Larry Young, Allan Holdsworth and others, the late Tony Williams was one of the most renowned jazz drummers of all time. The four originally joined forces as the Lifetime Tribute Band, playing a series of concerts commemorating Williams' famed group in Japan. In 2011 they reunited, playing high profile jazz clubs throughout North America. The response was so positive, they renamed themselves and began touring as Spectrum Road.

The eight piece ensemble Chico Trujillo will bring the high energy music of Chile to the Playboy stage in their Festival debut. One of the major orchestras in the country, Chico Trujillo pioneered the revival of Chilean Cumbia. Led by vocalist Aldo "Macha" Asenjo, the band is known in its homeland as the ‘soundtrack' to every party, from Arica to Punta Arenas. Their hot, sizzling blend of classic cumbia, bolero, Latin music, Balkan and reggae attracts audiences of all generations. Chico Trujillo has come to symbolize a unique cocktail that has its roots in the pre-Pinochet era and has managed to incorporate all aspects of popular culture in Chile´.

Bringing his hard hitting Afro-pop to the Festival for the first time is KG Omulo, a singer/songwriter and pioneer of Afro-Urban music who regularly packs American clubs with his powerful calls for justice and deep grooves. His ability to take on the dark ironies of politics, with anger in the rhythms, combined with his powerful baritone voice, has made him equally popular in his native Kenya. His songs include English and Swahili lyrics. On his recently released solo debut album Ayah Ye! Moving Train, Omulo taps into the spirit of Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. The band includes some of Central Florida's finest brass and string practitioners, who have collectively worked with Sam Rivers, Ray Charles, T-Pain, Mofrot, The Legendary JC's, Junkie Rush, AM Conspiracy and Shak Nasti.

Opening Saturday's show at 3:00 p.m. is the LAUSD / Beyond the Bell All City Jazz Band under the direction of Tony White and J.B. Dyas. Calabasas High School Jazz Band will open the show on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
Darlene Chan, president of FestivalWest Inc. is the producer for the Playboy Jazz Festivals for the 34th consecutive year. Hugh Hefner is executive producer and Richard Rosenzweig is President Emeritus of the Playboy Jazz Festival.
Single day tickets will be available through Ticketmaster starting February 10th. Patrons can purchase tickets online at www.ticketmaster.com, over the phone by calling (213) 365-3500 or (714) 740-7878, at any Ticketmaster outlet or by downloading a ticket order form available at www.playboyjazzfestival.com There is also a link to the Ticketmaster website on the Playboy Jazz Festival website. Tickets may also be purchased at the Hollywood Bowl Box Office beginning May 7th

More Information: http://www.playboyjazzfestival.com

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