LOS ANGELES - Jazz music, from Latin to Afro-pop, is increasingly international, and some of the best is being heard this weekend at the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles. Top artists and newcomers are jamming for thousands of fans.
This is the 34th year for the major festival at the Hollywood Bowl, a large amphitheater in the hills of Los Angeles. Percussionist Sheila E. is thrilled to perform where so many top performers have appeared in the past.
"And you think about all the greats that have played there before you and it's incredible to be on the same stage, to think about Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland," she said.
Jazz has its roots in the music brought by African slaves to the American south in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The music helped brighten their lives and would flourish, and be transformed, in urban centers like New Orleans and Kansas City.
Jazz musicians have recently rediscovered the music's African roots and incorporated rhythms from Latin America.
That blend of flavors is heard in the sound of the Global Gumbo All Stars. Music producer Quincy Jones assembled the quartet of international artists, and named it after the spicy stew that is popular in New Orleans.
Cuban-born pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, who is part of the group, has played this festival before.
“I did a concert with my trio, and this time, I will be part of the Quincy Jones Global Gumbo All Stars, featuring Richard Bona on bass from Cameroon, Lionel Loueke from Benin on guitar and Francisco Mela and me from Cuba. So it's going to be Afro-Cuban music," he said.
Kenya-born singer KG Omulo will also appear on stage. “I'm going to do primarily songs from my new record, Ayah Ye! Moving Train, which has a little bit of Afro-beat, funk, a little bit of rock, Latin Jazz, flavored with a lot of dance-infused vibe," he said.
Other performances feature Dixieland music from New Orleans’ historic Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the Christian McBride Big Band, and student bands from around California that feature a new generation of jazz musicians. Comic Bill Cosby is master of ceremonies, hosting the festival for one last time after many seasons at the helm of the event.