This Sunday, August 17, a superstar cast of musicians will be gracing the stage at Hollywood Bowl for the Smooth Summer Jazz concert, a must-see for jazz lovers. This special event will feature the talents of Keiko Matsui, The Ohio Players, BWB, the trio comprised of Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, and Norman Brown; Boney James, and special guest Eric Benét.
Keiko Matsui is an artist without peer in the jazz community. Currently celebrating twenty-five years of musical recording, she has collaborated with the likes of Miles Davis, as well as with artists outside of her genre, including Stevie Wonder. Her openness to draw on a wide variety of musical genres within her own work makes her an exceptional jazz performer, even being praised by Duke Ellington himself as being "beyond category." Her release Soul Quest shows not only her commitment to music, but also to the world around her, drawing on themes of spirituality and environmental consciousness. Matsui’s art is heavily influenced by her passion for helping others; she has worked with nonprofits like The United Nations World Food Programme and Be The Match Marrow Registry, as well as lending her support to Japan in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster, as well as the 2011 Tsunami. Matsui is a model citizen of the global community, and has captured the hearts of many through her inventive but accessible music, as well as her empathy for others.
The Ohio Players are an R&B band known for hits like “Fire” and “Love Rollercoaster,” selling more than one million copies of each single. They became a staple in the 1970s music world and were Official R&B Music Hall of Fame inductees in 2013. While the band went through many incarnations with varying casts of performers, The Ohio Players still achieved greatness through Gold-certified albums like Skin Tight in 1974 and Contradiction two years later. After decades of creative contributions to the R&B genre, as well as influencing many artists to follow, the Ohio Players are an extremely valuable asset to Smooth Summer Jazz.
BWB, the jazz ensemble made up of Norman Brown on guitar, Kirk Whalum on saxophone, and Rick Braun on trumpet, is a group known for its adventurous directions, including writing an entire album dedicated to interpreting many of the hits originally made famous by Michael Jackson. The album, Human Nature, is the trio’s homage to the King of Pop; they not only collaborated on beautiful, jazzed up covers of Jackson’s big singles, but this attention paid to Michael Jackson’s music as something significant in contemporary music as a whole makes BWB a group that defies the usual definition and sound of jazz. Through exposing more of the intricate layers and structures of Jackson’s songs, BWB pays homage to someone who shattered boundaries and shook up the industry, while also bringing their own styles to their performances.
Boney James is a four-time Grammy Award-nominated jazz musician who has sold more than three million records throughout his prestigious career. Beginning as a clarinetist at an early age, James began his performance career when he was fourteen, acting as a dance band saxophonist. He went on to work as a session musician for Ray Park Jr., among others, before releasing his first solo album in 1992 with Trust. Known for his incessant desire to be creating music, James is celebrating his fourteenth album, The Beat, which pulls influence from Latin and R&B genres. His collaborations, much like those of Matsui, are diverse and expansive, including guest performers like The Floacist, a celebrated spoken word poet, and Raheem DeVaughn, an R&B vocalist with incredible lyrical talent.
Eric Benét works not just as a singer, but also a songwriter and an actor, excelling in every field he has pursued. He has been nominated for multiple NAACP Image Awards and won in 2000 for writing "Spend My Life With You," as well as being nominated for four Grammy Awards and having appeared in The Real Housewives of Hollywood on BET. Benét has been a prolific performer and creator, releasing seven studio albums, including a 2014 album exclusively released in Japan called From E to U: Volume 1. As a neo soul singer, as well as having deep ties with R&B, Benét’s music is at times heartbreakingly vulnerable, invoking visceral responses in his audiences. After first performing in the 1980s with the band Gerard, Benét and his sister and cousin created a trio using their last name; however, Benét left this trio to pursue his solo career two years after first founding Benét the band. As a musician now, Benét has been the recipient of honors such as The Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B Soul Album, Male for A Day in the Life.
The combination of musicians descending upon Hollywood Bowl should provide endless entertainment and high quality music to those watching in the venue. Smooth Summer Jazz begins at 6:00PM on August 17. Those interested in purchasing tickets for the event can do so here.