Puffles and Honey are at the Hollywood Bowl for the 2016 Playbunny Jazz Festival.
With a line-up this long…
The LAUSD/Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Band under the direction of Tony White and J.B. Dyas
John Beasley’s MONK’estra
Joey Alexander Trio
Cécile McLorin Salvant
The Bad Plus Joshua Redman
Seth MacFarlane, with conductor Joel McNeely
Los Van Van
Jon Batiste & Stay Human
…one might think that it had occurred to little Puffles and Honey that this was going to take a while. Truth be told, they didn’t count on 7 hours of jazz!
They were impressed with singer-songwriter, guitarist and percussionist Aurelio Martinez. He is one of Central America’s most gifted performers. Born in Honduras, the artist is known for his powerful and evocative voice. He is a major bearer of the Garifuna culture and music traditions and he is considered nowadays as the Cultural Ambassador of the Garifuna nation.
The Garinagu, commonly known as the Garifuna are people of Amerindian and West African descents who live along the coasts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The original home of the Garifuna is St. Vincent (one of the windward islands in the West Indies) from which they were deported in 1976 by the British government and landed on Roatan island, situated in the Bay Islands of Honduras.
Aurelio grew up in a small Caribbean village called Plapaya, surrounded by a family of talented musicians. His father was a well-known local troubadour who improvised paranda songs containing Garifuna roots rhythms and Latin sounds. Following the influence of his uncles and grandfather, he became a brilliant drummer in his early childhood. From his vocally gifted mother, he learned to sing and picked up many songs she crafted.
Naturally 7 is more than just your average singing group. Its members have perfected an intriguing a cappella style they’ve branded as “Vocal Play” – singing as instruments. In its quest to celebrate the voice, Naturally 7 not only sings but also creates every backing instrument heard on its songs. We’re talking drums, bass, guitars, horns, flutes … even down to turntables.
Their US album debut is aptly titled “Hidden in Plain Sight” (2016). Subtitled “Vox Maximus Vol. 1,” the 14-track set snaps, crackles and pops with riveting vocal gymnastics and rich, sparkling harmonies infusing a palette-pleasing menu of songs as wide-ranging as the group’s growing audience.
Stepping beyond R&B and pop, Naturally 7 taps into various genres from traditional gospel and rock to 17th century baroque that on the surface don’t seem to mesh. But in the hands of musical director/first baritone/rapper Thomas and his six enterprising cohorts – brother Warren Thomas (drums, third tenor), Rod Eldridge (first tenor, turntables, trumpet), Napoleon “Polo” Cummings (fourth tenor, guitar), Dwight Stewart (second baritone, trombone), Garfield Buckley (second tenor, harmonica) and Armand “Hops” Hutton (bass) – the impossible becomes possible.
Leading the charge is first single “Fix You,” a cover of the Coldplay hit that’s become an audience favorite at Naturally 7’s live shows. The group’s harmonic reinterpretation brings a new intensity to the song’s refrain: “Lights will guide you home / And ignite your bones /I will try to fix you.” The associated music video, which premiered on Yahoo! Music, was described as “a beautiful mesmerizing version….which rivaled the original for haunting emotion” and continues to receive rave reviews from music lovers.
The group gives a nod to its spiritual influences by sampling Mahalia Jackson’s gospel classic “Trouble of the World” on the beautiful and raw “Mahalia.” Scoring a musical coup, Naturally 7 samples Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” on “Galileo.” Notes Thomas, “We’re the first in the world licensed to sample the rock band, and we’re honored to be able to do that.”
We don’t care much for Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy, American Dad or Ted, but he gets points for his music.
MacFarlane’s debut album “Music is Better Than Words,” debuted at #1 on the iTunes jazz charts in 2011 and went on to receive two Grammy nominations, including ‘Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.’ Released by Universal Republic, the album is a celebration of the classic, sophisticated sound of the lush swing orchestras of the ‘40s and ‘50s with MacFarlane singing some of the hidden gems of that era. Norah Jones and Sara Bareilles collaborate with MacFarlane on two duets on the album. In 2014, MacFarlane released his first-ever Christmas album, “Holiday for Swing,” that debuted at #1 on the iTunes holiday album charts. The album is composed of timeless holiday songs accompanied by a 52-piece orchestra. On his third and most recent album, “No One Ever Tells You,” MacFarlane showcases the unique arrangements and orchestral interpretations of the ‘50s and ‘60s and introduces listeners to ballads about love and loss unique to the time. The album quickly rose to No. 1 on the jazz charts and garnered MacFarlane a Grammy nomination for “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album”.
He gets even more points for creating The Seth MacFarlane Foundation, and being an advocate for science, funding the Seth MacFarlane collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan archive at the Library of Congress. He also executive produced the climate change documentary inspired by the nonfiction bestseller by Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything. The film, which premiered in 2015, was shot in nine countries over four years, bringing awareness to the insurmountable issue of global warming and the economic systems that facilitate it.
Los Van Van are one of the most important and influential bands in the history of 20th century Cuban pop music. Though the 1990s were pervaded by groups that mixed folkloric and traditional music with the musical trends of the day, and the beginning of the 21st century saw that process go even further, in the 1960s and ’70s that Latino fusion sensibility was scarce at best. There were primarily two Cuban groups experimenting with mixing pop, funk, rock, and soul with their native traditions. One of those two was Irakere, and the other, far more long-lasting band was Los Van Van.
Following the revolution, Cuban youth were profiled for talents and predispositions. Children showing potential in athletics were streamlined into sports. Academics, visual arts, and music followed suit. The young musicians who formed Los Van Van had enjoyed conservatory educations from their earliest years, and were experts in theory and performance by their early twenties. The band’s key players – Juan Formell (bandleader, bass player, and songwriter), César “Pupy” Pedroso (piano, songwriter), and José Luis “Changuito” Quintana (drumset/timbales) were fascinated with the soul, go-go, and disco music that dominated US radio waves. They named their dance band Los Van Van after the go-go fad, meaning literally “they go-go!”
The style that the band pioneered took its name from the cross of son and go-go music that the band had created. The style “songo” can now be found throughout the Latin jazz, pop, and fusion world.
A whole day of jazz! That should last us a while…