After more than 30 years, legendary comedian and jazz aficionado Bill Cosby will give up the best seat in the house and relinquish his role as Master of Ceremonies for the renowned Playboy Jazz Festival held every year in June at the Hollywood Bowl. Cosby will again emcee the upcoming Festival set for Father’s Day weekend June 16th and 17th, but will pass on the microphone after this year’s show.
Almost as closely associated with the Festival as founder Hugh Hefner, Cosby has been introducing the ‘Who’s Who’ of the jazz world onstage since the first Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles was held at the Hollywood Bowl in 1979 as a 25th Anniversary celebration for Playboy Magazine. Since that initial gathering, Cosby has helped expose nearly three quarters of a million people to well more than 500 hours of jazz. Commenting on his 30-plus year reign, Cosby stated, “I salute all those who met at the Hollywood Bowl in June every year for two very special weekend days of jazz.”
Indeed, his signature welcome to the audience as the turntable spins the first artists onto the Playboy stage, has become a signal that one of the greatest weekends in jazz is once again underway. During the course of the Festival’s 34-year history, Cosby’s familiar voice could be heard echoing throughout the Bowl, introducing such legendary jazz giants as Miles Davis, Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughan, Lionel Hampton, Herbie Hancock, Ray Charles, Wynton Marsalis, Grover Washington, Jr., Etta James, Dianne Reeves, as well as such acclaimed artists as Joni Mitchell, Weather Report, Al Jarreau, Tony Bennett, Jamie Cullum, Bobby McFerrin, Kenny G., and countless others.
“Our good friend Bill Cosby has been a stalwart contributor and huge fan of jazz and this festival in particular, over the past 31 plus years. Not only has he hosted the event with great panache, knowledge and enthusiasm, he has also put together some of the finest groups that have performed at the Festival. His presence brought a very special excitement to both fans and artists. We have been incredibly fortunate over the years to have had a star of his caliber be so dedicated and willing to give so generously of his time and support year-after-year. He will always be part of the Festival family”, stated Dick Rosenzweig, President Emeritus of the Playboy Jazz Festival.
In 1995 Cosby decided to form his own group, The Cos of Good Music, featuring a handpicked band of stellar musicians. The lineup varied from year-to-year, often presenting up-and-coming young artists along with featuring several other well-known musicians who became regulars. Cosby often conducted the group onstage, sometimes sitting in on the drums, enjoying himself and entertaining fans in the process. Fans looked forward to the group’s annual appearance and The Cos of Good Music became a highly anticipated staple of the show over the past 16 years.
“Bill Cosby has been a dear friend since the 1960s and it’s been a real pleasure for me, personally, to have him play such an integral part in what makes this festival so special,” said Hugh Hefner. “His great comedic talent and his passion for jazz, exemplified by his own band, the ‘Cos of Good Music,’ have made his contributions to the continued success of this event immeasurable.”
“Playboy Jazz fans will surely miss his familiar and charismatic presence in his customary seat on stage right, enjoying the music, often sitting in with a cowbell or shaker or just waving a white hankie to start a New Orleans second line or a long,winding conga line” added Darlene Chan, the Festival’s longtime producer.
Over 35,000 jazz fans from all over typically pack the Hollywood Bowl for the special two-day affair which annually kicks off the summer jazz season in Los Angeles.