“The fact that it starts at 3 p.m. and goes to 10:45 p.m. seems like a long time,” George Lopez says of the Playboy Jazz Festival. (He’s allowed to comment—he’s the MC.) “It amazes me how fast that amount of time can go by.” It also amazes him that he’s spending his fourth year as the event’s Master of Ceremonies, which takes place June 11 and 12 at the Hollywood Bowl.
Jazz may not enjoy the same widespread popularity as it did in its heyday, but Lopez says the idea that the genre is on the outs couldn’t be further from the truth. “It is more prevalent than people know,” he says. “Even those Seinfeld bumpers were jazz. It’s used as almost the broth of anything you are going with. When I graduated from high school, Chuck Mangione’s Feels So Good was part of summer. And seeing Howling Wolf, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones—it’s all connected. So many things are derived from jazz.”
If given the chance to program the festival himself with anyone alive or dead, Lopez comes up with an eclectic and classic line-up of musicians. “I would get Miles Davis to play,” he says “And I’d get Don Cheadle to play with him. I would get John Coltrane. I would get Dizzy Gillespie. I would get Sammy Davis Jr. to introduce him. I would get Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and I’d get Santana to play. Man, I’d get Steely Dan out there. I’d get a little bit of some funk, some George Clinton, those guys. I’d bring Prince out there. He’d love that. He was funky. I’d ask Playboy if I could go into Monday, too. I’d lengthen the sets to 90 minutes.”
And he’d love to see himself up there, but not performing a full set. “I’ve gotten to learn how to play guitar since I was 15,” he says. “I’m traveling with one now. I’m friends with Eddie van Halen, and he just gave me a lesson a couple days ago. I think every comedian wants to be a musician and every musician wants to be a comedian.”