Aloe Blacc makes his Playboy Jazz Fest debut

Singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc, who is known for popular radio hits like “I Need a Dollar,” “The Man” and his 2013 collaboration with EDM artist Avicii, “Wake Me Up,” is excited to be a part of the 37th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl this weekend.Though the 36-year-old, who grew up in Laguna Hills, played the iconic L.A. venue last summer as part of a multi-artist celebration of the late, great James Brown, he’s looking forward to gracing the stage once more.“It’s a pretty big deal,” he said during a recent phone interview. “I’ve never been to the jazz festival before, so just to get the chance to play it, that’s pretty special.”Blacc will be performing during the first evening of the festival on Saturday alongside a stellar line-up of music icons as well as up-and-coming talent including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and the Monk Institute of Jazz Performance Ensemble, Morgan James, Jason Moran’s Fats Waller Dance Party, Tower of Power, the Eddie Palmieri Afro-Caribbean Jazz Band and a special tribute to the late Gerald Wilson with the Celebrating Gerald Wilson Orchestra under the direction of Gerald’s son, Anthony Wilson.On Sunday, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Terence Blanchard E-Collective, Ledisi, Snarky Puppy, Ozomatli and the Blue Note 75th Anniversary Presents: Our Point of View with Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge, Kendrick Scott, Lionel Loueke, Marcus Strickland and Ambrose Akinmusire, will take the stage. Comedian George Lopez will also reprise his role as host for a third consecutive year.When Blacc, whose real name is Egbert Dawkins III, was in elementary school he picked up the trumpet. He credits his schools, including Laguna Hills High School, for having excellent music programs with sparking his interest in the art, as well has his parents, who are originally from Panama, for sharing their eclectic mix of Latin and Caribbean-style music.“Orange County has enough money from property taxes to make sure the schools are well funded and we didn’t have to get rid of our arts and music programs,” he said. “So, learning to play the trumpet and being involved in school bands was really part of that growth and development of my love for music.”As he got older, he discovered hip-hop music and joined several groups which would often perform live at the now defunct all-ages music venue Koo’s Cafe in Santa Ana. In the mid-’90s he paired up with producer Exile to form Emanon and went on to release several EPs and a trio of full-length albums. Meanwhile, he also attended college at USC and after graduating in 2001, he landed a full-time day job as a business consultant in the healthcare sector and worked with a number of local hospitals. However, just a couple of years later, he was laid off.“Initially music was my hobby and it was a lot of fun, but when I got laid off from my corporate job I thought I’d focus more on music and see if I could really make something of it,” he said.That risk has certainly paid off, since Blacc now has three solo records under his belt, the 2006 debut “Shine Through,” 2010’s “Good Things” and his first release for Interscope/XIX records, “Lift Your Spirit,” which dropped in late 2013. The latter release was nominated in the best R&B album category at the 2015 Grammy Awards, held in his current hometown of Los Angeles in February.“It actually really is an honor to be even nominated because there are so many amazing albums that are available to the population and it was cool to be there and to be a part of that echelon,” he said.Blacc also isn’t afraid of bending and blurring genre lines. As a songwriter, he’s enjoyed being outside of his comfort zone and working with a variety of artists from electronic star Avicii to indie rock band Owl City. He regularly listens to a lot of classical music or obscure tracks by artists such as Eugene McDaniels, a psychedelic, funk and R&B artist from the ’70s, and soul singer D.J. Rogers.Blacc’s songwriting, which has been positively singled out by critics on each of his albums, is also inspired by singer-songwriters of the ’60s and ’70s like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Cat Stevens.“For me, songwriting is paramount,” he said. “One of my major goals in my career is to achieve Songwriters Hall of Fame, which can only come from writing the best songs I can and being considered one of the best songwriters by my peers. That’s going to take a 30-year career. It won’t happen overnight, but if I don’t write really good songs and pay attention to the craft, I’ll never meet my goal.”Taking the songwriting seriously, Blacc is currently writing and recording new material for a forthcoming album of original material as well as a project that features a collection of cover songs. His next big career move, is to break into writing for television and film.“Writing a song is a challenge,” he said. “You have to tell a story in three minutes. I think the next step is trying to tell a story in 30 minutes and then tell another one in two hours. I’m interested in telling biographical stories or creating social change through a media that I create that can increase empathy and compassion. Or just ways I can tell important stories of heroism and inspire people to do great things in life.”In whatever spare time he has, Blacc spends it at home reading the autobiographies of musicians (he just finished Quincy Jones’ “Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones”) and more importantly, he enjoys off time with his wife, rapper Maya Jupiter, and their daughter, Mandela, who will turn 2 in September.“When I’m home, I spend a lot of time dancing and singing,” he said sweetly of his moments with Mandela. “She loves that and going to the pool to swim and we’re always cooking.”

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