Bits from Playboy Jazz Festival (Updated)

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Imani Tate / San Gabriel Valley sgvtribune – June 26, 2010

Naturally 7 played “air” and created cutting-edge music that had 20,000 fans out of their seats, shouting, dancing and celebrating the pure joy of life at the 32nd annual Playboy Jazz Festival.
The a cappella ensemble, featuring Roger and Warren Thomas, Garfield Buckley, Rod Eldridge, “Hops” Hutton, Jamal Reed and Dwight Stewart, became the hands-down popular and critical favorites at this year’s edition of the annual festival at Hollywood Bowl.
The septet didn’t just sing without musical accompaniment. Each literally transformed his voice into an instrument, expertly echoing trumpet, saxophones, drums, electric and acoustic guitars, acoustic bass, harmonica, clarinet and even a disc jockey scratching records.
“I was sitting next to an elderly lady and she was shouting `This is incredible! Just incredible!’ Naturally 7 touched every generation, every ethnic group, every culture, every fan and critic of music,” said Cal Poly Pomona graduate Steve Quincey of San Bernardino, who was literally bouncing with the music.

Chuck Koton / All About Jazz – June 19, 2010

“The crowd favorite of the day may have been Naturally 7, a group that makes its music sans instruments. These young, inventive “vocalists” uncannily reproduce the tones and textures of the guitar, trombone, drums and bass, among other instruments, with their voices, and their funky, hip hop style found an eagerly receptive audience at the Bowl.”

Ricky Richardson / EURweb, Electronic Urban Report – June 16, 2010

“I must admit that I was one of many who kept looking on stage for instruments during the performance of Naturally 7. The crowd and I were blown away with this acapella group’s ability to imitate actual instruments. They were excellent on “Waiting for Your Love,” “Come Together,” and their sensational YouTube hit/version of “I Can F eel It In the Air” by Phil Collins. Check out this video on YouTube. You will not believe what you are hearing and or seeing without instruments. Everyone of their CD’s that were on sale sold out at the CD booth on site. Quite naturally, pun intended.”

John Wareham / LA Weekly – June 15, 2010

“[…] then came Naturally 7, an a cappella group who not only sing, but vocalize the sounds of instruments without actually playing them. Each member of the seven man group uses their voice to imitate instruments such as trumpet, flute, scratching, bass, drums, etc. They also sing beautiful harmonies. When they started their set with their version of the Phil Collins hit “In the Air Tonight,” the audience turned in amazement at what they heard. They continued to turn heads throughout their set: Warren Thomas (drums) and ‘Hops’ Hutton (bass) were so accurate in their reproduction of the low end, the building seemed to shake.”

Chris Barton / Los Angeles Times – June 14, 2010

“Also no strangers to viral video world, the a cappella group Naturally 7 later appeared with their signature cover of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” Featuring a nice bit of subway-ready theater with each vocalist pantomiming live instruments as they replicated the sound of bass, drums, strings and — most impressively — electric guitar, the group had fans jumping with a mix of hip-hop, soul and funk delivered with a near-gospel fervor.”

Richard Chang / The Orange County Register – June 13/15, 2010

“The act that may have stolen the show Saturday was Naturally 7, an a cappella group from New York. Each of the seven members immitated an instrument with his vocals and microphone. Thus, you had horns, strings, guitars, a scratching DJ and the percussion kit, performed ably by Warren Thomas, without any bulky equipment.
Naturally 7 started its set with a hip-hop cover of “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. The sounds coming from their mouths were incredible – together, they absolutely sounded like a jammin’ band with real instruments.
The seven powered through “Sound of Silence” and “Scarborough Fair” by Simon and Garfunkel, “Come Together” by the Beatles, “I Built this Wall” (an original, I suspect), and the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with gospel undertones. The “guitar” solo in the last song was nothing short of unbelievable.
Next, the group offered a cover of the Motown standard “Ready or Not.” At various turns, Naturally 7 sounded like a rock band, a hip-hop outfit, or a 1960s collection of soul and Motown hipsters. But was their music jazz? They did incorporate some jazz elements, like horns and improvisation. But it seemed Naturally 7 were on the borderline of jazz and many other types of music.”

Richard S. Ginell / Variety / All About Jazz – June 13, 2010

“Likewise, Naturally 7 takes the old idea of a vocal orchestra to a new level — spread out onstage like an electronic hybrid big-band/hip-hop unit.”

3 thoughts on “Bits from Playboy Jazz Festival (Updated)

  1. I saw this group for the first time at the Playboy Jazz festival this weekend, and I am an instant groupie. I can’t wait to see them live again. I’ve scoured the internet for all videos, bought all albums and watched the cd/dvd that was sold at the concert (and completely sold out, I might add the frist day) several times. Amazing group. You will hear big things from and about this group, guaranteed in the future.

  2. WOW!!! I was totally blown away at the playboy Jazz festival last saturday listening to this group. The place was rocking and I was and still am in total amazement at their “vocal play”, this should have been the featured performance of the festival. As I was listening to them, I looked around and saw that I was not the only one standing and dancing, the whole hollywood bowl was swooning or standing as they entranced all with their unique sounds. The stage performance was second to none as they turned off the “instruments” one at a time… WOW is an understatement… All of their CD’s are now a part of my repertoire. I can feel it through my wall of sound.
    Eric R. Green

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