October 20, 2007

Jazz At Drew - Good For Your Health

Photos and Text by Ricky Richardson

Malcolm-Jamal-Warner.jpgCharles R. Drew University & Honda presented the 17th Annual "Jazz At Drew" Legacy Music Series and Cultural Marketplace and Health Pavilion. This is one of Southern California's most popular music and charity events. This year featured another outstanding stellar line-up of jazz, gospel, R&B, and Latin jazz greats who performed on Saturday, October 6 and Sunday, October 7, 2007 in the grassy outdoor setting on the campus of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science in Los Angeles.

The Drew University All-Stars got the festival under way. The All-Stars include University and hospital employees and friends. The audience was treated to an invigorating music performance by the group on the tunes "R.J. Song", "My Dreams", and "Stolen Moments."

The Locke High School 40th Anniversary Re-Union Band kept the momentum up and moving forward on "Straight No Chaser", "81" by Ron Carter, "Sister Sadie" by Horace Silver, and "Impressions" by John Coltrane." Vocalist Niomisha Wilson (aka-Nio Renee) performed "Inseparable" by Natalie Cole.

The Leimert Park All-Stars set opened with The Kabasa Drummers and Dancers. The All-Stars entertained the crowd with some original tunes.

Jose Rizo's Jazz on the Latin Side All-Stars with special guest guitarist Kenny Burrell served up a spicy set of Latin Jazz on "Baile Mi Gente" with a saxophone solo by Michael Sessions, "Yes or No" by Wayne Shorter, "Iron Man James"-written for the Master of Ceremonies James Janisse, "Caramba" by Lee Morgan, Ah Leu Cha" by Charlie Parker and concluded their set with a salsa tune "Mama Vieja."

Guitarist David T. Walker featuring Clarence McDonald - piano/organ, Byron Miller - bass, and Ndugu Chancler on drums were groovin' throughout their crowd pleasing set.

Bassist Malcolm-Jamal Warner & Miles Long captivated the crowd with some original spoken word/neo soul tunes. The highlights were "Sexy Lady" and "The Beat Don't Move Me Like It Used To Do' a sort of Dear John letter addressing the state of hip-hop and rap music.

Sheila-E.jpgSheila E. & The E Family Orchestra with Peter Michael heated up the festival grounds with some smokin' hot Latin jazz.

Popular Los Angels based Doo Wop group Renaissance and the group Lakeside rounded out entertainment for Saturday at Jazz At Drew.

The future of straight-ahead jazz and bebop are in good shape as witnessed by the superb performance of Dimitri Noble & Nobility featuring Mike Hunter, Kamasi Washington, Darryl Harris and Robert Turner and the Keschia Potter Quartet.

The Pan African Peoples Arkestra featuring many band members from the Leimert Park All-Stars. They had the audience undivided attention during their set. They performed "The Call", "Leno's Pad" - featuring a marvelous drum solo by 12 year old Mekala Sessions, "Donde Esta La Shay?" (Latin tinge tune written by Nate Morgan) and closed out their set with "Little Africa" proceeded by a poem recited by Kamau Daaood.

We had church at Jazz at Drew thanks to Gus Gil Gospel Hour. Dr. LaDoris McClaney - "An Angel to Many" served as Mistress of Ceremonies. Foot stomping, hand clapping, handkerchief waving entertainment was provided by The Soul Seekers and The Mighty Clouds of Joy. It was a delight to witness two spiritually uplifting gospel groups.

My straight ahead jazz palette was filled up once again with the dynamic musical performances of the following three groups. The Curtis Fuller Super Band featuring Nicolas Payton, Rene McLean, Carl Allen, Luke O' Reilly & Corcoran Holt, The Cedar Walton Quintet featuring Steve Turree, David Williams & special guest: Javon Jackson & Al Foster, and Hubert Laws performing "Moment's Notice", "Dat Dere", "What A Night" and concluded his set with "Land of Passion", and "Family" with vocalist Debra Laws.

The 17th Annual Jazz At Drew and The Charles R. Drew University presented a special enjoyable, elegant Sunday evening performance celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Music of Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions and The Music of Jerry Butler dedicated to Susan Kelly, PhD, FAPS (President & CEO, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science). This spectacular evening featured The Rickey Minor Symphony Orchestra with special guest Jerry Butler who performed "For Your Precious Love", "Brand New Me", "Let It Be Me", and "Only The Strong Survive." The Impressions performed songs from the soundtrack to the 1960's non-violent civil rights movement "Amen", "Choice of Colors", "Keep on Pushing", "People Get Ready" and "This Is My Country."

What begin in 1991 with an audience of approximately 150 people, over the past few years has grown to accommodate some 10,000 jazz fans annually and raises much needed funds to support Drew University, the only historically Black Institution for graduate education in health profession west of the Mississippi.

"Jazz At Drew" has proven to be more than a celebration of music. Rather, it is due to the healing power of music that this event endeavors to build cultural bridges thru music, and to continue the University's mission to conduct education and research in the content of community service in order to train physicians and allied health professionals to provide care with excellence and compassion, especially to under served populations.

Already a pioneer in education and medicine, Drew University has also evolved into a cultural leader as a result of the prestigious "Jazz At Drew" event, which has historically honored the greats of the jazz world including James Moody, Nancy Wilson, Dionne Warwick, the late great Billy Higgins, the late great Joe Williams, and the late great Harry "Sweets" Edison. That tradition continues each year with an exciting line-up of internationally known jazz, gospel, blues, R&B, and Latin jazz performers headlining the two-day music festival, cultural marketplace and health faire in a sprawling garden on the University's 11 acre campus in the Watts-Willowbrook community.

Posted by Peter Böhi at October 20, 2007 10:34 PM