Sheila E Headlined Jazz at Drew
Sheila E Headlined the annual Jazz at Drew, Saturday, October 7th.
I had the honor and pleasure of returning to Wonderful Watts, Saturday, October 7, 2017, for the annual Jazz at Drew. I was in the right place, at the right time, given the large turnout of jazz enthusiasts, as well as music aficionados in attendance from all over Southern California and points beyond.
Published on LatinoLA: October 13, 2017
Jazz at Drew was an all-day outdoor concert featuring some of the most prolific names in jazz and R&B. The appeal or main draw of Jazz at Drew is its emphasis on shining the spotlight on our local talented musicians, coupled with a plethora of internationally known artists. The incredible line-up for this year's festival consisted of first class performances from Earth, Wind and Fire, Sheila E, Eloise Laws, DW3, The West Coast Get Down and the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center Band. Pat Prescott, 94.7 The Wave and co-host Roland Bynum, 102.3 Radio Free KJLH served as Master of Ceremonies. DJ Chuck (The Old Soul) kept the beats flowing in between acts to the delight of the dancers all over the university grounds.
Jazz at Drew's mission is two-fold: to support CDU student initiatives and provide the South Los Angeles community with excellent entertainment as a part of its commitment to equip the area with the resources it needs to be a successful and thriving community.
Charles R. Drew University is an integral part of the community. The professional and dedicated staff are viewed as family to the diverse students who attend this marvelous university.
It is no surprise that this year's festivals unofficial theme is "A Family Affair." Follow me as my keen observation comes into focus.
Fernando Pullum is an educator and professional musician. His commitment and dedication to education and music programs is well documented and rewarded with many prestigious honors from prominent institutions. His greatest pride is the many students that he has taught who has went on to further their education at an institution of higher learning. Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center Band got the show underway at noon.
It makes might heart feel great knowing that the future of jazz will continue to thrive, thanks to Fernando Pullum and his wonderful staff. If you closed your eyes for a minute, you would think that you were listening to seasoned musicians.
The band opened with "Michael" and continued with "Brazilian Love Affair" by the late great George Duke. They continued their set with "You are the Sunshine of my Life" performed superbly by special guest vocalist Amani Pullum (there goes that family connection again. Additional tunes performed were "Mr. Magic" by the late great Grover Washington Jr., and "Cold Sweat" with guests Kamasi Washington (sax) and Ryan Porter (trombone).
Eloise Law, known to her legions of fans simply as "El," is a world-renowned Broadway actress, singer and author with more than 30 years in the entertainment industries. She is from a talented family of well known musicians Hubert, Ronnie and Debra Laws. Eloise is critically acclaimed for her harmonious jazz, soul and R&B music which was on full display during her crowd pleasing set.
She performed a fitting tune for the day "Last Days of Summer," and continued with "Listen to the Moonlight" (Latin tinged), "Fever," "I Ask Your Heart, What Side Are You Own," "We Are in the Thick of It," "Can't Let Myself, Hurt Myself," "You're Incredible," and another timely tune "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye.
DW3 is one of the most enthusiastic, smooth, new sounding bands in the Los Angeles area. They are also the hardiest working band around. Wherever they are scheduled to perform, one is assured of a full on party atmosphere. Speaking of my theme of family, members of the band are relatives of the soulful, Latin/R&B band Tierra from back in the day. The band consist of Eric Mondragon (keyboards), William, aka, Billy (percussions), and family friend Damon Reel on lead and harmony vocals.
They took the crowd on a musical journey of hits from back in the day. Tunes that resonated with the crowd were "Never," "Before I Let You Go," "Do I Do," "Outstanding," "Strange," "Yearning," "Close the Door" and "For the Lover in you." Their exciting, excellent set included two original tunes "On the Floor," and "Hold Me." The band received a rousing standing ovation.
The West Coast Get Down featuring Kamasi Washington is a collective of young musicians (Lions) who are largely being credited with reviving jazz fusion, making Los Angeles the focal point for what many consider to be a renaissance for the genre's mass appeal. I'm fortunate to remember seeing members grow up and thrive in the past 10 years or more.
The West Coast Get Down includes Kamasi Washington-saxophone, Miles Mosley-bass, Ronald Bruner Jr.- drums (son of Ronald Bruner Sr., former drummer for Gladys Knight, The Supremes and The Temptations), Cameron Graves-piano, Ryan Porter-trombone, Brandon Coleman-keyboards and Tony Austin- drums. Patrice Quinn-vocals, Battle Cat-DJ, Chris Grey-trumpet and Ricky Washington (clarinet)-father of Kamasi Washington, were additional members of the band.
Their roaring set of tunes consisted of "Giant Feelings," "The End of Corporatism," "Little Boy Blue," "Abraham," and "The Rhythm Changes" a tune by Kamasi that featured him blazing away on the saxophone to conclude their set.
During the 70's, the late great Maurice White founded a new brand of pop music that was steeped in African and African-American styles-particularly jazz and R&B that appeared to a broader cross section of the listening public. Maurice stated "although we were basically jazz musicians, we played soul, funk, gospel, blues, jazz, rock and dance music." "I wanted our music to convey messages of universal love and harmony without force-feeding listeners" spiritual content."
The band continued to travel all over the world with their universal message expressed exuberantly through their music. Everyone was on their feet throughout their set of tunes "Shining Star," "Serpentine Fire," "Kalimba Story," "Devotion," "Reasons," "Can't Hide Love," "That's the Way of the World," "September," and the other Jazz at Drew unofficial theme "Let's Groove." Phillip Bailey, Verdean White, Ralph Johnson and the entire band received a loud, thunderous standing ovation.
Sheila E. is a world-class talented percussionist/drummer from a well known musical family. Her father is the legendary Pete Escovedo, and her brothers are Juan and Peter Michael Escovedo. Sheila E. became a top session and touring musician before the age of 20, performing and/or recording with George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Billy Cobham, Con Funk shun, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, Patti LaBelle and Stevie Nicks to name a few.
In the 1980's, Sheila's collaboration with the artist Prince helped to catapult her to her own pop superstardom. Sheila E and her band performed an energetic set of material from her latest CD- Iconic-Message 4 America. Their set featured relevant and timely tunes "Funky National Anthem-Message 2 American," "One Nation Under a Groove/Mothership Connection," "Everyday People," "Inner city Blues/Trouble Man," and "What the World Needs Now is Love."
Proceeds from Jazz at Drew fundraiser go towards enriching the CDU experience for students by funding University scholarships, student services, campus facilities, and pipeline programs. CDU therefore values concert attendees not only as customers, but as donors and supporters of Charles R. Drew University and its mission of serving undeserved and under-resourced communities.
Ricky Ricardo is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer.