Groovin’ To Your Health at Jazz At Drew
Los Angeles-The weather forecast for the past weekend, October 4-5, 2008 called for scattered showers. That didn’t dampen the spirit of the people in attendance. The weather forecast strengthened their resolve to attend the 18th Annual Jazz At Drew Legacy Music Series, Cultural Marketplace and Health Pavilion. This was apparent due to the fact that this was the final outdoor music festival for the year. The theme for this year’s festival was “Building Cultural Bridges Through Music: Highlighting the Healing Art of Medicine and Music.”
Is there a doctor in the house? This was answered with a resounding yes! I’m speaking also of Dr. Gaynell Colburn, who kicked off the annual Jazz At Drew, presented by Honda. She opened her set with “Get Here.” Dr. Colburn is a vocalist and percussionist and has performed with legends such as Patti Austin, Dave Valentine, and Herbie Hancock and has toured with Stevie Wonder. Saxophonist J Boykin joined the group for the remainder of her set. J is a new person on the smooth jazz circuit, on the fast track of making a name for himself. He performed material from his debut CD. The tunes performed were “My Name is J,” “Just J,” and dedicated “So Amazing” to the memory of Luther Vandross and finished with “Lost Without You” by Robert Thicke. Dr. Colburn closed out her set with “Check Out Time.”
Multi-talented bassist, music director, composer and producer brought along some of his friends to entertain the crowd. Guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. and a trio of excellent vocalist were featured as soloist. The vocalist consisted of Amy Keys, Teresa Bailey and Dorian Holly. Collectively, they did a good job with Lady Marmalade,” “What You Won’t Do For Love,” “All I Do,” “I Wish,” “All of Love,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “Let’s Get It On,” “and “Before I Let Go,” got the crowd up on their feet to dance and sing along with the band.
Malcolm Jamal Warner and Miles Long and the LA Multi-School Hip Hop Orchestra led by Reggie Andrews were a nice collaboration that produced some great music.
The Latin Jazz All-Stars helped to heat up the festivities with some hot Latin Jazz and salsa from the song books of Hilton Ruiz, Pete Escovedo and Miles Davis. This was another tight band that consisted of trumpeter Ray Vega, conguero Chembo Corniel, pianist Arturo O’ Farrill, drummer Phoenix Rivera, timbalero Pete Escovedo, bassist Yunior Terry and trombonist Francisco Torres. These musicians have an extended background in and are masters of Afro-Cuban, Salsa, Brazilian music and Latin Jazz.
Vocalist Chrisette Michele is another newcomer in the neo-soul genre who is also on the fast track to becoming a star. Her crowd pleasing set featured tunes from her debut CD I AM and featured a tune from an upcoming CD to be entitled Like a Lady. She entertained the crowd with “Let’s Ride,” “Like A Dream,” “Love Is You,” “I’ll Always Be Your Joy,” “The Best of Me,” “Let’s Last Forever,” “War Cry,” and “We OK.”
Chicago-based smooth soul vocal group, The Chi-lites along with all of their glory was another crowd favorite. Their timeless music lit up not only the Drew University festival grounds, but the entire surrounding area, giving all in the area a musical treat. They modernized one of their hits for the upcoming election “For God’s Sake Give More Power To The People” to “More Power To Barack Obama.” Other hits followed “Oh Girl,” “Have You Seen Her,” “Got To Have You Baby,” and Write A Letter To Myself.”
Third World capped off day one of Jazz At Drew with their signature sound of reggae. The group received the Jazz At Drew Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Jazz At Drew All-Stars featuring Leon Jones and Jabari Betts kicked off the final day of the festival. It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon with a nice breeze for festival attendees.
Karen Briggs with saxophonist Mike Phillips, guitarist Chieli Minucci, Vesta, keyboardist Lao Tizer, Loose Ends, and Sheryl Lee Ralph set was full of high energy of R&B, soul and funk.
It took a while, but I finally got a chance to hear some mainstream, straight-ahead jazz. Trumpeter Wallace Roney Quintet was the highlight for me for the entire weekend.
The Festival continued in a straight-ahead mode with the music of Nate Morgan’s Swingin’ Exile with Miguel Ferguson, Ken Rosser, Joel Ector, and drummer Alphonse Mouzon.
A Capella group Renaissance performed both days of the festival. The festival continued on a high note with a dash of contemporary smooth jazz of Jeff Lorber Band, funky, soul-drenched Latin jazz of Poncho Sanchez and concluded with Les McCann featuring the Javon Jackson Quintet. Les McCann was the 2008 Jazz At Drew Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient.