Jazz at Drew: Old School Music and Community Comraderie

LOS ANGELES, CA-Kasondra Evans attended the 2018 Jazz at Drew Festival out of loyalty to the S.O.S. Band, one of the headlining groups during the annual fundraising event for Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

The mission of the concert is to help raise enough money for programs that will support young people in math and science in the underserved communities of nearby Watts and Willowbrook/Compton area. Evans, who brought along her mom, was just there to have a good time.

“I’ve been here before but it’s been many years since that last time I was here. This is my second time,” Evans said. “It’s nice. You’ve got everybody that’s coming around, the whole neighborhood, the area, grown folks, oldies. I love live music. I grew up with that…Earth, Wind & Fire. I love live bands and live music. I am a fan of that.”

Jazz at Drew
Lead singer of the group DW3 goes through a number of R&B standards to the delight of the audience attending the 2018 Jazz at Drew Festival on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

Evans seemed to be loving every minute of the daylong concert, which closed with the R&B hitmaking group After 7, dancing and shimmering to the sounds of DW3, The Pete Escovedo Orchestra, Miki Howard, and Jazz Funk Soul featuring Everette Harp, Paul Jackson Jr. and Jeff Lorber, before her favorite group hit the stage. The Oct. 6 gathering sandwiched between the university and Martin Luther King Jr. Outpatient Center, drew an attendance of about couple thousands of folks gladly receptive to listening to live Old School music concept and basking in a chill atmosphere at the same time.

Evans, who was hoping she’d get a chance to hear the S.O.S. Band play Weekend Girl, was one of them.

“Anybody that knows me knows that I’m the weekend girl,” Evans said.

On a more series note, the concert is good for the local area in a lot of ways, especially in the way of celebrities giving back to this community, usually associated with low academic achievement, low income, and high crime rates, Evans said.

Jazz at Drew
Pete Escovedo, the father of Sheila E., performs with his band-The Pete Escovedo Orchestra-at the 2018 Jazz at Drew Festival on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

“You have the different speakers coming up to let you know that there is a university in our area, so there are great things happening within the community if everybody knew what was going on,” Evans said. “You don’t always have to step outside the area to know what’s going on right here.”

That S.O.S. Band theme floated throughout the concert. Armed with hits (Take Your Time (Do It Right), Just Be Good To Me, Tell Me If You Still Care, Weekend Girl, and The Finest, the S.O.S. Band appeared to be a crowd favorite. Like Evans, Rachel Lewis can’t get enough of the band’s music, which is one of the chief reasons she attended the concert in the first place.

“I grew up on the S.O.S Band,” Lewis said.

The fact that money from the live show was going towards a good cause was also a motivator for her to attend, she said.

“This is my first year. My girlfriends come all the time. This year I decided to come with them,” Lewis said. “I didn’t know it (concert) was a fundraiser until I began researching it. The crowd is nice, it is well  put together, it’s organized, they have plenty of volunteers, plenty of security and the best part of it is that the money is going to a good cause.”

Jazz at Drew
Kasondra Evans (right) enjoying the 2018 Jazz at Drew Festival on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

S.O.S. Band member Wyz has been part of the group for 13 years. The keyboardist grew up on the band’s music. He said just being part of this treasured ensemble is still quite amazing to him.

“It’s a dream come true,” Wyz said. “Every day, every show, is like the first show. I grew up on the music, so it’s just a pleasure to be here and have the opportunity to play with them.”

It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that Wyz said he could never see coming to fruition.

“I never thought that,” Wyz said. “I thought it (chance) was larger than life. As a kid when you look at stuff like that…you’re just in awe. I never thought that I would be there.”

When it comes to performing the many hits the group has produced, Wyz alluded that there is still one particular song he gravitates to the most, and that happens to be the same song he enjoyed listening to as a youth, he said.

“My favorite song to play, I would say is ‘Tell Me If You Still Care.’ That was probably my favorite song back in the day. That was a good, nice song. I think it’s still that one,” Wyz said.”

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