Louie Cruz Beltran performed as part of this year’s Jazz at Drew




– – Story and photos by Ricky Ricardo —

Louie Cruz Beltran / Ricky Ricardo photo

 

Now in its fourth year, the re-emergence of Jazz At Drew had been one of LA’s best kept secrets. However, it appears that the secret is out, as a huge, multi-cultural crowd of music aficionados assembled for Jazz At Drew this past weekend, on Saturday, October 5, 2019. Jazz At Drew was an all-day outdoor fundraising and community concert produced and hosted by the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU), and it featured some of the most prolific names in jazz and R&B.
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Jazz At Drew features Jazz, R&B, and Latin Jazz in a range of styles all while being surrounded by an ethnically diverse community. This year’s  event included a stellar line-up of performers: The Ohio Players, Will Downing, NEXT, Louie Cruz Beltran, the Lao Tizer Band featuring Karen Briggs and Eric Marienthal and Toni Scruggs.
Pat Prescott from radio station 94.7The Wave served as Mistress of Ceremonies. DJ Paradise held down the music boards, playing a wonderful selection of tunes in between acts. The festival was held on a beautiful, sunny day in southern California.
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The event got underway with the talented vocalist Toni Scruggs. Ms. Scruggs delighted the crowd with her five octave vocal range on popular jazz standards.  Her set  included “Guess Who I Saw Today” by Nancy Wilson, “Is This Love,” by Bob Marley, “Skylark” by Aretha Franklin,’” “I’ll Take Manhattan,” and concluded with “Someday We’ll Be Free” by Donny Hathaway. Eddie Brown was a great accompanist on piano.
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The Lao Tizer Band featuring saxophonist Eric Marienthal and violinist Karen Briggs plus vocalist Tita Hutchison were the second group to perform. With more than five years since their last release, the Lao Tizer Band has expanded as the band explores a new path on their latest CD/DVD combo Songs From the Swinghouse. The crowd digged every minute of their set, which consisted of cover tunes alongside original instrumental tracks. The band performed “The Source,” “16th Heaven,” “Pride/In the Name of Love” with vocalist Tita Hutchison. They continued their set with “Scheherazade Groove” with Karen Briggs on fire playing the violin. Saxophonist Eric Marienthal soared on the tune “Baby Cakes,” co-written with keyboardist Jeff Lorber. “Grandbaby Cakes”  was renamed in honor of a recent grandbaby. They concluded their set with “New Orleans.” This incredible band consisted of Munyungo Jackson- percussions, Grammy Award winning drummer Gene Coye, and Anthony Crawford-bass.
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The Louie Cruz Beltran Latin Jazz Band

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Louie Cruz Beltran is an entertainer at heart, a bandleader, a superbly skilled conguero, timbalero, vocalist and comedian. He blends Afro-Cuban rhythms with jazz, Latin jazz, pop and R&B influences for a crowd-pleasing set. Featured tunes were “Yo Me Voy a Puerto Rico,” “Cantaloupe Island” by Herbie Hancock, “Harlem Nocturne,” “Spanish Grease” by Willie Bobo, “Timbalero y Bongo,” and closed the set with “Afro Blue” by Mongo Santamaria.
NEXT has solidified their place in music history. They disrupted the musical landscape of R&B in the late 90’s and well into the new millennium with a string of Billboard charting hits including a pair of #1 singles, as well as delivering a multi-platinum debut Album Rated NEXT. NEXT thrilled the crowd with some of their classic hits “Too Close,” “Wifey,” “Butta Love,” “Anything,” and “I Still Love You,” “What You Want,” “Beauty Queen,” and “My Everything.”
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The Louie Cruz Beltran Latin Jazz Band

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Will Downing-  “The Prince of Sophisticated Soul” is a living example of the absolute best that smooth R&B and soul has to offer. He always puts on a great show, he stepped it up a notch for the Jazz At Drew crowd with the following tunes :“After Tonight,” “Daydreaming,” “Don’t Talk to Me Like That,” “A Million Ways,” and “I Go Crazy.”
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The Ohio Players were the perfect choice to close out the show. Their set was electrifying, entertaining as well as engaging, as they had the crowd up on their feet, dancing and singing along to the hits from their extensive catalog. The crowd were grooving and moving on the tunes “Love Rollercoaster,”” Funky Worm,” “Heaven,” “Fire,” “Sweet Sticky Things,” and “Skintight,” just to name a few.




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Jazz At Drew’s mission is two-fold: to support CDU students in health professions and biomedical science through scholarships and professional development opportunities and to provide the South Los Angeles area with excellent entertainment as a commitment to engage the community.
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Proceeds from the Jazz At Drew fundraiser will also support CDU pipeline programs that seek to engage youth in math and science grades pre-K through 12 from underserved communities. CDU’s mission  is to cultivate diverse health professional leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations through outstanding education, research, clinical service and community engagement.