Inspired by a letter from one of the winners of the first Roderick D. Jones Jazz Scholarship, the Gardena Jazz Festival put together an ensemble of seven talented teen performers under the direction of jazz bassist Nedra Wheeler, and the group kicked off the annual festival with a bang on Sunday. Selected for their excellent school records and passion for jazz, each of the young musicians received a $500 scholarship in honor of Jones, a former official of the city’s Parks and Recreation who, too, was passionate about mentoring youth and keeping Jazz alive. The scholarship winners were: keyboardists Jamael Dean and Nicolas Earley, guitarist Giavanna Foster, drummer Aisha Gaillard, trumpeters Gina Ramirez and Elias Maffia and vocalist Darryn Dean. “I couldn’t be prouder to be involved in continuing my friend Rod’s legacy,” said 51st District Assemblyman Steven Bradford, festival founder and committee chair. Established performers included Erica Darius, JaZz in Pink (with Gail Jhonson), Jessy J., Kori Withers and DW3.