The Roots bring class, hard work to July Fourth Jam

Jennifer Hudson at the Wawa Welcome America Jam on the Parkway, Friday, July 4, 2014. ( Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer )

Jennifer Hudson chose to play with her own sizable backing band rather than The Roots, and -- once Wayans got through drooling over her in a between-the-music segment -- the slimmed-down singer strutted her stuff in a runway that extended into the crowd. Her big moments were "Spotlight" and her show-stopping, powerfully sung Dreamgirls number "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going." After that brought down the house, she went.

The trouble with these Roots-hosted shows is that you often don't get enough of the Philadelphia hip-hop group and Tonight Show Band. They are surely the hardest-working ensemble in show business playing on their own.

On Friday, the band made the most of its time although, in true collaborative spirit, even their solo time featured special guests.

Their second segment was a two-part tour de force. First, they brought out Philadelphia soul singer Bilal, for a featured Curtis Mayfield-esque vocal on "The Otherside" from 2011's Undun, which stretched out into a Kirk Douglas guitar workout. That was followed by a expertly improvised hip-hop jam in which drummer Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and special guest sampling specialist and expert button-pusher Jeremy Ellis played off each other in thrilling fashion.