Pop the Parachutes, it’s time for the 2014 Jazz in the Pines

By | August 13, 2014 at 12:33 pm | No comments | Columns, Events, Feature Stories, Local Music Spotlight

By Judith Salkin

Parachutes strung the treetops that look like giant jellyfish drifting through the pines, people drifting from one venue to another and three stages of the best jazz from New Orleans to straight-ahead and everything in between – this must be the 21ST annual Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines.

Long before Coachella and Stagecoach made the valley a draw for alt rock and country music lovers, jazz enthusiasts were making the trek to the mountain campus of the Idyllwild Arts Academy for a weekend of jazz, that was the brainchild of instructor and bassist extraordinaire Marshall Hawkins.

In its early years using his connections in the music industry Hawkins was able to bring artists such as Lee Ritenour, Dave Koz, Mindy Abair and Boney James to entice them into the mountains to help out the next generation of up-and-coming jazz musicians.

These days, the performers wait for the invitation to perform for the audiences who make their way from the California coast and desert and destinations from across the region.

“Marshall (who has played with the likes of Miles Davis, Donny Hathaway, Boots Randolph and Roberta Flack) is the man who created the jazz program at the school,” said Jeff Hocker, of Hocker Productions, who has executive produced the festival for the past several years. “He created Jazz in the Pines to give the students a chance to perform and learn from the professional musicians and raise money for the school.”

While the jazz tastes of the audience ebb and flow, Hawkins is involved choosing the musicians who play each year. “Because of funding, we’re always looking for musicians who know the program and can fit our price range.”

The big difference between Jazz in the Pines and other jazz fests is the effect it has on the students at the school. The two solid days of music are a classroom of sorts for jazz program.

No matter what genre of music the students are enrolled in, all students at IAA are exposed to all the elements of music taught there. “IAA really fosters growth of today’s prodigies,” Hocker said. “Most have some training in jazz, which is why we bring all kinds of jazz to the festival.

Unlike sitting in a concert hall, audience members stroll to and from the three stage areas to listen to a variety of jazz and performers.” In-between sessions, they can peruse the Marketplace that is filled this year with 65 juried artists and the food booths from Idyllwild restaurants.

For comfort, the audience is encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for the outdoors stages and a sweater in case the mountain temps are too cool, especially for desert dwellers.

Casey Abrams

Coming back to play the festival is former American Idol (2011’s 10th season) competitor Casey Abrams, one of Hawkins’ former students.

“Marshall was just so cool,” Abrams said from his L.A. home earlier this week. Unlike other instructors, Hawkins insisted that he learned as much about music from his students as they did from him.

Abrams added. “He wasn’t Sir or Mr. Hawkins, he told us the first day if we wanted his attention to call him ‘Man’. He really wanted to be a friend and mentor to every student in his class and he encourages all them to explore every type of music.”

On Idol, Abrams caught the attention of the judges with his range of music from a soul-searing rendition of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You” to Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy” to Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe.”

And while he didn’t make it to the finals, his Idol experience was “exactly what I hoped it would be,” he said.

Over the past three years, Abrams has recorded one album and has toured nearly non-stop around the country including a six show run in February at the Iridium Jazz Club and performances at the Panang Jazz Festival.

Unlike some performers, Abrams refuses to choose between jazz and contemporary music and doesn’t feel schizophrenic about the dichotomy of styles.

“I have so much music in me, I just want to share it with anyone who will listen,” he said. “I keep fighting to get better and to get it all out in front of an audience.”

Abrams hasn’t lost his Idol audience either, although some are older women who have a crush on the 23-year-old Chicago native. “They call themselves Casey’s Cougars and they’re the inspiration for ‘Cougartown’ which is the next song I’m recording.”

At the moment Abrams is without a record label (he left the Concord Music Group which released his self-titled first disc in 2012 and management, but he’s looking for new management in NYC. At the moment, Abrams seems to be fine with club dates and a small part in an upcoming Valerie Landsburg film, “Offer and Compromise,” with Tom Cavanaugh, Francis Fisher, French Stewart and Christopher MacDonald signed to star.

“I just want to keep a grip on everything I’m going through,” he said.

Along with writing music for his next disc, Abrams is pursuing one of his other musical interests in film scoring. While at IAA he scored several student shorts (his father is one of the film instructors at the school) and loved the idea of enhancing the action on the screen with incidental music.

“I’m doing a song for “See You In Valhalla” that’s due out later this year,” he said. “There’s a small, touching scene in the movie and I get to write the song that plays under it.”

Coming back to Idyllwild to play Jazz in the Pines is a full-circle moment, Abrams said. “That’s where I learned that I could be anything I wanted to be,” he said. And his life lessons since Idol have taught him, “It’s better to ask forgiveness than to beg for permission because sometimes you really need to do what’s in your head and heart and worry about it later. At the moment, I’m right where I always hoped I’d be.”

What: 21ST annual Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines
When: Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 16-17
Where: Idyllwild Arts Academy
52500 Temecula Drive, Idyllwild
Tickets: $65 per day; 12 and younger, free with paid adult
Information: info@idyllwildjazz.com; (951) 500-4090


Main Stage

11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Yve Evans & Company
Yve Evans, Piano & Vocal
Bradley Austin Bobo, Bass & Vocals
Larry Washington, Drums & Vocals

12:45-2 Evan Christopher
Evan Christopher, Clarinet
Pete Kuzma, Keyboards
Ramon Banda, Drums
Henry Franklin, Bass
Bob Boss, Guitar
Jason Jackson, Trombone

2:30-3:45 David Garfield & The Afro Cuban Jazz Project
David Garfield, Keyboards
John Peña, Bass
Jimmy Branly, Drums
Brandon Fields, Sax
Chris Trujillo, Percussion
Walt Fowler, Trumpet

4:15-5:30 Euphoria Brass Band
Ron Bocian, Snare Drum
Drew Miller, Bass Drum & Vocals
Wayne Rice, Sousaphone
April West, Trombone
Steve Ebner, Trumpet
JP Balmat, Clarinet, Baritone & Alto Saxes
David Jackson, Tenor Sax

French Quarter

10:30-11:45 a.m. Euphoria Brass Band
Ron Bocian, Snare Drum
Drew Miller, Bass Drum & Vocals
Wayne Rice, Sousaphone
April West, Trombone
Steve Ebner, Trumpet
JP Balmat, Clarinet, Baritone & Alto Saxes
David Jackson, Tenor Sax

12:15-1:30 p.m. Black Swan Blues:
Bill Saitta, Bass
Don Reed, Guitar
Jeff Olson, Drums
Barry Baughn, Guitar

2-3:15 Ruby & The Red Hots
Ruby Presnell, Vocals
Bob Boss, Guitar
Kevin Koch, Drums
Cecil McBee, Jr., Bass
Dave Curtis, Organ & Keyboards
Mark Lessman, Saxophone
Mitch Manker, Trumpet & Flugelhorn

3:45-5:30 The Chuck Alvarez Band
Chuck Alvarez, Guitar
Bill Saitta, Bass
Jeff Olson, Drums
Vince Denim, Saxophone

Stephens Hall

10:45 a.m.-noon Straight Jackets
Barnaby Finch, Piano & Keyboards
Bill Saitta, Bass
Jeff Olson, Drums
Paul Carman, Saxophone

12:30-1:45 p.m. Paul Carman’s Quarket + 1
Paul Carman, Saxophones
Joshua White, Piano
Rob Thorsen, Acoustic Bass
Chris Wabich, Drums & Percussion
Brad Dutz, Drums & Percussion

2:15 – 3:30 Joshua White Band
Joshua White, Piano
Hamilton Price, Bass
Joe LaBarbera, Drums
Johnaye Kendrick, Vocals

4- 5:15 Harry Pickens
Harry Pickens, Piano
Robin Adler, Vocals
Marshall Hawkins, Bass
Roy McCurdy, Drums



Main Stage

11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Yve Evans & V.I.P. (Voices In Praise)
Yve Evans
Crystal Matthews
Greg Jones
Ava Dupree
Bob Emmit
Brad Bobo
Larry Washington
Perry Moore

12:45-2 Deanna Bogart
Deanna Bogart, Keyboards & Vocals
Jeff Olson, Drums
Chuck Alvarez, Guitar
Bill Saitta, Bass

2:30-3:45 Ruby Blue
Ruby Presnell, Vocals
Bob Boss, Guitar
Rob Thorsen, Acoustic Bass
Richard Sellers, Drums
Special Guest: Evan Christopher, Clarinet

4:15-5:30 Casey Abrams
Casey Abrams, Bass
Jacob Scesney, Sax Precision
Quinton Zigler, Keyboards & Trombone
Marshall Hawkins, Keyboards & Bass

French Quarter

10:30 -11:45 a.m. Rocky Zharp
Rocky Zharp, Guitar, Vocals & Harmonica
Dan Kennedy, Guitar & Vocals
Glenn “Mann” Frazier Jr., Drums
Jerry Cox, Bass & Vocals

12:15-1:30 p.m. Greg Jones Band
Claudia Campbell, Vocals
Richard Cole, Saxophone
Walter Foley, Guitar
Scott Fulton, Drums
Greg Jones, Piano & Vocals
Ken Meredith, Trumpet
Dave Pruitt, Guitar
Gene Thorpes, Bass
Toby Williams, Percussion

2-3:15 Stars On The Water
Jerry Gontang, Guitar & Vocals
Jeff Bristol, Guitar & Vocals
Jimmy Reeves, Bass & Vocals
Gary Nieves, Drums

3:45-5:30 Peter Sprague Quintet
Leonard Patton, Vocals
Duncan Moore, Drums
Tripp Sprague, Saxophone
Bill Saitta, Bass
Barnaby Finch, Keyboards
Peter Sprague, Guitar

Stephens Hall

10:45 a.m.-noon Jazz Grass
Barnaby Finch, Piano & Keyboards
Bill Saitta, Bass
Jeff Olson, Drums
Keith McCabe, Guitar & Mandolin
Lily McCabe, Violin
Don Reed, Guitar, Mandolin & Dobro

12:30-1:45 p.m. Peter Sprague String Consort
Peter Sprague, Guitar
Bob Magnusson, Bass
Duncan Moore, Drums
Bridget Dolkas, Violin
Jeanne Skrocki, Violin
Pam Jacobson, Viola
Melissa Hasin, Cello

2:15-3:30 Harry Pickens
Harry Pickens, Piano
Sherry Williams, Vocals
Marshall Hawkins, Bass
Roy McCurdy, Drums

4-5:15 Henry Franklin, The Skipper and Crew
Henry Franklin, Bass
Theo Saunders, Piano
Ramon Banda, Drums
Zane Musa, Saxophones


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