Jazz in the Pines year 24 starts this weekend

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The French Quarter, a Jazz in the Pines venue for dancing, food and fun, is always popular and always packed. File photo

Jazz as a form is delicious, surprising, exciting and inspirational — oh yes, and fun.

This year’s menu, as crafted by festival gastronomists Marshall Hawkins and John Newman, has power, praise, passion and persuasion. And this musical mélange happens on all three stages — the main stage Holmes Amphitheatre for festival headliners, Stephens Hall for intimate-listening straight-ahead jazz and the French Quarter for dancing, food, fun and, oh yes, that absolutely necessary cold beverage.

The French Quarter lineup this year is robust, instrumentally and vocally varied, and swings from an extraordinarily talented singer songwriter soloist, Los Angeles street busker Eric Kuffs, to large groups such as the Dr. Gregory Jones Band with his tribute to Al Jarreau, the seven-piece Euphoria Brass Band with its classic New Orleans street-band roots, to the sweet and soulful as expressed by Yve Evans and her trio.

There’s Cajun and Zydeco as offered up by Andre Thierry and his Accordion Soul Music, Chicago blues, classic soul, psychedelic ’60s, rat-pack jazz and ’70s funk as proffered by the Gand Band, familiar faces Gilbert Hansen and his band, and Chuck Alvarez and his Satellite Voodoo with special guest Barnaby Finch on keyboards.

The Quarter will be a place to shake, rattle and roll, pause for refreshment and return to the floor. There will be effervescent musical fun on Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Stephens Hall, with its limited seating and solid acoustics, will be jammed to hear jazz greats Harry Pickens on piano, Marshall Hawkins on bass and Roy McCurdy on drums on Sunday. Pickens, long a festival favorite for his expressive playing, pairs with festival founder Hawkins and jazz elder statesman McCurdy. Pickens, a teacher, musician, musical mentor and motivational speaker, believes that music serves the greater good. “At the very core of our being is a reservoir of joy, of love and of possibility,” he said. All of that can be heard in Pickens’ musical journeys.

Also on Sunday, Henry “Skipper” Franklin, renowned jazz double-bassist, returns to give his many fans the kind of jazz they want to hear. Franklin’s pedigree includes playing on Hugh Masekela’s number one 1968 single “Grazing in the Grass” with Count Basie, Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau, Freddie Hubbard, Willie Bobo and O.C. Smith. Franklin has played on more than 100 albums, many of them produced under his leadership.

On Saturday, Evan Christopher and his Clarinet Road headlines in the Holmes Amphitheatre with Bob Boss on guitar, Joshua White on piano, IAA alum Daniel Sazer-Krebbers on bass and Andy Fraga Jr. on drums.

Holmes Amphitheatre features pianist Tamir Hendelman on Sunday. This is Hendelman’s first time at the festival leading his group. He has previously appeared with Jeff Hamilton and Graham Dechter. Hendelman is pianist with the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and the Jeff Hamilton Trio.

   When dusk gathers on Sunday evening, as the last notes of Jazz in the Pines year 24 fade, as patrons move out the gate toward waiting buses, planning begins for the festival’s silver anniversary. “This one’s going to be really incredible,” said Hawkins.

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