Marsha Lytle. Photo by J.P. Crumrine
In a few days, the result of Marsha Lytle’s past year will be unveiled. Thousands of people, notably jazz aficionados, will judge her work of art. Nevertheless, she was nonplused Friday evening while she dined and listened to Hot Club of Idyllwild, one of several new groups appearing in the 18th Jazz in the Pines festival.

As the 2011 chair of the Jazz Committee for the Associates of Idyllwild Arts, a private fundraising group for the school, and the producer of the annual musical gala, Lytle has worked hard, but isn’t worn-out or frustrated with this year’s jazz fest.

“I feel good. It’s a full-time job,” she said. “But I don’t spend the time doing, rather I spent more time thinking about it. I’m anxious for it to start.”

With the departure of longtime music director Marshall Hawkins, and with help from Bubba Jackson, artistic consultant and emcee, the 2011 festival will showcase many new voices and sounds. Appearing for the first time in Idyllwild will be Denise Donatelli, Gregory Porter and Oreo Divaz. That’s just on the Holmes Amphitheatre stage Saturday. The other Saturday venues and those on Sunday will highlight several other new jazz features.

Although she said the past week had been more stressful, she believes that Chris Maxson, Ted Cummings amd other volunteers have absorbed many of her problems and much of her workload.

Maxson has planned and organized a very new Patron’s Dinner, starting with high profile tables of honor and including art works, sculpted especially for the school and this affair.

“After hundreds of hours, countless decisions and perhaps a thousand emails, I must say that Marsha is a skillful and people-oriented manager,” Maxson said. “[She’s] not afraid to let folks do their job, not intimidated by the tough decisions, totally responsive to issues and concerns. Where was she when I was in the corporate world?”

Cummings has assumed his traditional role as logistics leader. Almost everything except finding and signing performers is under his umbrella or touches it. At the last Jazz Committee meeting, he explained the constraints the state Alcoholic Beverages Commission was imposing on festival activities, including the French Quarter and even the location of the reception area for the Patron’s Dinner.

“Ted makes the whole thing work,” she said of one of her right-hand man. “He’s organized — a corporate person with experience putting things together.”

Lytle has been very conscious of the relationship between the festival and the town. She and the committee expressed support and gratitude for the appearance of the Town Jazz concert Saturday and Sunday nights (see story on page 11). She hopes it continues and encourages the local businesses to stay open and serve the thousands of attendees of the Jazz in the Pines festival.

Her program offers tremendous jazz diversity. After taking on her role for this year, she was sensitive to the various jazz genres and that individual preferences usually don’t span the entire breadth.

“For people who don’t like hard jazz, we have a lot of different kinds of jazz,” she said. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has always been a crowd favorite and is returning to Idyllwild this year. In addition, Lytle arranged for Lisa Haley and the Zydecats to perform at this year’s festival. Gospel, Latin, gypsy, and smooth jazz will also be heard this weekend.

“Give jazz a chance,” was Lytle’s final thought before turning her ear to sounds of Idyllwild’s new and only django group.