Idyllwild jazz icon Marshall Hawkins, one of the founders of Jazz in the Pines, now in its 19th year, is adding venues and artists to his second jazz festival creation — Town Jazz. Entering its second year, Town Jazz is Hawkins’ effort to bridge a division between the Idyllwild Arts location of Jazz in the Pines and the town of Idyllwild.
Several years ago, Jazz in the Pines logistics and transportation guru Ted Cummings observed that some jazz fest attendees thought the town of Idyllwild stopped at Saunders Meadow Road and Idyllwild School, so confined was festival attendance to the Idyllwild Arts campus.
Hawkins, wanting to change that, introduced Town Jazz last year to bring festival patrons into town after hours. Town Jazz schedules do not conflict with Jazz in the Pines performance or event times. Hawkins notes that Town Jazz is also designed to provide an inexpensive alternative for those that might not be able to afford Jazz in the Pines ticket prices.
Town Jazz started with one venue, Jo’An’s Restaurant, and two nights. This year Hawkins has tentatively slotted four additional venues and possibly two more, over three nights.
“We’re even going to have breakfast jazz [festival gates don’t open until 10:30 a.m.],” enthused a clearly pleased Hawkins — pleased to be doing what he does, putting it together.
The lineup of singers and players coming to play with and honor Hawkins is still expanding. Already committed are Yves Evans, Sherry Williams, Melissa Morgan, Peter Sprague, Joshua White, Bill Saita, Paul Carman, Graham Dechter, Henry Franklin and Chuckie McPherson among others.
Hawkins, a D.C. native, has legend writ large on his compact and still lithe tennis-player frame. “I’m going to start yoga,” he confided. “Too many years stooping over to play the bass.” That’s Hawkins — a walking compendium of jazz history and still up for something new, whether yoga or a new festival.
He’s played with the greats — Shirley Horn, Miles Davis, Eddie Jefferson, Richie Cole, Roberta Flack and Manhattan Transfer, yet he remains modest and self-effacing.
What is clear, and you can see it in his eyes when he talks about it, is that he loves jazz. He feels it’s important to pass on the stories and traditions of jazz, that singularly great American musical innovation. He passes on that love, and the appreciation of the contributions of the estimable gentlemen and ladies of jazz, to his Idyllwild Arts students at the program of Jazz Studies he founded.
“I need to thank some people,” said Hawkins. “First Dottie Goldfarb.” He explained that without Dottie he might not have had a music career at Idyllwild Arts. She was concert master with the Mt. San Jacinto College Orchestra. Hawkins was in the orchestra and Goldfarb insisted he needed to play in the “Messiah” orchestra of Robert Holmes in Idyllwild’s then massive production.
Town Jazz is scheduled to complement Jazz in the Pines, beginning on Friday, evening Aug. 24, through Sunday Aug. 26. More information about the event will be coming.