The Cannonball-Coltrane Project members are (from left) Glenn Cashman, Paul Kreibich, Ed Czach, Luther Hughes and Bruce Babad. Photo courtesy of Luther Hughes and the Cannonball Coltrane Project

From September through May, arts education is the principal focus of adults and students at Idyllwild Arts Academy. For decades, whether it is theater, visual art, film or music, instilling and transferring the stewardship of the arts to the next generation has been the focus at the western terminus of Tollgate Road.


This purpose and this intention will continue Saturday afternoon, Aug. 25, in the Holmes Amphitheatre. The instructor will be Luther Hughes and the students will be the jazz fans ready to learn about two legends of jazz sax — Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane.

On June 20, 2002, Hughes and crew performed their first concert in Orange County as the Cannonball-Coltrane Project and they continue here later this month.

The idea germinated from the time Hughes spent listening to “The Cannonball Adderley Quintet,” a 1959 album and the only time Adderley and Coltrane were recorded together, other than with Miles Davis.

Hughes, a bassist, got his friends Glenn Cashman and Bruce Babad, who, as saxophonists, were familiar with the famous duo, to consider playing some of the music. Cashman plays tenor sax and Babad plays alto. For rhythm, they recruited two more friends, Ed Czach (who replaced Tom Ranier) on piano and Paul Kreibich for drums.

After listening and picking up their individual roles, they played in Huntington Beach without any group rehearsal. They played again and one night the president of the Orange County Performing Arts Center asked them to play.

“What an honor,” Hughes said. They now have five CD albums and the latest, “Things Are Getting Better,” rose to number two on the Jazz Week Album Charts.

But the group doesn’t simply play old tunes, Hughes, who has had several radio shows, teaches the audience about the music and men. His pedagogical personality has roots in decades of teaching music to hundreds of students. Now he serves on the faculty of California State University, Fullerton, and at Saddleback College.

“I’ll talk to the audience and explain what’s going on and if something more challenging is next I’ll try to prepare them,” Hughes said.