The Second Annual Town Jazz served up breakfast, cocktail and dinner jazz as a complement to Jazz in the Pines. Impresario and local jazz icon Marshall Hawkins summoned his jazz family and long time collaborators for the three-day event. They came, they played and they provided not just bookends to the more established festival on the Idyllwild Arts campus, but some truly exquisite jazz.
There was a little something for each musical taste, with a cast spanning generations of players. Bob Boss and Graham Dechter joined legendary guitarist Mundell Lowe. Billed as “Three Guitars” the group played at the Creek House and Jo’An’s Restaurant, two of the five-featured Town Jazz venues this year. Lowe, like Hawkins, has played with many of the great names in jazz, including Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Stan Getz, Sarah Vaughan and many others.
Another Town Jazz coup, according to Jared Dillon at Idyll Awhile Wine Bistro, was jazz harpist Lori Andrews. “She brought in a lot of people both days,” he said. “We were packed. People loved it.”
Of the effort to assemble the musicians and field them to five venues, Hawkins said, “I think it was worth the journey. For me, the opportunity to listen to other people play was a gift.
Hawkins said that Sunday was the biggest success of the three-day Town Jazz event. “I designed it that way, knowing that Sunday at Jazz in the Pines was often slower. But primarily this was for the town people.” Many townspeople showed up for the Three Divas (Yves Evans, Melissa Morgan and Sherry Williams) at Jo’An’s on Sunday night. Casey Abrams, who had played at Café Aroma Saturday, was a featured guest with the Divas. “We would have enjoyed more from the three ladies,” said Annamarie Padula, noting that the three started later than originally scheduled.
Aroma’s Frank Ferro said weekend business was great but for him the best part was more personal and also generational. Said Ferro, “It was seeing the old guard, Marshall, Mundell Lowe, Yves Evans hanging out with Casey, Graham, and Melissa Morgan on my deck before the Idyllwild Arts alumni group started playing. Kind of what the story of jazz is — passing it from one generation to the next.”
Nam Park, Mile High Café owner, said that they were very busy when the Town Jazz musicians were playing at her business. “We were very happy.” Lanny Hardy, Creek House owner, said he and Lorraine had a special moment to listen to the rehearsal of the Three Guitars on Saturday afternoon. “We both sat down with a glass of wine and drank in the music. It was incredible,” said Hardy.
Hawkins mentioned the highlight of the event, produced by the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce, was a moment at the Creek House with Mundell Lowe, 20 years Hawkins’ senior and a guitar trailblazer. “He leaned over after we had played through all we had rehearsed and said, ‘O.K. Chief, is that it?’ He called me ‘Chief.’” Hawkins was overcome with the tip of the hat from this esteemed jazz veteran. And then the group launched into the ballad “I Should Care,” on which Hawkins played a long and sweet bow solo on the bass. “It is the story line for me, about jazz, about this event and about that moment,” said Hawkins. The last line of the song, which Hawkins quoted for this interview, is “I should care, and I do.”
“I’m a lifetime member of the associates that produce Jazz in the Pines,” said Hawkins. “That is a very short list and I’m proud to be on it. I’ve always been in support of Jazz in the Pines and I always will. It’s just about the music and the kids.”