Idyllwild Arts alumnus and American Idol veteran Casey Abrams is bringing his brand of jazz and pop improv to the 2015 Jazz in the Pines festival as the Sunday, Aug. 16, main stage headliner.
“Some jazz stuff, diving into some horn stuff and bringing in some new musicians with some surprises,” said Abrams when asked about what’s new this year. Abrams stressed the surprise aspect of what he and his group would be playing. “That’s jazz, that’s improvisation. You’re in the moment and the audience is hearing what you’re creating in that moment.” As he did on American Idol, when he chose not to over rehearse his spots, but to leave room for surprise, Abrams wants to keep it cool, change it up and keep it spontaneous.
As to spontaneous and cool, Abrams said bringing his Idol pal and alumna Haley Reinhart to the festival will be the best. “We’re excited to have Haley here. It’s going to be amazing.” Reinhart and Abrams paired for a duet “Moanin’” on American Idol during the Top 8 results show that received a standing ovation from the judges and was considered to be one of the best duets and performances of Idol’s Season 10.
Joining Abrams at Jazz in the Pines will be IA alumnus and sax man Jacob Scesney, winner of the 2013 Warren Hill Rising Star competition; Zack Lodmer, clarinetist, yogi and lawyer who suffuses his life and yogic practice with the Klezmer music of Eastern Europe; Bolivian/German L.A. session drummer Enrique Lara, 2008 Berklee College of Music grad; and guitarist and bassist Taylor Tessler who often accompanies Abrams on sessions and gigs.
Casey said his group will be playing some songs from his CD and playing some jazz standards on which he’d be singing.
About what’s good in and has enriched his life, Abrams cited his mentor Marshall Hawkins. “He’s the reason I play music,” he said. “He made everything in music fun — it’s not about the technical. It’s more about the passion and relaying it through your art, so the audience feels what you’re feeling.”
About his future, Abrams said he’s looking forward to doing more acting. “I was just in an indie feature film. It’s in the process of being edited. I’m this long-haired dude in a cubicle in an office.” He’s also putting together a new album. “It’s got more dance orientation, more synthesizer. I’m playing this electric bass and really flapping it. It’s going to have a lot of electricity in it. My mission in life is to play music with the coolest people and to share artistry with other artists.”
And that — the electricity, the excitement, the blending of jazz and pop, playing music that dances from the whimsical to the evocative, and celebrating and respecting the ensemble is what Abrams is excited to be bringing to his headlining gig.
For more about Abrams see www.xaibeproductions.com. For more about Jazz in the Pines see www.idyllwildjazz.com.