Lisa Haley (right) and the Zydekats pulled Buzz Holmes (center) out from the dancing crowd onto the stage to sing their final song of their set during Jazz in the Pines Sunday. Haley is a former Idyllwild Arts Summer Program student and has known Holmes for years. Photo by Jenny Kirchner

Gray, possibly rain-filled clouds covered the Hill Sunday, but they could not quench the desire for great and beautiful jazz from the dedicated fans of the Jazz in the Pines festival at Idyllwild Arts.

The 23rd festival was another success, bringing thousands of visitors to the Hill and hundreds of musicians.

On both days, the first performances began at 10:30 a.m.; yet the line, to be the first to enter the festival area and claim prized seat locations in the Holmes Amphitheatre, began forming well before 9 a.m.

On Saturday, a group of friends from the desert, including Dori and Bob Lienhard, were in the front. This was their fifth jazz fest. They wanted to place their chairs and blankets at the front of the amphitheater for a great position to listen and watch Saturday’s closing act — Diane Schurr. They also were looking forward to hearing Lisa Haley and the Zydekats on Sunday.

The group arrived in town Friday so they didn’t have to get up early Saturday to drive to Idyllwild and then sit in line.

On Sunday, two Idyllwild families were at the head of the line. Casey and Shannon Johnston, with daughters Lylianne and Kaelynn, and Shannon’s mother Sheila, were anxious to get good spots for Sunday’s popular headliners — Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart. Right behind the Johnstons was Bob Lewis, who arrived about 9 a.m. for his place.

Despite the threat of rain Sunday, a few sprinkles were all that fell. No performances were disturbed from the barely noticeable precipitation. Saturday’s sunny skies beckoned many jazz aficionados.

Benjamin Brookes, the head of marketing for Idyllwild Arts, said ticket sales, as well as ticket revenue, were well ahead of previous years.

Not only the fans, but musicians were glad and thrilled to perform here. One of the new groups this year was Hot Club of Los Angeles. Drummer Jim Doyle said, “It’s wonderful to play in this festival in front of an audience that loves jazz.” Their usual venues are night clubs in Los Angeles where they emphasize the gypsy jazz music of Belgian guitar virtuoso and composer Django Reinhardt.

Many of the musicians come back year after year to perform in a beautiful forest setting. Rob Thorsen, bass player with the Steph Johnson Quartet, has been in 20 Jazz in the Pines festivals, he said.

The very popular Harry Pickens returned again this year. For his performance Sunday, Stephens Hall was filled. Outside seating was taken and people were standing in several rows deep in order to listen to him with festival founder Marshall Hawkins, drummer Roy McCurdy, and guest vocalists Rose Colella and Sherry Williams

While many of the favorite performers live on the Hill or nearby, such as Robin Adler and the Mutts of the Planet and Yve Evans, several came from the other side of the continent. Saturday’s brass jazz group, the Westerlies, grew up in Seattle, but live in New York City now.

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