Lineups announced, planning complete

In less than four months, the sounds of music — and clapping, dancing, singing — will fill Strawberry Valley. The 24th-annual Jazz in the Pines starts Aug. 11 and ends Aug. 13.

Once again, the magic of jazz — America’s music — will excite the mountain and fill the town with visitors from throughout Southern California. These people, who return year after year to sit on the grassy hillside of Idyllwild Arts’ Holmes Amphitheatre or squeeze into Stephens Hall or bounce on the dance floor of the French Quarter, will again be amazed at the bucolic nature of an international jazz festival.

“I’m excited about the final line-up,” said John Newman, chair of the Jazz Committee and director of Business Operations for the Idyllwild Arts Academy. “We have some of the same stalwarts, such as Yves Evans, Henry Franklin and Harry Pickens, and several new- and young-comers.”

Opening the Holmes Amphitheatre on Saturday will be Frisson, an octet of recent Oberlin College graduates.

“This is part of Marshall Hawkins’ and my recruiting to discover new talent, up and rising new musicians,” Newman said. “I love scouting for new talent.

The group’s music draws heavily from jazz, but complements it with fusion, rock, R&B and electronic music. Matt DiBaise, the founder, said in a review, “Frisson’s eclectic music contains strong rhythmic foundations, singable melodies and rich harmonies that fuel spectacular solos from its creative and talented members.”

Closing the afternoon will be Saturday’s headliner and well-known festival performer Charles McPherson. His quintet will bring the traditional sounds of jazz to the amphitheater.

In 2007, McPherson told the Town Crier, “Bebop, what is it? What does it mean?” he posed, and then answered. “It’s melodic, rhythmic and harmonic. It has a good representation of all music components. It’s structure and form.”

Accompanying McPherson will be several very popular and influential San Diego jazz titans — Gilbert Castellanos on trumpet, Randy Porter on piano, Rob Thorsen on bass and Richard Weller on drums.

In between the new and the legendary jazz musicians will be the acclaimed alumnus and clarinetist Evan Christopher, accompanied by several other IA alumni. Christopher also will be appearing in the historic Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island the previous week. The Robert Dove Quintet will follow Frisson on the Holmes  Amphitheatre stage.

Both the French Quarter and Stephens Hall will offer familiar jazz. The performers included the always popular pianist Joshua White, vocalist Rose Mallet, and Forbits, led by Idyllwild’s Paul Carman, Chuck Alvarez and the inspiring Evans with her unique sense of humor.

Sunday brings another day of excitement and beautiful sounds. Evans and her gospel choir will open the main stage and a new group, the Russell Malone Quartet, will be Sunday’s closing headliner.

Other musicians making their inaugural appearance at the fest include singer Eric Kufs and Andre Thierry.

Max Hayman, a former Summer Program attendee, is coming back with his trio. Robert Dove, saxophonist, has appeared with other groups, such as Castellanos, but this year has his own quartet performing at the Holmes on Saturday. Tamir Hendelman, pianist, is also returning with his trio and so is the Singularity Project, headed by David Lynch, son of Idyllwild’s Mick Lynch.

At Stephens, jazz fans will hear local favorite pianist Harry Pickens, whom Hawkins will join. Another Idyllwild Arts alumnus, Lake Jirouek, returns to treat the audience to his unique mellifluous guitar tones.

“Working out of Los Angeles, he has his own trio,” Newman said. “We’re looking for a balance between the legends and the young talent, who is looking for a start.”

Jazz legend Henry Franklin and his quartet will close the day and 24th jazz fest Sunday.

The eclectic music performances from the popular band Diego Euphoria Brass Band will be heard at the French Quarter. A new group, led by Thierry, will introduce their zydeco style for accordion music in the afternoon, thus demonstrating the effort to offer a variety of jazz styles to the audience. But even with all of this talent, the prestigious festival still depends upon hundreds of volunteers.

“I’m delighted that everybody [on the Jazz Committee] is returning. These people are committed and dedicated and love it,” Newman said with pride. “These volunteers bring more volunteers. We could not do it without the support of the volunteers.”

Of course, the Patrons Dinner and Dance will again open the festival and Gilbert Hansen, bass guitarist, will provide the evening’s music. That will be Friday, Aug. 11. The Patrons Package will cost $350 this year. Besides the dinner and tickets for both Saturday and Sunday, this year, it includes a patrons-only admission to the Seahawk Modern Jazz Orchestra performance Saturday evening in the William M. Lowman Concert Hall.

Tickets for Saturday and Sunday are currently available online at and sales are 20 percent ahead of 2015, according to Newman. Ticket prices are $70 each day or $130 for a two-day admission until May 1, when they increase. After May 1, tickets will be available at the Idyllwild Pharmacy and the school’s retail shop on North Circle Drive near Cedar Street.