Marshall Hawkins performs at the 2017 Jazz in the Pines Festival. Photo by Justin Martens, courtesy Idyllwild Arts

Gates open at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, for Idyllwild Arts’ 25th-annual Jazz in the Pines festival. This year’s event honors Marshall Hawkins, festival co-founder and director of Idyllwild Arts’ jazz program. Many alumni-turned-professional jazz musicians are returning to honor Hawkins, their mentor.

As always, crafts, jewelry and artwork are for sale in the festival marketplace along with a food court. Beer, wine and margaritas are available for purchase.

A run-down of musicians:


Peter Escovedo takes the Main Stage from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Saturday. Escovedo combines Latin and salsa rhythms with his jazz.

Next from 12:45 to 2 p.m. on the Main Stage, one of the new groups at the festival will be the Chase Jackson Sextet. While he will be new to this stage, Jackson is already a popular jazz musician. He has several awards from the Berklee Jazz Workshop, a popular venue for Idyllwild Arts jazz students.

Returning alumnus Evan Christopher and his clarinet take the Main Stage from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. with fellow alumnus-trombonist and Grammy award winner Jason Jackson, pianist Joshua White, IA teacher-guitarist Bob Boss and alumnus-bassist Owen Zorn.

From 4:15 to 5:30 p.m., alumnus-guitarist, composer and arranger Graham Dechter rounds out his quartet with John Clayton, Jeff Hamilton and Tamir Hendelman.

From 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. Saturday, the French Quarter heats up with a big favorite, the Greg Jones Band, with a blues-funk tint to high-energy R&B dance music. Jones teaches Communication Studies at Victor Valley College.

One of his mentors was Hawkins, to whom Jones attributes his musical insight. Jones, founder of the Wrightwood Blues Society, has been part of Jazz in the Pines for its entire 25-year run. This year’s band includes Dave Pruitt (rhythm guitar and vocals), Richard Cole (saxophone), Buster Harrell (drums and vocals) and Irwin Williams (bass).

From 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. in the French Quarter, Ruby and the Red Hots bring rockin’ blues, R&B, funk and jazz to the dancing venue.

Ruby Etoile (Ruby Presnell), with her unique and powerful voice, beauty and sensual stage presence, is known as the “first-class sultry lady of blues.”

From 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the French Quarter, the Euphoria Brass Band will serve up a contemporary mix of old-school New Orleans traditional brass band jazz, funky street beats and new-school edginess with a West Coast feeling.

From 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the French Quarter, singer/songwriter Eric Kufs returns with one-part crooner, one-part protest singer and every part artist. Kufs is a singer of the people, choosing to showcase his music as a busker in various street venues throughout Southern California.

From 10:45 a.m. to noon, Joshua White takes over the piano at Stephens Recital Hall (The Barn). His musical training is in both classical and gospel music traditions before encountering jazz.

From 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. in Stephens, Katie Thiroux plays her bravura bass, and sings her compelling compositions.

From 2:15 to 3:45 p.m., the incomparable pianist Harry Pickens performs with Hawkins on bass and Roy McCurdy on drums in Stephens. Get there early. This is a standing-room-only performance.

From 4:15 to 5:30 p.m., Definiens, returning for their fourth year at Jazz in the Pines, takes the stage at Stephens. The sextet performs on classical instrumentation, including violin, cello, contrabass, flutes, clarinets and piano, that combines elements of jazz, classical and contemporary music.

Then, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Seahawk MOJO takes the stage at Lowman Concert Hall farther up on campus.

Open to all this year, the world-renowned Seahawk MOJO is modern jazz orchestra of nearly 30 pieces, playing original music and jazz standards. Seahawk MOJO

is also a nonprofit organization that brings jazz to the grade schools in Idyllwild, Hemet and San Diego. It is led by Marshall Hawkins.

Idyllwild Arts Academy alumni Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart, both “American Idol” competitors, will highlight the 25th-annual Jazz in the Pines festival starting at 4:15 p.m. on the Main Stage this Sunday. Photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts


From 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Sunday, Voices in Praise Gospel Choir starts off Jazz in the Pines on the Main Stage. It is the closest thing to a church service at Jazz in the Pines that you will ever experience. The choice includes Yve Evans.

On the Main Stage from 12:45 to 2 p.m., get ready for Richie Cole Alto Madness, bringing Cole together with Pickens, Boss, Hawkins and McCurdy, a tornado of jazz talent.

From 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. on the Main Stage, The Azar Lawrence Experience appears. Lawrence was the tenor saxophonist McCoy Tyner featured following John Coltrane’s death.

Closing headliners from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. on the Main Stage are IA alumnus Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart, both “American Idol” competitors. Abrams credits Hawkins for helping him develop into the musician he is today.

From 11:30 to 11:45 a.m. in the French Quarter, popular returning musician Chuck Alvarez performs blues-rock for a dancing crowd.

From 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. Lisa Haley and the Zydekats bring the Grammy-nominated fiddler, dancer, vocalist and songwriter to the French Quarter to serve up heart-moving Louisiana Bayou rhythms, traditional stylings and original songs that speak to all ages.

From 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the French Quarter, the Yve Evans Trio performs her sassy-soul jazz to adoring fans. Evans’ band (she calls it her Company)  comprises some of the industry’s most accomplished musicians. The title of her latest CD sums up her style: “3 Degrees Celsius – not frozen, just very cool.”

From 4 to 5:30 p.m., wrapping up the music at the French Quarter, is the Gilbert Hansen Band. Hansen was formerly the bassist for The Pointer Sisters, and now plays cover tunes, including standard rock ’n’ roll and R&B.

From 10:45 to 11:45 a.m. in Stephens, Jazzgrass performns an unusual blend of jazz and bluegrass instruments in surprising yet delightful combinations. A cello plays duet with the mandolin, a trumpet and trombone horn section backs up a banjo, a saxophone and a guitar rip out smooth and engaging solos. The tempo ranges from upbeat stomping to mellow swing. The improvisations in these tunes catch the expression of free spirit.

The group includes Barnaby Finch on keyboards; Don Reed on mandolin, dobro and guitar; Sam Zorn on fiddle; Bill Saitta on bass; and Jeff Olson on drums.

From 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. in Stephens, Paul Carman Forbits includes Carman on saxophone. Passionate about jazz education, Paul has taught jazz, jazz history, saxophone, and computer music applications at USC, UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Saddleback College and several high schools. He also teaches jazz studies and saxophone at IA.

From 1:45 to 2:30 p.m. in Stephens, Idyllwild Arts Academy Student Combo features six students from Idyllwild Arts Academy performing during the festival. Their teacher, Carman, and recent alumnus Zorn will join the sextet as they play material performed at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival in Boston and the Reno Jazz Festival. The students are Moe Fienberg (’18, trumpet), Mark Beebe (’19, alto sax), Cisco de la Garza (’18, tenor sax), Michael Dunaevsky (’20, piano), Ray Godfrey (’20, bass) and Caelen Perkins (’19, drums). Fienberg and de la Garza will attend The New School in New York to continue their jazz studies.

From 3 to 4 p.m. in Stephens, Zorn, also known as “Howl,” will perform.

And from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Stephens, try not to miss bassist Henry Franklin who will be joined by Theo Saunders on piano, Thedross Avery on Saxophone and Yayo Morales on drums.

Tickets are $85 per day or $150 for both days at or at the gate. Children ages 18 and under are free with a ticket-holding adult.

Editor’s note: Information compiled from Jazz in the Pines.