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Indian Wells Puts Out the Welcome Mat for Festival


Indian Wells Jazz is an example of a city government coming to the rescue.

The four-day festival--planned for Saturday through Tuesday at two locations in Indian Wells near Palm Springs--is the outgrowth of Palm Springs Jazz, a similar, multi-day salute to traditional jazz.

The Palm Springs event, sponsored by the nonprofit Classic Jazz Management group in late December from 1988 to 1990, drew as many as 2,300 fans last year, but that turnout still wasn't enough to erase an accumulated $25,000 debt.

So, partners Libby Huebner, John McNally and Laurie Whitlock turned to the city of Palm Springs to help supplement their annual $100,000-plus budget. Their request for $45,000 a year for five years was rejected by the city, which would only provide $15,000 a year.

This offer would have meant a no-growth situation for the partners, but there didn't appear to be any alternative--until Richard Oliphant, the mayor of Indian Wells, entered the picture. He arranged for the partners to get together with the Indian Wells City Council, which approved their proposal.

"Despite being the home of such nationally televised events as the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic golf tournament, Indian Wells has been one of the best kept secrets in Southern California, and events like the jazz festival will put Indian Wells on the map," said Oliphant.

The support of the city allows Classic Jazz Management to increase its budget--it's $200,000 this year--and broaden its presentation to attract a wider audience. Huebner estimates attendance this year will be 3,000.

The line-up includes such diverse attractions as Poncho Sanchez' Latin/jazz band, the Re-Birth Brass band, the Milano Jazz Gang from Italy and reedman Antti Sarpila from Finland.

The festival will take place at Stouffer's Esmeralda Resort and the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort. National Public Radio will broadcast nationwide a New Year's Eve program from the Hyatt featuring Sanchez and the Re-Birth band. It can be heard in Los Angeles on KPCC-FM (89.3) from 11 p.m. to midnight.

Information: (310) 799-6055, (619) 773-4444.

Critic's Choice: When pianist Cedar Walton, a be-bop-bent artist who can create seamless, flowing improvisations, was residing in New York, he often appeared in duos and trios with the highly regarded bassist Ron Carter. Now that Walton lives in Los Angeles, he and Carter rarely keep musical company here, so that makes their engagement, which includes drummer Billy Higgins, Tuesday through Jan. 5 at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood something of an event.

Carter is a superlative supporting artist who can create bass lines that buoy a soloist. Higgins is another artist who gives when he performs, pushing and driving with emphatic accents and a resilient rhythmic sense. Together, the three, who will be joined on Tuesday only by the magisterial trumpeter Harry (Sweets) Edison, offer trio renditions that bubble with vitality and invention.

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