Tim Parsons, tparsons@tahoedailytribune.com

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November 15, 2012
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Thanksgiving jazz tradition comes to end

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - "Kind of Blue."

The well-known Miles Davis song and album title is an appropriate way to sum up jazz at Lake Tahoe.

The annual holiday jazz festival, which has been an Incline Village tradition since the 1969 construction of Kings Castle - now the Hyatt Regency - has been canceled.

"It's sad," said Hanna Bankston, the Hyatt's marketing manager. "In the last five years, interest has declined significantly. It was a hard decision to make. We put a lot of thought into it. It wasn't making sense anymore."

Bankston said it has been difficult to publicize the event because jazz radio stations in California have closed. Smooth Jazz Reno 92.1 FM changed its format to country in January 2011.

The event for decades was held Thanksgiving weekend. Many of jazz's greatest artists performed at the festival in recent years, including Wayman Tisdale, Mindi Abair, Rick Braun, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Dave Koz, David Benoit, Jeffrey Osborne and Jonathan Butler.

Before her 2010 appearance at the Hyatt, Abair said some of her earliest memories were from Incline Village.

"My dad (Lance Abair) played the Kings Castle way back in the day with a band called the Entertainers," Abair said. "As a kid I'd go to Tahoe all the time. I believe they were the band that played the opening of the hotel, and he kept playing there."

The Kings Castle was built in 1969 by Nathan S. Jacobson, who once owned the NBA's Baltimore Bullets.

Tisdale, of course, was first famous as a basketball player. The five-string bass player joked about appearing onstage at the Hyatt with his diminutive peers.

"This is the world's shortest tour; it's going to be very funny when you see us on stage," Tisdale said. "Kimberly Locke, David Koz and Jonathan Butler are all the same height, and here I am at 6-9. They all hit me at my waist."

Peter White often headed up an evening of jazz called "A Peter White Christmas."

"One time Dave Koz decided we would all wear pajamas for one song," he said. "We had to take the pajamas off, and we did it on stage, to much whooping and hollering from the ladies. We decided not to do it again after that. It was just too distracting to have the whole band taking off their pajamas. It was like Chippendales or something."

Benoit also has a radio show on K-JAZZ Los Angeles, which remains popular.

Marketing Manager Michael Lavine said the station has 400,000 listeners.

Moody's Bistro in Truckee offers jazz two to four nights a week. However, jazz has lost popularity at Tahoe.

Bankston said she has received just one call inquiring about the festival.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Nov 15, 2012 07:31PM Published Nov 15, 2012 07:30PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.