Jazz Comes West

Saddle up and set your GPS on one of California’s best-kept secrets: the Lone Pine Concert in the Rocks.

The historic frontier town of Lone Pine sits at the base of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States—in the Owens Valley, about 200 miles north of LA along Highway 395. Every year on the first Saturday night in June, magic happens in Lone Ranger Canyon. 

That’s the natural amphitheatre hidden among the giant boulders of the scenic Alabama Hills where The Lone Ranger was filmed. On this night only, the canyon is transformed into a magical, under-the-stars venue for a unique dinner concert event.

This year, the June 7 concert “Jazz Comes West” features the Monty Alexander Trio, with special guests Frank Vignola, Hassan Shakur and Jeff Hamilton. Hailed as one of the top five jazz pianists of all time by music publishing giant Hal Leonard Corporation, Monty Alexander has performed worldwide with an unending list of music royalty including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones.

Surrounded by huge backlit granite boulders, some 300 lucky guests will wine-and-dine to a full bar and charcoal-grilled steak prior to the concert. (A vegetarian option is available for non-carnivores.)

But there is more to this event than an extraordinary dinner concert in an unforgettable setting. Lone Pine and the adjacent Alabama Hills ooze Hollywood and TV history, making this year’s concert a satisfying mix of jazz eminence and movie legend.

Founded in the 1860s to provide supplies to the local gold and silver mining communities, Lone Pine became known as “Hollywood’s Old West” after Hollywood filmmakers discovered the Alabama Hills. With its mountainous backdrop, rugged canyons and dramatic boulders, this was the perfect location to shoot Westerns. Starting in 1920 with the silent Western The Roundup starring 

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, there isn’t a generation that hasn’t seen a movie, TV series or commercial shot around Lone Pine.

Imagine walking the very steps of cowboy heroes Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gene Autry, George “Gabby” Hayes, William Boyd (Hop-a-long Cassidy) and Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger) on locations that remain exactly as they were in the old days. And today big movies are still shot there: Man of Steel with Henry Cavill and Amy Adams, and Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. 

Illustrated books and information are available online or at the Lone Pine Film History Museum (another treat!), offering “Movie Road” self-guided tours. You can find the actual locations from film and TV series such as Gunga Din (1939) with Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, How the West was Won (1962) with Gregory Peck and Debbie Reynolds, and Rawhide (1959-1965) with Clint Eastwood.

The museum overflows with movie memorabilia; its collection recalls filming from the earliest days of The Last Round-Up and of Gene Autry and his singing cowboys. And that is just the beginning. The museum also spotlights contemporary blockbusters such as Iron Man. Guns and costumes worn by John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Roy Rogers are just a small corner of this rich space. 


Tickets for “Jazz Comes West” are $80 per person and include dinner, the concert and transportation between the Lone Pine Film History Museum and the venue. For tickets and concert details, call 760-876-9909 or go to lonepinefilmhistorymuseum.org.