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Savannah Music Festival schedule covers a lot of ground
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Although it's rife with familiar names and faces of musicians who've played here year in past editions, the lineup for the 2012 Savannah Music Festival puts the focus on musical diversity and collaboration. The real gems are between the lines.

So while Chris Thile, Mike Marshall, Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Zakir Hussain, Han & Finckel, Del McCoury, Jeff Clayton and other world-class players are indeed making return appearances, a closer look at the lineup reveals some fascinating first-time bookings and unique one-offs

(Take note, too, that the festival's popular music shows - in 2011, these included the Avett Brothers and Band of Horses - won't be announced until January.)

Here are some highlights to ponder.

L'arte del mondo (April 5). A German chamber music ensemble led by Werner Ehrhardt, coming solely to Savannah to perform baroque and classical period works with Associate Artistic Director Daniel Hope and baroque keyboard specialist Kristian Bezuidenhout.

The Hallelujah Train (March 31). An intriguing gospel program taking place at First African Baptist Church, this pairs an all-star band including session drummer Brian Blade, producer/sonic genius Daniel Lanois, singer/guitarist Buddy Miller, multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz and others with Shreveport, La.'s Zion Baptist Mass Choir.

Piano Showdown (March 26). Jazz greats Cedar Walton and Kenny Barron join forces with Young Turks Aaron Diehl and Kevin Bales. Both Walton and Barron have solo programs this year, too.

Stringband Spectacular (April 6). Tony Trischka, Mike Marshall, Bruce Milsky and Julian Lage in collaboration with 20 students and acoustic music up-and-comers.

The Masters of Percussion. Table player Zakir Hussain's forte is collaboration, and this year's he's got an astonishing 11-member ensemble incluiding fellow iconic Indian drummer Taufiq Qureshi and the Meitei Pung Cholom Performing Troupe, the dancing drummers of Manipur.

Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau (April 6). Two iof contemporary jazz's finest players (on saxophone and piano, respectively) make their Savannah debut.

Bela Fleck & the Flecktones (March 22). The festival's opening-night concert features the original group - Fleck, Victor Wooten, Futureman and Howard Levy.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (April 7). Pianist Yefim Bronfman joins the band for Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol, Op. 34 and Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83.

Cole in the Afternoon (March 31). Freddy Cole, younger brother of the late, great Nat "King" Cole, and his quarter play the music of his brother, as well as Cole Porter. The concert also features the Marcus Robers Trio.

Takacs Quartet (Chamber music, March 22). On March 23, the quartet is joined by pianist Menahem Pressler and cellist Josephine Knight.

Paco de Lucia (flamenco guitar legend with ensemble, April 7).

Hello, Pops: A Celebration of Louis Armstrong by Wycliffe Gordon & Friends (jazz, March 27 and 28).

Jon Faddis Quartet (jazz, March 29).

Mike Marshall & Edgar Meyer (mandolin and bass, April 1).

Emerson String Quartet (classical, April 2).

Abigail Washburn Band (banjo-led old-time Americana, April 5).

Cajun Dance Party: Lost Bayou Ramblers (March 23)

Chris Thile (progressive master of the mandolin in a rare solo performance, April 3)

Lucky Peterson Band/Joe Krown Trio with Walter "Wolfman" Washington and Russell Batiste, Jr. (blues, April 6 and 7).

Preservation Hall Jazz Band/Del McCoury Band (New Orleans jazz, bluegrass, March 23)

Salsa Dance Party: The Jimmy Bosch Orchestra (March 31).

Tickets go on sale Thursday, Nov. 10 at You can see the full schedule there, too.