This year's Medford Jazz Jubilee has the same lineup as last year. And that's not a bad thing.

This year's Medford Jazz Jubilee has the same lineup as last year. And that's not a bad thing.

"We've got the best bands," marketing director Dennis Ramsden says. "Why would we change them?"

Patrons tend to come back to see their favorite bands, and partly as a result, many of the bands in the Jubilee return year after year. Last year the event added three high-profile acts — Stompy Jones, Tom Rigney and Flambeau, and Steve Lucky and the Rhumba Bums — that turned out to be hugely popular.

"Now people know who they are," Ramsden says. "I got physically threatened if I didn't bring them back."

The Jubilee roars into town Friday afternoon for the 20th time, with 18 bands playing more than 100 shows in seven downtown venues with five dance floors through Sunday afternoon. It's a Medford mainstay, complete with traditional jazz, zydeco, jump jive, big band, swing, gospel and more. It brings out-of-town visitors, plenty of funny hats and an estimated $3 million economic impact.

With jazz festivals from Sacramento (the West Coast's biggest) to Portland facing either declining attendance or major changes due to financial pressures, sales for the Medford event are actually up a tick over last year, Ramsden says, with more than 6,000 seats sold several days before the event begins.

None of this is to say there aren't new wrinkles. Ramsden points proudly to two. In an idea he admits was inspired by the popularity of TV's "Dancing With the Stars," KOBI-TV's Studio C on Fir Street will be a special dance venue for all three days. And the South Medford Suitz, a band of high school students, will move up from playing brief, free spots on Vogel Plaza to playing full-length sets in front of paying guests in regular Jubilee venues.

Ramsden says he got the idea for the dance portion of the jubilee from the Sacramento festival.

"There are Lindy Hop dance clubs up and down the Coast," he says. "By their second year with it, they had 2,500 people showing up to watch the finals."

The way it will work is, the bands will come through and play. Music fans can get their thing on from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Friday for the Titan Hot Seven, Tom Rigney and Flambeau and other bands for $10. Two sessions Saturday (8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and 1:30 to 6 p.m.) are $15 each. The afternoon session includes the dance contest. The Sunday dance session (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ) is $10. Between sets there will be dance lessons and exhibitions and even dance hosts and hostesses for people with no partners. There's no further charge to those with all-event passes.

Dance contests — the festival's first, with The Mighty Aphrodite Jazz Band and the Blue Street Jazz Band — that begin at 1:30 p.m. Saturday will offer cash prizes in four divisions: swing combined 80 and over (the sum of the partners' ages), swing combined under 80, swing for students and waltz for anybody. Ramsden says judges have had training from Follow My Lead, a Medford dance studio. Sign up at, the Red Lion or KOBI's Studio C.

A dozen downtown restaurants are promoting the Jubilee during October with 10 percent discounts and drawings for prizes (2009 Jubilee tickets, CDs, travel discounts).

If there's anything organizers wish for, it's to get area residents to understand that the Jubilee casts a far bigger net than just Dixieland.

"They see the logo and the straw hat, and everything spells Dixieland, and of course it's not all that," Ramsden says. "It's all sorts of music."

He points to the swampy eclecticism of Flambeau, the hip jump of San Francisco's Stompy Jones, the Cajun/Zydeco gumbo of Gator Beat.

Of course, if you want traditional jazz, there's plenty of that, too, from the roots stylings of the Queen City Jazz Band and the enormous appeal of the High Sierra Jazz Band to the "bad boys of Dixieland," the Blue Street Jazz Band and hip, young spin-offs Blue Renditions.

Several acts offer a local or regional flare: Beth Baker and a Little Good News, the Oregon Coast Lab Band, the South Medford Suitz and "Spotlight on Mel Torme."

Baker, now of Jacksonville, fell in love with gospel in New York City, where she was a cabaret performer and featured soloist in the East Village Gospel Choir. The Lab Band was founded in 1992 to give kids on Oregon's South Coast a chance to perform big band, Dixieland and soft rock.

The Suitz, a small high school ensemble playing swing, made their second appearance at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee this year and will enjoy a new, higher profile at this year's Medford shindig. "Spotlight on Mel Torme" is a production of Talent's Camelot Theatre starring Joe Diamond as the famed jazz crooner and directed by Robin Lawson.

The Jubilee is a family event, open to all ages. Children 11 and under get in free, and students 12 to 23 play $10 for the entire weekend.

"Kids like this stuff, Ramsden says, "once they've heard it."