The Medford Jazz Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The festival has grown in size and scope since its early days, expanding from one venue and a smattering of Dixieland bands to five downtown venues and 17 bands playing jump jive, swing, doo-wop, rockabilly and zydeco — as well as traditional and Dixieland jazz.
Look for shows Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 11-13, in the ballrooms at the Inn at the Commons (the old Red Lion Hotel), KOBI's Studio C, the Imperial Event Center, the new music venue at Howiee's restaurant and other venues. Look for the schedule and information at www.medfordjazz.org or on Pages 15 and 19 in Tempo.
Dennis Ramsden, executive director of Medford Jazz Festival, gives us an inside peek at this year's lineup.
Who's performing this year at the festival?
"New this year are Dave Bennett and the Memphis Boys playing rockabilly in the style of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. Also, we will have Glenn Crytzer and his Syncopators, who play jazz and swing from the era of the Savoy Ballroom in New York City. Lena Prima of New Orleans and her band will join us again this year to play a mix of blues, ballads, gospel and jump jive. Of course, zydeco groups Tom Rigney and Flambeau, Gator Beat and other bands who have been playing for us since 1989 will be here, and clarinet player Bob Draga will make an appearance. He comes in each year and sits in with just about everyone. He can play any style of jazz, and he goes from band to band. All of the music is highly danceable. We really cater to dancers who want to do the swing, Lindy hop, West Coast and East Coast swing — the kind of ballroom dancing you see on 'Dancing With the Stars.' "
How do you keep the bands coming back year after year?
"They love to come here and play because they are well taken care of. Our volunteers provide them with drivers and a centrally located hospitality suite stocked with all kinds of home-cooked food. Our volunteers call themselves the 'Crock-Pot army.' The musicians don't go away hungry. We hire them back because they're great entertainers. All of these bands can keep an audience active and involved. People come back year after year to hear them. This event is on the national jazz festival circuit, and word gets out. We get dozens of CDs each year from groups who want to perform here. Draga says he likes to come to Medford because we hire damn good bands, and he's proud to play with every one of them."
What can you tell us about the downtown venues?
"We'll have live music in the large and petite ballrooms at Inn at the Commons and Studio C at KOBI, and this year we've added the upstairs ballroom at the Imperial Event Center on Front Street and the new performance space at Howiee's. Howiee's will be closed to ages younger than 21, and visitors should use the entrance at 115 E. Main St. Studio C will be where most of the dancers hang out. It's got a stage and a large dance floor that we dress up with decorations and lighting to make it real classy. There will be food catered by the First Christian Church of Medford, and a full bar provided by Howiee's. A vendor will be on hand to sell dance shoes, and those without partners will find festival volunteers to dance with at the location."
What's new at the festival?
"This year we've added late-night shows for those who can't get enough. Dave Bennett and the Memphis Boys and Gator Beat will perform Friday and Saturday nights, respectively, at Howiee's. Those shows start at 11 p.m. and go until a little after midnight. The Rogue Valley Jazz Collective will host open-mic sessions at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights at the Imperial Event Center."
Here's the festival's ticket information:
Tickets cost $30 Friday, $50 Saturday, $25 Sunday and include all shows on the particular day. Prime-time tickets cost $25 Friday and Saturday and include admission to all shows set for 5 p.m. or later. All-event badges cost $75 for ages 24 and older, $20 for students, and include admission to all three days of shows. Tickets will be available Friday at the Inn at the Commons, and Saturday and Sunday at the Imperial Event Center and KOBI's Studio C. Discounts are available for groups of 15 or more by calling 541-770-6972 or 800-599-0039.