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More music, more bands

The 23rd annual Medford Jazz Festival swings into town this weekend, bringing three days — and nights — of live, fanny-shakin' music with it.

The festival will have a new look — or sound — this year. The music and dance fest will host a lineup of zydeco, Western-swing, jump-jive and doo-wop bands ... along with a few traditional jazz and Dixieland artists.

"The festival has evolved, as all festivals do," says Dennis Ramsden, vice president of Medford Jazz Festival.

"We've had an older audience," says Ramsden. "We need to generate younger audiences. We're doing that by holding dances at Kids Unlimited and bringing in artists like High Street and Tom Rigney. They play all types of music, like R&B, rock 'n' roll, funk, Latin, swing and zydeco."

New to the festival will be Carolyn Martin's Swing Band from Nashville, Tenn., and doo-wop group The Young Bucs from Coos Bay.

Martin was inducted this year into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame and, in 2008 and 2010, named "Western swing female vocalist of the year" by the Academy of Western Artists. Her 2007 CD, "Swing," was nominated for album of the year by the Western Music Association.

The Young Bucs draw from '50s and '60s tunes, such as The Diamonds' "Duke of Earl," Frankie Lymon's "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," Danny and The Juniors' "At the Hop" and The Beach Boys' "Surfin' USA."

The High Street Band, based in Boise, Idaho, will be one of the highlights of the festival, says Ramsden.

"The band plays its own arrangements of jazz standards from the '40s and '50s," he says. "They play everything from Duke Ellington to Chicago, and they've got the same energy and sound as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. They can get audiences out of their seats and have them on the floor dancing in a conga line or doing the swim."

Gator Beat, from the San Francisco Bay Area, will play zydeco and Cajun music; Tom Rigney and Flambeau, Rigney's new band out of Berkeley, Calif., will play fiddle-driven zydeco. Flambeau also features boogie-woogie pianist Caroline Dahl.

Also look for High Sierra, a traditional jazz band from California, and Cornet Chop Suey, a high-energy ragtime band from St. Louis.

The Midiri Brothers, a duo from New Jersey, play jazz similar to that of Lionel Hampton and Benny Goodman. Sister Swing from Sacramento, Calif., is a trio of female vocalists that capture the close, three-part harmonies of The Andrews Sisters and The Boswell Sisters from the '30s and '40s.

The Oregon Coast Lab Band from North Bend is a regional group of musicians between the ages of 9 and 21. It's an ongoing, nonprofit collective that's been around for about 20 years, says Ramsden.

Wally's Warehouse Waifs, a Dixieland band from Missouri, is the band that helped the Medford Jazz Festival put together its music-education program for local schools. This year, the Waifs and Sister Swing will give performances over four days at Rogue Valley elementary and middle schools.

Local band The Mixers and the Southern Oregon Jazz Orchestra will perform at the jazz festival this year.

"And Bob Draga," says Ramsden. "You can't have a jazz festival without Bob Draga."

Draga is a Florida-based clarinetist whose roots are Dixieland but who plays with an array of bands, says Ramsden. One of Draga's CDs, "Mood Swings" (1999), was recorded with the Louisville Orchestra.

“He's scheduled to play with all of the bands at this festival,” says Ramsden. “He's also a comedian. People love him.”

Each band will take a turn playing at the Red Lion Hotel's ballrooms, the Medford Elks Lodge and Kids Unlimited over the weekend. Dance instructors from Eugene, Portland and the Rogue Valley will offer lessons and demonstrations throughout the event at Kids Unlimited.

Formerly Medford Jazz Jubilee, the Medford Jazz Festival is a nonprofit organization with 15 volunteer board members and about 200 individuals who chip in.

Tickets cost $30 for Friday (all day), $25 for Friday evening (5 p.m. to close), $50 for Saturday (all day), $25 for Saturday evening (5 p.m. to close), $25 for Sunday and $20 for students ages 12 to 23 (with valid identification). Children 11 and younger will be admitted for free. A three-day pass costs $70.

Tickets and schedules are available at www.medfordjazz.org, at Kids Unlimited or the Red Lion Hotel. Free downtown shuttle service will be available to all venues.

Fiddler Tom Rigney and his band Flambeau will perform zydeco music at this year's Medford Jazz Festival. - Photo courtesy of the Medford Jazz Festival