The most fun to be had in southern Oregon has to be the Medford Jazz festival, held the second weekend of October, which just celebrated its 25th year. Hundreds of people come from all over the country and have the freedom to roam four venues, all vibrating with a variety of jazz groups, plenty of space to celebrate or dance away the blues, demonstration dances, dance classes, and lots of laughter. The new Inn at the Commons (formerly the Red Lion) hosts much of the event, with the Imperial Event Center, Howies On Front, and Studio C (channel 5) as additional sites this year. Free shuttle buses take party-goers from place to place while jazz is piped over the intercom.
The professional bands come from as far as New Jersey and St. Louis and feature saxes and clarinets, guitars, drums, keyboards and strings, raging lively music from New Orleans to Memphis, with the perennial favorite, the passionate Zydeco violinist Tom Rigby and his band Flambeau, who come from Berkeley but spend most of their time on the road playing at similar fests around the country. Another favorite is traveling saxophonist Bob Draga who shows up on various sets to raise the energy and bring the audience to its feet. In attendance are many senior groupies dressed in glitter and dancing shoes, who follow their favorite bands around the country, and make a retirement hobby into a traveling party. These people can really dance! Extravagant dance dresses can be rented by the hour, and volunteer dance partners are available by request with the raising of a dance paddle.
Although most of the bands are repeats from many years, called back by popular vote, a recent addition is Dave Bennett and the Memphis Boys (from Texas), playing 50's rock and roll, with a bass player who handles his instrument like a steel guitar, a pioneer player who is too excited to sit down and can sing like Little Richard and Elvis, and a guitarist who sometimes throws his guitar over the back of his head and plays upside down (so does the bass player -- see photo below). The Southern Oregon jazz band is part of the action and the Oregon Coast Lab band, a large and remarkable group of talented and personable kids from Oregon coast towns who know how to rock. You missed it this year but check it out for 2014 at www.medfordjazz.org. You'll be amazed at the quality of the show. It made me realize EVERYONE should dance -- It is so good for the spirit! Here are some pictures, but without the music they are a limited experience, so imagine the music!