by JEFF ECHERT & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & legendary musician (Duke Ellington, for those keeping score) wrote once, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." The expression has become a clich & eacute;, but it's acceptable three days out of the year during the & lt;a href="" target="_new" & Think Swing Jazz and Blues Festival & lt;/a & . A celebration of both music and spirit, the festival has been championed since its inception two years ago by organizer Garrin Hertel.

The festival began as a benefit for victims of Hurricane Katrina, and had a New Orleans jazz lineup. Quickly, though, the focus changed. "It became apparent to me that we needed to paint with a broader brush," Hertel says. "Spokane has a great historical relationship with vintage jazz, swing and folk music. But we also have great jazz musicians locally, and we have fans of all kinds of jazz, blues, and folk and roots music."

So now Hertel is using Think Swing to put local talent in the spotlight. "It's both strange and unfortunate that Spokane is not known as a jazz city," Hertel says. "Historically, Spokane contributed to the jazz world in very significant ways. Everyone knows about Bing Crosby, but he didn't have the kind of effect that Louis Armstrong did on New Orleans, for a variety of reasons. Youthful Spokane musicians aren't nodding to Bing, and they aren't nodding to Mildred Bailey, either -- although & lt;a href="" target="_new" & Julia Keefe & lt;/a & is, and she's playing in the festival this year."

Besides Keefe (a Nez Perce chanteuse), there's & lt;a href="" target="_new" & Andreas Oberg & lt;/a & , a Swedish guitarist who will be backing Keefe up at the Davenport Hotel's Marie Antoinette Ballroom on Saturday night. Hertel describes it as "both time machine, to the days of early 20th-century Spokane, and transporter beam, taking you immediately to a ballroom in the French Quarter in New Orleans, the city where jazz began." A classy way to spend the evening.

Probably the most interesting facet of this year's fest is Friday night's River of Music, a sort of pub crawl for music clubs. Participating clubs include Caterina, Zola, the Peacock Room and the Casbah, with prizes for club-goers who hit up the most clubs first. Hertel wants it to be like a sampler platter, showing how Spokane can provide diverse, rich musical offerings. If enough people come together to support the arts, Hertel believes, "We can build something on our own scale that is similar to scenes in other cities known for music."

There's a soul of swing, a sort of & eacute;lan vital that can help bring people together. Hertel sums it up, saying, "It's about community, and about thriving as a community. If we were to say Spokane is a swingin' town -- aside from the snickers we might hear at the reference -- we'd say that Spokane is thriving well together ... such that everyone is acknowledging one another without losing personal identity, but still subjecting that identity to the greater good of the community. That's what it means to swing."


Julia Keefe (

Andreas Oberg (

ThinkSwing (

The Think Swing! Jazz and Blues Festival happens Nov. 7-9 at a variety of Spokane venues. Visit

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