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New jazz series revives musical history in Asheville

Courtesy of Citizen Vinyl

Most people know Asheville for its bluegrass music, but local musician Connor Law said he hopes a new regular event will highlight the city’s vibrant history of jazz.

On the first and third Wednesday of every month, Law takes the stage with other jazz artists at a new local jazz series by Citizen Vinyl called Citizen Swing.

Law explained the little-known history of jazz in the region. Artists such as Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, and Ramsey Lewis played Asheville venues like the Grove Park Inn and the Block.

An Asheville Citizen Times advertisement for jazz greats from March 21, 1943.
An Asheville Citizen advertisement for jazz greats from March 21, 1943.

In the 1940s, big band groups played at the Block, a venue near the modern day Foundry hotel and Leaf Global Arts.

“Duke Ellington even played there,” Law said, “And then I know from speaking to some musicians in town who have been here much longer than I have that the Grove Park Inn used to help host a jazz festival.”

The Citizen Swing series could revive interest in the genre by featuring primarily local talent and providing space to showcase their passion for the genre, Law explained.

“Jazz just kind of as a word maybe sounds like it's this old-school music that nobody plays anymore,” Law said. “I think if they come to this series, or really see jazz anywhere in town or anywhere live, they can really see what all it can be.”

The series runs every first and third Wednesday of the month at Citizen Vinyl and is free to the public.

Connor Law takes the stage tonight with fellow musician Thomson Knoles Wednesday night at 7pm.

Jose Sandoval is the afternoon host and reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio.