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Many jazz historians date the unofficial beginning of the Swing Era to an August night in 1935. The Benny Goodman Band, ending a lackluster tour of staid arrangements by playing the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, threw caution to the winds and pulled out hot new charts by Fletcher Henderson.

Star drummer Gene Krupa reportedly told Goodman, “If we’re gonna die, Benny, let’s die playing our own thing.” The radio-primed jitterbug crowd went wild. For the next decade, big band jazz dominated American popular music and provided a soundtrack that buoyed the country’s spirits through the late Depression and World War ll.

Despite a lower profile in the post-war years due to economic realities and shifting tastes, the danceable swing sound evokes a certain era but it is still lively and vibrant. With monthly performances at the White Horse Black Mountain, the Asheville Jazz Orchestra has made it its  mission to keep high-quality big band music in the public ear.

On Friday, July 29, the 17-piece ensemble will perform tunes reaching from Swing Era giants like Ellington, Basie and Goodman to the progressive big band charts of Stan Getz and beyond. Recognizing that the band should both preserve and advance the genre, AJO director-trombonist David Wilken also contributes sparkling original arrangements.

Great big swing

Who: The Asheville Jazz Orchestra

When: 8 p.m. July 29
Where: White Horse Black Mountain

Cost: $15

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