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In the early days of jazz the groups were small, usually one player for each instrument. As the music gained popularity the venues got bigger and so did the bands.

By the 1930s there were numerous touring big bands crisscrossing the country featuring stellar soloists and tight, punchy, swinging charts. But the end of World War ll brought about changing musical tastes, and new economic realities made it hard to keep the big ensembles together.

Fortunately, there are excellent musicians dedicated to keeping live big band jazz in the public eye, and many of them can be heard in the Asheville Jazz Orchestra.

They’ll make their monthly visit to the White Horse Black Mountain at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28. The show will be a tribute to legendary jazz pianist Count Basie, who led his eponymous Orchestra for over fifty years, perfecting a bluesy, riff based swing style anchored by a strong rhythm section.

Founded in 2006, The Asheville Jazz Orchestra has evolved into Western North Carolina’s hardest swinging band. Under direction of trombonist/composer Dave Wilken, their mission is to preserve and advance America’s big band jazz tradition.

They play music from the canon of Swing Era greats like Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman but also make forays into more progressive works by Stan Kenton, Thad Jones and Gordon Goodwin. They also make a point of expanding the swing repertoire by programming freshly composed and arranged pieces, many by bandleader Wilken. 

The players in the AJO are drawn from the ranks of the best jazz artists in the area, some of whom have spent time in latter-day incarnations of legendary big bands.

Hear the big band sound of the Asheville Jazz Orchestra as they pay tribute to pianist Count Basie

Where: White Horse Black Mountain

When: Friday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m.

Tickets: Available in advance for $15 online at whitehorseblackmountain.com or at the door 

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