Around Town: Adolescents bring classic jazz to local venue

MUSIC MEN: From left, Gabe Glasser, Wilson Vest and Espen Raustol recently formed the Altamont Jazz Project. Photo by Michelle Baker

Dave Brubeck, Art Blakey and George Benson are legends in the jazz world, but they’re not exactly household names to the typical high school student.

It’s safe to say Wilson Vest, Gabe Glasser and Espen Raustol are not typical high school students. The trio of 17-year-old juniors recently formed the Altamont Jazz Project, which has secured a weekly gig at Finch Gourmet Market & Wine Bar in Biltmore Village.

Along with Brubeck, Blakey and Benson, the musicians cite Buddy Rich, Ryo Fukui, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass and Bill Evans as influences.

“By the time we decided to start the jazz trio, we had all seen, heard and experienced jazz in varied degrees and in different spaces and styles,” says guitarist Raustol, who attends the School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville. “We try to branch out to play many varieties and many colors of jazz — fast, slow, happy, sad.”

The three started playing together in the sixth grade as part of a rock/funk band called the Seven Lemonz, before shifting their focus to jazz. Vest and Glasser attend Carolina Day School.

Vest plays drums and Glasser plays keyboard for the Altamont Jazz Project, which takes its moniker from Thomas Wolfe’s fictional name for Asheville in his classic novel Look Homeward, Angel. “We wanted something that referenced where we are from,” Raustol explains.

Finch owner Dema Badr hired the band after Vest and Raustol played as a jazz duo at her other business, Scout Boutique.

 The Altamont Jazz Project will play Wednesday, Sept. 21 and Wednesday, Sept. 28 at Finch Gourmet Market & Wine Bar, 10 All Souls Crescent, 5-7 p.m. The Finch shows will move to Saturdays, 12:30-2:30 p.m., starting in October.  For more information, go to

EDITOR’S NOTE, Sept. 20: This entry has been updated to reflect a change in the band’s scheduled shows.

Raising hope

After publishing several collections of poetry, Penny Meacham asked herself: Now what?

That’s when she decided to turn some of her poems into skits and monologues to be performed onstage. “I have been busy rousing a collection of good Black folk in Asheville to help me bring the material alive with singing, acting and dancing to bring the message across,” she says. “I consider what I’m doing to be Black poetry theater.”

The result is Raising Black: Joy, Pain, Sunshine & Rain, which will be performed in the East Asheville Public Library community room on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 5:30-7:30 p.m. In addition to poetry, skits and monologues, the free show will include gospel singing as well as music from the likes of B.B. King, James Brown and Michael Jackson.

“It is about reminding us of our resiliency and hope, to remind us that we have all been through ups and downs in life, and now is the time to take stock of how we survive during these difficult times,” says Meacham, who moved to Asheville during the pandemic. “Now is a time for all of us to reevaluate our connections to friends, family, community and/or faith before the next thing comes along.”

East Asheville Public Library is at 3 Avon Road. For more information, go to For additional information about Meacham’s poetry collections, visit

Don’t touch that dial

What is radio art?

“It’s the creative use of airwaves, the wireless communication between people and things to communicate ideas,” says Kimberly English, outreach manager for Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. The organization recently selected the artists who will make up the second cohort of its BMC Radio Art program.

The program began last year as a collaboration among Asheville-based modular synthesizer manufacturer Make Noise, radio station 103.3 Asheville FM and the center. The goal is to have artists investigate their own connections to the experimental and innovative spirit of Black Mountain College, to take creative risks and to share their work with the community, English explains.

“We are using ‘radio art’ in the broadest sense, meaning it doesn’t have to be music at all,” she says. “Our open call invited applicants to submit sound recordings, cellphone recordings, field recordings, meditations, movement scores, text scores, sound collages, spoken words, audio art, experimental DJ work and more.”

This year’s participants, selected from more than 50 applicants, are:

    • Casey Edwards, a local  interdisciplinary academic who specializes in archives and special collections.
    • Erika Funke, a senior arts producer at WVIA public radio/TV in Scranton, Pa.
    • Kamikaze Jones,  an interdisciplinary artist who is working on a series of loops using found audio and sonic ephemera from queer pornography.


  • Brett William Naucke, an experimental composer and visual artist who recently relocated to Asheville.
  • Joo Won Park, who  makes music with electronics, toys and other sources that he can record or synthesize.
  • Jonah Rosenberg, a Brooklyn-based composer, musician, sound and multimedia designer, and charles theonia, a poet and teacher from Brooklyn.

103.3 Asheville FM will begin broadcasting the selected pieces over the next few weeks.

For full artist bios and more information, go to

Grab the Popcorn

Maggie Valley native Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton got his colorful nickname after he attacked a faulty popcorn vending machine with a pool cue. But that fact is far down the list of most interesting things about the legendary moonshiner and bootlegger.

The remarkable life and death of the man called the “King of Moonshine” will be in the spotlight Sunday, Sept. 18, in Sylva.

At 1 p.m., Neal Hutcheson will discuss his 2021 book The Moonshiner Popcorn Sutton with novelist David Joy at City Lights Bookstore. At 6 p.m., Hutcheson will present a screening of his 2002 documentary This Is the Last Dam Run of Likker I’ll Ever Make at Lazy Hiker Brewing.

The scrawny, long-bearded Sutton rose to international recognition before his death in 2009 at the age of 62.

“Brazen and outspoken, his defiance of the law in deference to tradition won him a broad fan base that has multiplied exponentially since his death,” notes a press release from the events’ organizers.

In the book, Hutcheson recounts Sutton’s path to fame and attempts to sort fact from fiction, concluding that the numerous stories, songs, eulogies and tributes about the mountain man illustrate the process through which folks become folklore.

City Lights Bookstore is at 3 E. Jackson St., Sylva. Lazy Hiker Brewing – Sylva Taproom is at 617 W. Main St. For more information, go to

The hills are alive

The 36th annual Music in the Mountains Folk Festival takes place Saturday, Sept. 17, 5-8:30 p.m. at Homeplace Beer Co. and Hog Hollow Wood-Fired Pizza in Burnsville.

The festival, sponsored by Toe River Arts, will honor Madison County’s Sheila Kay Adams, a seventh-generation bearer of her family’s 200-year-old ballad-singing tradition. The lineup also includes Riggs and Ritter, the Boone Trail Band and Appalachian Heartstrings.

Admission is free, but donations and T-shirt sales help fund the festival.
Homeplace Beer Co. and Hog Hollow Wood-Fired Pizza are at 321 W. Main St., Burnsville. For more information, visit  

All aboard

The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society & Museum will sponsor a train excursion on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Saturday, Sept. 17.

The one-day trip will cover most of the operating tracks of the railroad. The track follows the route of the former Southern Railway’s Murphy Branch Line, established in 1891, with its 5% grade and many bridges.

“Our scenic rail excursion takes us from the historic depot in Bryson City through the beautiful countryside of Western North Carolina, into the breathtaking Nantahala Gorge surrounded by the majestic Smoky Mountains and back to Bryson City,” states the historical society in a press release. Much of the route hugs the banks of the Little Tennessee and Nantahala rivers.

The train will board starting at 11 a.m. at the Bryson City Depot, 226 Everett St.

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to   


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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