Weber Historical Lecture Series at WSU discusses Jazz in Ogden

OGDEN, Utah – Weber State University will kick off the Weber Historical Society 2017 Fall Lecture Series on a jazzy note as guest lecturer Laurence “Lars” Yorgason presents “The History of Jazz in Utah,” Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. in the Hurst Center Dumke Legacy Hall.

The lecture focuses on Ogden and Utah’s roots in jazz culture. A jazz bass player and educator, Yorgason has been part of the Utah jazz scene for more than 30 years. His book on the history of jazz in Utah is nearly complete. The book outlines events in Ogden related to jazz, beginning with its arrival in the early 20th century.

“Probably the most significant social activity in Ogden, as well as the rest of the United States in this period, was dancing,” said Yorgason. “And jazz became the music of dancing, especially in the 1920s and 1930s. Jazz was everywhere, on records, on the radio, in movies, and in the dance halls. So everyone knew about jazz, whether they liked it or not. It was especially the music of youth, and was probably one of the factors separating the generations, perhaps like today.”

For a time, thanks to Union Station and the attraction of Historic 25th Street, Ogden was a hub for people traveling throughout the intermountain west. In addition, the cultural diversity that existed in the area, made Ogden a hotbed of jazz activity.

Famous musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole, Count Basie and Duke Ellington made stops in Ogden during the peak of jazz popularity; some even called Ogden home.

“I plan to help students and members of the community understand how and why jazz came to Utah, how it differed from other music, and why it became so popular and controversial,” said Yorgason. “It is also important to appreciate the skill levels and artistic achievements of the players, and to differentiate the jazz of the ’20s from the jazz of today.”

The lecture is free and open to the public. It is presented by the WSU Alumni Association, the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, the Department of History, Stewart Library and the Weber Historical Society.

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