Fifteen years ago, it would not have been out of place to walk through the Old City and hear strains of jazz music floating from Lucille's Jazz Club.

Those days might be long gone, but when it comes Knoxville, finding that laid-back beat or swinging French horn is easier than you might think.

Whether it is gypsy-jazz, old standards, modern tunes with a jazz treatment or big band, jazz music is on the rise in Knoxville.

Katy Free, jazz vocalist and graduate student in musicology, said she thinks the current environment has played a large part in the rising popularity of the genre.

"I think that most things come and go in waves," Free said. "People often talk about jazz and blues as a reaction to difficulty, so there's an argument, I think, for the recent issues we've been having in America."

That isn't the only reason jazz is on the rise, however. Jake Smith, guitarist and senior in studio art and jazz, said he believes jazz is finally becoming visible to a younger audience.

"I don't think jazz has ever lost popularity," Smith said. "We just live in a place where it goes unnoticed to younger generations, but that seems to be changing.

"Jazz is becoming more accessible, and people are realizing what amazing musicians we have hidden in this town."

Sara Daniels, jazz flutist and senior in studio fine art with a concentration in 4D, agrees with Smith's notion.

"I think jazz has always been fairly popular, just not in this part of the country," Daniels said. "More people in this area seem to be taking an interest, because access to music like this has been opened up."

Local musicians attribute a great amount of the success jazz is seeing in Knoxville to Vance Thompson, professor of studio music and jazz at UT and founder of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra.

"With the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, the Jazz Lunch Series every first Wednesday at the Square Room and Jazz on the Square, he has done so much to continue giving musicians an opportunity to play and people the chance to discover the music," Keith Brown, professional pianist and band leader of Keith Brown and the New Jazz 4TET, said.

Founded in 1999, the KJO was initially created as a fun way for local musicians to connect and play big band music.

"I thought that we could have some fun playing, but I didn't have any initial ambitions beyond that," Thompson said. "Once we got started and began attracting audiences, I realized that this had the potential to grow into something bigger and began to set my sights a little higher."

Today, the KJO presents around 20 ticketed events per year in addition to more than 30 free concerts and biweekly jam sessions at the Emporium.

"I see the KJO as a vehicle of opportunity," Thompson said. "Opportunity for experienced local, national and international musicians to perform. Opportunity for the community to experience the music where it can be fully appreciated. Opportunity for young musicians to learn."

Another major influence on the Knoxville jazz scene is Donald Brown, a UT professor of jazz piano. Wendel Werner, jazz pianist and director of the UT Singers, explained why Brown has had such an impact.

"His appearance in the UT jazz department came across as a change from the perceived 'old guard,'" Werner said. "There was no better recruiting tool for jazz in the university and jazz in the community."

For those who are looking for jazz in this day and age, you don't need to go far. Just take a stroll through downtown Knoxville.

Venues such as The Square Room, Bijou Theatre and the Tennessee Theatre frequently offer up wider-known jazz artists, while smaller spaces such as Cru Bistro, Crown and Goose, Remedy Coffee and the Bistro at the Bijou host local jazz musicians on almost a weekly basis.

Another great source of live jazz is the UT School of Studio Music and Jazz, which hosts events such as the UT Big Band concert and individual jazz recitals. Information about these can be found on UT's website.