Documenting, preserving and promoting the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois jazz scene
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Welcome to ChambanaJazz, a site dedicated to documenting the jazz scene here in C-U. I'm Sean Kutzko, the main guy behind the site. I'm a jazz fan, musician, live recording enthusiast and former jazz DJ back in the '90s at a couple stations in the Midwest, including WEFT 90.1.
I started this page to address a problem: when Jeff Machota and I started finding and preserving recordings made at Nature's Table, the celebrated C-U jazz club that existed from 1979-1991, we ended up with a lot of material that wasn't recorded at the Table. We sat on these recordings for several years, until I decided to create ChambanaJazz in September 2021. I also started recording jazz shows here in town when I returned in 2019, after being on the east coast for 15 years, because I love the music and because I didn't want the musicians in this thriving scene to be forgotten or overlooked. C-U has a slew of great music of all genres, and I want to make sure the community doesn't forget about jazz.
Listening to the recordings got me wondering about the countless musicians who played here over the decades, and that led me to wonder about the national acts that passed through town. My friend Paul Kotheimer, a fantastic singer-songwriter and information scientist/ history buff at the U of I, showed me how to use the Illinois newspaper archives, and down the rabbit hole I went. I started learning about the clubs in town, the local musicians, and how jazz was viewed by the student body and local community going back to the early 1900s. It's been fun seeing some of the big shows that rolled through town, and also seeing first references to some of the legendary local musicians that have been around for a long time. It's been exciting and humbling at the same time, and a tremendous amount of fun to start documenting all this history.
While pursuing local jazz history, I also want to post news about the current group of jazz musicians in town and make sure they get the attention they deserve.
We're starting to wind down with the current spate of outdoor shows, and it won't be long before we're all inside again. With Covid still very much a concern right now, there's still some uncertainty on how indoor shows are going to be handled. As of now, we'll be vaxxed and masked up enjoying music; that could change at any time, so we're not taking anything for granted these days.
The big news for October is the CU Jazz Festival, held October 14-17 at various venues in town. Visit the CU Jazzfest website for complete info, and go out and support the musicians that are playing for you. There's tons of talent on display this weekend (and indeed every week), so come enjoy the music.
Thanks for reading. See you next month!