YORKVILLE – A monthly local Chicago-style open jazz music jam session in Yorkville will celebrate its third anniversary this month.
Yorkville native Mike Schwebke, a steel pannist and host of the Jazz Trials jam sessions, said the idea to host the sessions at The Law Office Pub & Music Hall in downtown Yorkville came after talking with the bar’s owners, Boyd Ingemunson and Ben Seaver, three years ago. He said he thought the bar was a great venue and the perfect place to showcase some jazz. He said he knew the chances of jam sessions continuing after the first year were hit or miss, but the jams have since garnered a good-sized regular crowd.
“I think it’ll hopefully be a regular event for a long time,” Schwebke said.
The event is hosted every last Thursday of each month, with exceptions including the November jam usually being the third Thursday that month and there being no jam scheduled in December. This month’s event is scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday, July 25, at The Law Office, 226 S. Bridge St.
Schwebke said the overall premise was to have a recurring, free and all-ages event where jazz musicians – whether they’re high school-aged or professional, gigging performers – can come and play together and provide that kind of creative outlet at a local spot.
Schwebke said the first jam started with him inviting friends and family and putting together a house band comprised of musicians he met through his time as a music student at Northern Illinois University. He said there were about eight or nine musicians who consistently showed up and less than 10 patrons would come by during the first year.
In the past 6 months, Schwebke said, there have been about 60 people sitting in the venue, with about 100 patrons coming in and out on some of the busier nights. He said the biggest Jazz Trials jam he recalls included 25 musicians who played throughout the night.
“Which is a lot for any open mic, and certainly a lot for jazz jam,” Schwebke said.
Schwebke said there also aren’t a lot of jazz jams in this area outside of Chicago, let alone jams that have been around for several years. He said a lot of jams in the area seem to not last very long, either because the jam’s host or the venue doesn’t continue holding the event.
“Which is amazing, considering how many jazz musicians are living in the suburbs,” Schwebke said.
Schwebke said the jam is “definitely not typical,” featuring celebrity bartenders from primarily northern Illinois-based nonprofit groups. He said that feature originally started as more of a tongue-in-cheek kind of thing featuring bartenders from other restaurants in town – including Rowdy’s, 210 S. Bridge St., or Suzy’s, 4353 Tuma Road – but it kind of evolved from there.
Schwebke said all tips for the celebrity bartenders go to the organization that is featured during the jam that month. He said that component of the event has raised more than $15,000 for more than 20 organizations in the past three years of the event, with no duplicates so far.
“It’s a different interaction that you would find with traditional door-to-door fundraising,” Schwebke said.
Schwebke said local organizations that have been featured in the past include the Kendall County Veterans Association and Oswego Senior Center. He said this month’s celebrity bartenders will be from Water Street Studios, a nonprofit art gallery in downtown Batavia.
Schwebke said the event draws a lot of musicians from Chicago’s western suburbs, but it also has drawn musicians from Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin. He said some of those out-of-town players have been musicians passing through the Midwest on their way to gigs elsewhere.
Schwebke said he thinks the jazz jam at The Law Office has opened the minds of a lot of younger musicians in Kendall County in particular. He said the live music event, which has no cover charge at the door, is the perfect introduction to jazz for someone who otherwise may not know much about the art form.
Schwebke said the jam gives musicians of all abilities, who may or may not know each other going in, the chance to make music together in the most raw way possible.
“And that just becomes such a beautiful, creative experience,” Schwebke said.