Mike Schwebke discovered his passion for jazz during college. A few years later, he helped transform his hometown into an understated destination for the improvisational music.
As “The Jazz Trials,” a monthly open jazz jam session at The Law Office Pub & Music Hall, 226 S. Bridge St., Yorkville, hailed its third anniversary this summer, Schwebke, happily reflected on the past while envisioning a vibrant future.
“Interestingly, there’s a ton of really fantastic jazz musicians way out in the suburbs,” Schwebke says. “There’s a lot of jam sessions in Chicago and in bigger cities, but this kind of fills a … need for these people to not quite have to go so far to participate in the jazz scene.”
Many musicians and attendees also spread their influence without even playing or hearing a note.
True to the oft- off-the-cuff nature of jazz, Schwebke and Law Office owner Boyd Ingemunson discovered the potential for a charitable element to the event shortly after “The Jazz Trials” started its run from 7 to 10 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month.
An idea that first conceived of “celebrity bartenders” from neighboring Yorkville establishments preparing and serving drinks during the jam soon did one better. These days, the “celebrity bartenders” represent various non-profit groups, largely from northern Illinois, and all tips benefit the organization featured during that month’s jam.
Schwebke says many groups can earn between $300 to $500 in a night.
“They don’t have to rent the space, they don’t have to buy the alcohol, they don’t have to do anything like that,” Schwebke says. “And it usually takes only a volunteer or two to do it.”
Past participants include the Kendall County Veterans Association and Oswego Senior Center.
“A lot of the musicians who come out to the jam sessions ask, ‘Oh, who are we supporting tonight?’ and a lot of people that come out to the bar ask, ‘What musicians are playing? What charity is here?’ So it’s a big, mutually beneficial, shared part of the experience.”
Schwebke, a steel pan player who splits time between Yorkville and New Mexico, where his fiancé lives, and also travels to perform in various jazz festivals, relishes the opportunity to collaborate, whether onstage or away from it.
While “The Jazz Trials” house band remains constant – Johnny Gifford on drums, Eric Smith on bass and Carla Robinson on keyboard – the venue invites and encourages any interested musician to join.
Jazz styles and instrumentation change on the fly, as do musicians’ ZIP codes. Schwebke says some contributors have traveled from Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin to join in the southwest suburban fun. The more, the merrier.
“That’s one of the other cool things about jazz,” Schwebke says, “is that you don’t have to just play what people expect. You can always try something different. You can do a jazz version of your favorite rock ‘nroll tune. You can do anything with jazz. It’s a very, very broad medium.”
For more information on “The Jazz Trials,” visit the event’s Facebook page or call The Law Office at (630) 882-9559.
The November jam session operates on Nov. 21 to avoid conflict with Thanksgiving and the event is not held in December.