Bringing blues to the table

For the second year in a row, former owner of Nature’s Table, Terry Masar, has decided to put on a reunion show in honor of the community feel that his restaurant/ music venue brought to CU between 1979 and 1991. For the evenings of August 15 and 16, the tantalizing sounds of blues and jazz will be streaming through the Canopy Club, evoking strong feelings of nostalgia for former Nature’s Table customers and employees.
Nature’s Table was a health food restaurant across the street and a few steps north of Canopy Club on Goodwin before it closed in 1991. Live blues, jazz, bluegrass, folk, and americana music made Nature’s Table a valuable venue in CU, serving as a great opportunity for young and old to come together and learn from each other through improvisation. Alison Krauss and her band Union Station even played there when she was in high school, according to former employee, Jeff Machota.
“There will never be another place exactly like it,” said Machota, making sure to add that, despite the loss of Nature’s Table, “there’s still a good jazz tradition in this community.”
With the blooming jazz program at U of I providing the area with a pool of eager performers, the Iron Post and Zorba’s have been the primary places keeping jazz and blues alive in the area, but they both don’t quite stand to the height of Nature’s Table. As an all-ages restaurant-venue with its heyday in the ’80s, the age restriction of the Iron Post and the primarily campus-dwelling target market of Zorba’s misses the complete community feel that Nature’s Table contributed to CU.
Reaching capacity at Nature’s Table’s 2007 reunion at Mike n’ Molly’s, Machota said “it went beyond our expectations last year,” and that the reunion show needed a bigger venue. Being an 18+ venue and a little larger, the Canopy Club will allow for a wider range of concert-goers to attend, and inch just a smidge closer to that unforgettable Nature’s Table feel.
Much like the indie and hip-hop scenes of the area, “there’s a big part of the Chicago jazz scene that came through CU and Nature’s Table, and some of them are coming back,” claimed Machota.
Chicago artists such as Kevin Kizer and Joan Hickey (who is also a professor here at the University of Illinois) will be sharing the stage with artists traveling from as far as Texas (Glenn Scheutz) and as close as CU (Jeff Helgesen). Saturday night there will be a Guido Sinclair tribute band, in honor of the Chicago native who moved down to CU and played an integral role in the community of Nature’s Table by taking new musicians in the scene under his wing and teaching them the language of improvisation. Guido encompassed the very essence of the Nature’s Table community feel, and unfortunately passed away a year after the restaurant closed.
Cover for the reunion is $10 each evening, with The Freak Brothers opening the two-night show at 8:30, Friday, August 15. Jazz will be featured on Saturday, starting at 6:00, and it will be closing with an hour for open improvisation and collaboration between the musicians — just like the old days.

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