WPGU / buzz local music awards


The members of the jazz ensemble Desafinado hail from the Midwest, West Coast, Cuba, and Brazil. Despite their different backgrounds, they all share a love for music inspired by the Brazilian styles of bossanova and samba. The word “desafinado” means “slightly out of tune” – not normally a phrase that a band would use to describe itself. However, the name is also a reference to a song by one of their influences Antonio Carlos Jobim. Ironically, the type of music that Jobim played and the type that has inspired Desafinado is so complicated harmonically that, unless a musician is very skilled, they will sound like they are slightly out of tune. All members of the band stumbled across this unique style of music in various ways and were all captivated by it. They have been playing together for nearly three years and love when people dance at their shows. “It’s totally inspiring to us,” said guitarist/vocalist Greg Jahiel.

EITHER/OR with Greg Jahiel:

Urbana or Champaign? Champaign.

Big Lebowski or Royal Tenenbaums? Neither.

Beatles or The Stones? Beatles.

What’s in your CD player now? The Afro Sambas by Baden Powell

What’s your favorite food to cook? Vegetarian Freeload – it’s a delicious black bean stew that is almost considered a dish of Brazil.

Most memorable concert: Joao Gilberto in Chicago – it was just him and his guitar and the guy’s 70 years old and still playing and killing it.

What dead celebrity would you like to face in a boxing match? The dentist in Finding Nemo.

Ideal venue: Would have been one of the small bars in Rio during the early 1960s.

– Allie Snyder


A decade-long mainstay of the Champaign-Urbana jazz scene, Ear Doctor began creating their own personal blend of jazz in 1997 and are just now getting the recognition they deserve. “Persistence builds credibility,” said the jazz quintet’s sax player Dan Honnold, and they have earned it the hard way – with practice and innovation. With roller-coaster melodies that peak and cascade into a steady groove, extended jam sessions, an occasional striking of the gong, and punctuations via siren whistle, Ear Doctor runs the gamut from a bad-trip lounge sound to smooth funk to improvisational acid-jazz. All tunes are original compositions by University of Chicago Ph.D. Tom Paynter. The instrumentation alone – sax, electric piano, upright bass, drums and tuba – stands testimony to the unique sound of the band. Ear Doctor’s tuba player, Jerry Shelato, states their philosophy best: “We don’t care about [our critics] because we’re doing what we love.” Ear Doctor is Tom Paynter, Dan Honnold, Jerry Shelato, Ben Taylor, and Jeff Magby.

EITHER/OR with Dan Honnold:

Urbana or Champaign? Based on gas prices, Salem, Illinois.

Big Lebowski or Royal Tenenbaums? Irrelevant.

Beatles or The Stones? We hit a beetle with a rock once.

Which Greek god would you want to be? Zorba. Good jazz gigs.

What song do you refuse to cover? All of ’em!

What’s your favorite food to cook? Couscous and chopped weenies.

Listen to Ear Doctor April 21 at the Boneyard Art Festival’s Late Night Event at the IMC.

– Samuel Smith


Jason Finkelman of Philadelphia made his start as a jazz artist on the East Coast playing for jazz groups in New York City. He then came to Champaign and aligned forces with Tom Paynter, Chad Dunn and Jay Eychaner to form the jazz quartet Nu-Orbit Ensemble. Although he has been impacted by a broad range of jazz artists, Finkelman specifically points to Sun Ra, Hermeto Pascoal, and “the electric period” of Miles Davis as his predominant influences. Nu-Orbit was formed in March 2002 after hitting it off at the Cross-Cultural Directions in Jazz program, part of Krannert Center’s Jazz Immersion Series and have since become a local hit as returning performers around town.

EITHER/OR with Jason Finkelman:

Urbana or Champaign? Urbana.

Big Lebowski or Royal Tenenbaums? Big Lebowski.

Beatles or The Stones? The Beatles.

What’s in your CD player now? The brand new CD by Dom Minasi, The Vampires Revenge.

What was the first CD you ever owned? Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

What dead celebrity would you like to face in a boxing match? I wouldn’t be inclined to be in a boxing match.

What kind of car would you drive if you made it big? Mini Cooper.

What do you do to relax? Open a nice bottle of wine.

Use your favorite swear in a sentence: I don’t have any favorite swears on my mind right now.

Check out Nu-Orbit Ensemble April 21 and 22 at the Boneyard Art Festival’s Late Night Event at the IMC and April 25 at

Allen Hall with pianist Thollem McDonas.

– Heather Peart


The Kilborn Alley Blues Band played their first show in 2000, on the last Saturday in April. “But we’d been jamming for quite a while before then,” said Andrew Duncanson, lead singer and guitarist. Duncanson, as well as bassist Chris Breen and guitarist Josh Stimmel are from Champaign. Joe Asselin, who handles harmonica, is a native of Maine, and drummer Ed O’Hara hails from the DC area. O’Hara is a recent addition to the band. The ensemble is influenced by some of the greats, including Little Milton, Tyrone Davis, Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. Their self-titled album was released in 2003

by Peedee Records.

EITHER/OR with Andy Duncanson (and with help from the rest of the band):

Urbana or Champaign? I hoped you weren’t gonna ask me that one. I hang out in each one about evenly. But, if I have to, then Champaign. We all live in Champaign.

Big Lebowski or Royal Tenenbaums? Big Lebowski, but The Royal Tenenbaums describes us in a way.

Beatles or The Stones? The Beatles are way better.

What was the first CD you ever owned? I think it was a compilation – This is Funk Volume 1, or something like that.

What dead celebrity would you like to face in a boxing match? (After much deliberation) Biggie Smalls.

What song do you refuse to cover? Sweet Home Alabama. I’ve heard it ten billion times in bars I’ve played in. We’ve covered it once … never again.

– Leah D. Nelson


Aretha Franklin. Natalie Cole. Clark Terry. Louis Bellson. These are only a few of the artists for whom Jeff Helgesen has played live. In addition, he has also recorded with artists such as Ray Charles, Anthony Braxton, the Jazz Members Big Band of Chicago and the Craig Russo Latin Jazz Project. A native of Champaign, Helgesen has been playing trumpet in central Illinois music circles for more than 20 years. He has been playing in the CU area for more than ten years and is a former jazz soloist with the Ray Charles Band. As a toddler between the ages of two and three, Helgesen would attend shows at the Village Inn during the early ’60s with his father. Influenced by his father, also a well known local trumpet player, Helgesen has been playing the trumpet professionally since the age of 15 and attended the University of Illinois to study music. He says that his influences on the trumpet and flugelhorn include Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Kenny Dorham, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Carl Saunders and Woody Shaw. Helgesen recently recorded Jazz Mayhem, for which he had a release party on Feb. 24 at the Iron Post. Included in his style of music are Dixieland, bebop, big band, commercial pop music and modern small group jazz.

EITHER/OR with Jeff Helgesen

Urbana or Champaign? Champaign because I was born there.

Big Lebowski or Royal Tenenbaums? Ice Station Zebra, it’s a submarine musical. I like submarine movies.

Beatles or The Stones? The Beatles.

What’s in your CD player now? Christ Potter’s Underground

What was the first CD you ever owned? Maynard Ferguson’s Conquistador. He was a trumpet player.

What celebrity would you face in a boxing match? Bill O’Reilly.

First concert attended: Count Basie at the Krannert Center. I think I even ran backstage and got his autograph.

Come out and see Jeff Helgesen at the Iron Post with Jazz Sandwich Wednesday March 29 from 8 to 11 p.m.

– Christina Rodriguez

Leave a Reply