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CU Jazz Festival to honor local legend Morgan Powell with special performance by close friends

Three photos comprise the image. On the left, a white man in a suit and tie plays an upright bass. In the middle, a man in a fedora is silhouetted in profile, playing the tenor saxophone. On the right, a Black man wears a blazer and plays the alto saxophone.
Andrew Binder of Conspiracy Deliracy (Left), Jon Irabagon (Center), and Reginald Lewis (Right) are three of the artists performing in the 2023 CU Jazz Festival.

URBANA — The ninth CU Jazz Festival takes place this weekend with a variety of shows and events around Champaign-Urbana.

One of those performances will celebrate the memory of a local jazz legend this weekend. Morgan Powell, a former professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign School of Music, was revered as a trombonist in the central Illinois jazz scene before he died of pancreatic cancer in August

To honor Powell’s memory the Jazz Friends, a local group of his close friends, will perform some of his music at this year’s jazz festival. The performance will be at the Urbana Free Library on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

“We’re just really sad he’s gone,” Jenelle Orcherton, the festival’s artistic director, said. “And this is just one of the ways we want to remember him and share our memories of him with each other.”

The festival will kick off on Thursday night with an opening night performance at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts at 5:30 p.m., followed by an afterparty called “Vinyl & Vibes.” Guests can bring an album to share and discuss with others.

“I think it’s a neat sort of conversation starter when someone says ‘Oh, you know, here’s this album I really like,’ and someone else — maybe they’ve never heard of it, or it’s a new to them record or they really don’t like it,” Orcherton said. “It always sparks a lot of conversation.”

In addition to Sunday afternoon’s memorial, the weekend’s lineup includes performances by Olivia Flanigan and the Repertory Jazz Orchestra on Friday night at Copper Creek Church, the Jon Irabagon Trio on Saturday afternoon at the Krannert Art Museum, and Conspiracy Deliracy on Sunday evening in The Space.

Picture of Owen Henderson

Owen Henderson

Owen Henderson covers arts and culture, as well as LGBTQ issues for Illinois Public Media News. He studied journalism, Spanish and theater at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has worked with Illinois Public Media in various capacities since 2021.

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