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New jazz spot honors North Omaha promoter who booked big names

Posted at 10:20 PM, Feb 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-06 23:22:16-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Omaha's newest jazz spot honors Jimmy Jewell Jr. He brought legendary musicians like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Sarah Vaughan to north Omaha's Dreamland Ballroom until 1965.

What started as a vision two years ago is finally coming together for the Jewell's owner Brian McKenna.

"I knew if I could put this together in Omaha, it could be successful because I'm filling a void," McKenna said.

McKenna hopes his club will help Omaha's jazz scene catch up after the past 20 years.

Stocked with instruments tailored to match the room's acoustics, McKenna hopes to land more musicians like Grammy-winner David Sanborn, who played the club Wednesday night.

We talked to the man who used to be in charge of the city's jazz club, Tom Monaghan. His club brought in the biggest names in the scene during the 70s and 80s, but there wasn't an encore for the 90s.

"I was the next to the last president," Monaghan said. "The last president moved to California and we lost money to bring groups in."

Monoghan mentioned other jazz venues Omaha's loved. He hope this inspires a new generation.

"I think it encourages young players in town that there is a future in jazz," Monaghan said. "The second most important piece--I didn't see a TV there at all. Too many places have a TV on and that's just silly."

It's silly to Brian McKenna that some artists skip out on Omaha. He hopes this spot reels them in.

"[From] Kansas City all the way down to Tulsa, there's a Midwest run right now," McKenna said. "Artists used to have to fly over Omaha, now they don't."