Nick Eipers didn't go looking for jazz. Jazz found him.
Working as a recording engineer and producer after graduating from Columbia College in 1994, the Brookfield resident manned the mixing boards for a variety of musicians, from classical ensembles to rock acts. The local jazz greats that he was recording and their struggles struck a chord, though.
I found myself working on great albums that weren't getting the recognition they deserved," remembers Eipers. Even projects that had potential to reach wide, mainstream audiences were falling on deaf ears and failing to garner any record label interest.
As an engineer, you don't usually get involved in that side of the business, though," says Eipers.
That soon changed.
In 2008, Eipers founded Chicago Sessions, a record label devoted exclusively to Chicago-based jazz. To date, 18 albums have been released under the Chicago Sessions flag. It's a diverse lot that touches all levels of the jazz world, from world renowned pianist Howard Levy's straight stylings to experimental soundscapes by Paul Wertico's Mid-East/Mid-West Alliance and all points in between.
Chicago Sessions artists can be found in most independent record stores throughout the Chicago area, but that wasn't always the case.
The label started as a subscription-based service, functioning much like an old school record club a la Columbia House, but devoted to one label specifically. In order to buy an album on the Chicago Sessions label, one had to commit to all of the label's releases. This release format, coupled with exposure to unsung, local jazz artists, cemented Eipers' desire to jump into the business side of the music biz.
Another legendary label helped, too.