Nature’s Table Archives Project on WEFT-FM

Sean Kutzko (L) and Jeff Machota (R) discuss the Nature’s Table Archives Project on Machota’s jazz show on WEFT-FM, July 31, 2019.

Jeff Machota, the host of the Wednesday Morning Prayer Meeting jazz show on WEFT 90.1 FM since 1991 and a former Nature’s Table employee, interviewed Sean Kutzko of the Nature’s Table Archives Project on his show on July 31, 2019. The 90-minute segment includes several selections of music recorded at the Table in the Archive, as well as conversation about ongoing efforts and why people are still talking about the Table almost 30 years after it closed.

Tracks included in the segment include:
The Jack Webb Band – “Tiger Rag” February 22, 1980
Jeff Helgesen Quintet – “Ah-Leu-Cha” and “I Remember Clifford,” October 4, 1990.
The Quintet (w/Ray Sasaki & Morgan Powell) – “Willow Weep For Me” May 1980
Ron Dewar Quartet (w/Guido Sinclair) – “I Love You” September 28, 1980
Sorgum – “So What > Impressions > So What” April 5, 1986

All recordings are from performances already posted in the Archive.



Listen below:

Jeff Machota interviews NTAP’s Sean Kutzko on WEFT-FM’s Wednesday Morning Prayer Meeting jazz program, July 31, 2019.

Nature’s Table Archive Vol 18: Nebula with Tom Paynter – March 5, 1990

We’re pleased to offer another example of one of C-U’s more complex jazz composers, Tom Paynter. Tom passed away suddenly on May 25, 2019, and the pianist and flutist left behind his vast, impressive body of work. Paynter’s compositions cover a lot of musical territory, from delicate solo pieces to intense, full-on aural assault.

This recording highlights the more complex side of Paynter’s work. The band’s official title is Nebula: The Music Of Diffused Gassers, led by Tom Paynter. The recording is mostly Tom’s original compositions, although there are covers by Ornette Coleman, Chick Corea and Charlie Parker as well.

C-U’s Ben Grosser was one of the musicians in Nebula. Here’s what he had to say about Nebula, and playing with Tom in general:

Nebula, the Music of Diffused Gassers was a quartet in action around 1990-91. Led by Tom Paynter, the group focused on avant-garde / free / experimental jazz, and, as far as I can recall, all of the band’s charts (aside from occasional standards) were written by Tom. The environment Tom created here was quite supportive of experimentation, as evidenced by our flexible approaches to form, the way we blended tunes together, and the multi-instrument roles each member took on. During a performance, any member of the band might tweak the group’s trajectory, even when doing so meant we turned Tom’s carefully crafted chord changes into something, well, less careful. The core group included Alex Lazarevich on tenor sax and bass/Bb clarinets, myself (Ben Grosser) on trumpets and tenor sax, and Danny Deckard on drums and percussion. All but Danny had an occasional turn on the keyboards, and all of us also sang and played wood chimes. Taimur Sullivan [now member of the highly acclaimed PRISM Quartet] sat in on alto sax for part of this session. I should also note that Tom’s synthesizer chops were in full force with this group. He was extremely adept at crafting timbres with his ARP 2600 synth, and could be seen patching new sounds on the fly during performances. This tape may be the only recording of the band. We played a number of gigs at the Table–and also did a live session on WEFT–but I am unaware of any other tapes.

Enjoy this rare recording of Tom Paynter with some extremely forward-thinking and experimental musicians. Please attend the Tom Paynter Memorial on Sunday, June 21, 2019 from 2pm – 6pm at the Iron Post, 120 S. Race St, Urbana.

Nebula: The Music of Diffused Gassers – Led by Tom Paynter. March 5, 1990

Two Tracks by Tom Paynter

Tom Paynter

The C-U jazz community is still feeling the loss of longtime C-U player and composer Tom Paynter, who died May 25, 2019 at the age of 50. A brilliant pianist and flutist, Tom was equally comfortable in straight-ahead jazz, Brazilian music, or the avant-garde.

We were happy to discover just over twenty minutes of Tom’s quartet as filler on a cassette from Gary Peyton’s collection. The only date listed was “Summer 1990.” These two tunes — “Stella By Starlight” and “Song For My Father” — feature Tom on flute, plus Table regulars Peyton on piano and Danny Deckard on drums. The bassist is merely listed as “Kita;” thanks to some digging by Jeff Helgesen, we believe this is Kita Makoto, who was a student at the U of I at the time and played with Guido Sinclair. A mystery trumpet player sits in on the second tune.

Tom was one of a kind. Be sure to attend his memorial at The Iron Post on Sunday, July 21, from 2-6pm, and listen to his oral history interview from November 2016 with Jeff Machota.

Enjoy these two tracks. We have more of Tom’s sets on cassette we’re digitizing and will be posting more of Tom’s music here as soon as we can.

Tom Paynter Quartet – Live at Nature’s Table – Summer 1990

Up and Running Again

Hi all-

So I just moved back to C-U after being in Connecticut for twelve years. Life got hectic for a while, but things are back on track again. Met with Jeff Machota yesterday and we’re going to start getting things operational again.

We’ve lost several great Table-era musicians recently. Pianist Don Heitler, Pianist/drummer Gary Peyton, multi-instrumentalist Tom Paynter, and Ghanaian master drummer and composer Oscar Sulley Braimah. All of these musicians were regulars at the Table, and it hurts that they are gone now.

Jeff gave me a couple of tapes yesterday. I’ve already dubbed one of them down, and hope to have it posted soon.

It’s good to be back home. Look for more output from us.

Sean

Brad Wheeler Talks Table

Another NTAP oral history recording from Jeff Machota, this time with saxophonist Brad Wheeler, a stalwart from the Table’s early days. Recorded September 16, 2016 at the Urbana Free Library in Urbana, IL. Look for it on the Oral Histories page.

Nature’s Table Archive Volume 13: Ron Dewar Quartet – October 22, 1981

Another Ron Dewar recording from the collection of Joan Hickey. Great playing runs throughout, and the sound is very good indeed! The recording was a little imbalanced toward the right channel; I tried to add more even balance to both channels, and cleaned up some of the harsh tape starts and stops. Unfortunately, the tape runs out during the drum solo in “Bolivia;” I added a fade-out to make the ending a bit easier on the ears.

Thanks, as always, to Jeff Helgesen for identifying the song names. Despite his encyclopedic brain for tunes, we still have a mystery song in this set. If you know the song, email us and clue us in.

EDIT: Mark Stryker pegged the missing title as “Theme For Ernie.” Thanks Mark!

When Helgesen says, “Really looking forward to hearing this one,” you know it’s gotta be good. Enjoy, folks!


Ron Dewar Quartet – October 22, 1981

Ron Dewar Quartet
Live at Nature’s Table
Urbana, Illinois
October 22, 1981
Nature’s Table Archive – Vol. 13

Source: Unknown cassette recorder/mics > unknown cassette generation >
Maxell UDXLII-90 cassette > WAV > FLAC8

Mixing/EQ done on source tape: Normalized to -1dB; minor edits/fadeouts
to eliminate harsh tape starts and stops

Recorded by Unknown
From the collection of Joan Hickey
Digital transfer by Jeff Machota
FLAC conversion, mixing/EQ and upload by Sean Kutzko

The Band:
Ron Dewar – sax
Joan Hickey – piano
Marlene Rosenberg – bass
Joel Spencer – drums

(Total time = 92:29)
01: Alone Together (11:51)
02: Hammerhead (11:42)
03: Serenity (8:24)
04: Locomotion (13:36)
05: Speak No Evil (10:49)
06: Third Plane (10:14)
07: Theme For Ernie (7:09)
08: It’s You Or No One (8:50)
09: Bolivia… (9:33) [tape ends during drum solo]

Terry

I had had enough. I was working at Trito’s Uptown (the only Italian “Grinderhaus” I’ve ever known), on the main drag in Campustown, and I simply didn’t want to be there anymore. It was May 1987, I was working there one Saturday morning, something snapped, and I simply walked out, still wearing my apron.

I was walking home, and had no idea what I’d do for work. I was a student and needed the extra money, and had put myself in a bit of a spot. Coincidentally, I walked past Nature’s Table, where Terry was out back, emptying stuff into the recycling bins. I had always loved being there to hear Bontuku, Sorgum and some of the other music I didn’t quite understand yet. I sheepishly asked if he was hiring.

“You need work?”Terry2

“Yeah.”

It seemed he was incapable of saying no, even though he acted like he wanted to. “Come by tonight around 8. We’ll see what we can do. We have aprons here, though.”

I was unemployed for about fifteen minutes.

And so began a two-year experience of me working at the Table. I developed a taste for Augsberger Dark, poppy seed dressing, Troublefunk, and a lot of jazz. There was always somebody willing to cover my shifts when I went to see the Grateful Dead.

There are too many stories to list. It was simply a way of life for a while.

I wasn’t always the best employee. Terry and Shelley kept with me, though. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I learned a lot about toughing it out and working with people with different backgrounds.

I never could  repay Terry for what he gave me. After some time, when I was able to reflect on those years and see more clearly what I had learned, the best  I can do now is to try and give those things to other people.

That’s a great legacy.

Thanks, Terry.

Jeff Machota Interview

When I was back in Urbana last August, I was able to interview longtime Table employee Jeff Jeff MachotaMachota and record some of his memories of the Table’s evolution, the final weekend, and some interesting stories from the kitchen and the stage. He also gives some context to the development of the jazz scene in Champaign-Urbana and what helped create the environment that allowed the Table to flourish.

The interview can be found in the Oral History section.