Nature’s Table Archive Vol 15: Joel Spencer Quartet – December 16, 1987

From the collection of Brad Wheeler comes this latest addition to the Archive.

Drummer Joel Spencer, now on faculty at the U of I, was a staple in the Chicago scene for many years in the 1980’s and 1990s. He has worked with numerous big names in jazz, including pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines, guitarist Barney Kessel, bassist Eddie Gomez, trumpet artists Red Rodney, Clark Terry, Chet Baker, Freddie Hubbard, saxophonists Sonny Stitt, Benny Golson, Joe Henderson, Eddie Harris, Wayne Shorter, David Liebman, and pianists Hank Jones and Cedar Walton.

Spencer would come down to Urbana to play the Table regularly. The quartet featured on this recording was a working group out of Chicago, in town for a two-night stand at the Table in December 1987. Guitarist Akio Sasajima was born in Japan and was a regular in the Chicago scene at this time as well. This quartet also featured Table regulars Mike Kocour on organ and Brad Wheeler on sax. Joel recorded two CD’s with this lineup: “Jazz Hit” and “Interior Window.” Both are out of print. More information about this group is in the Joel Spencer oral history interview by Jeff Machota, found here.

The date is in question. The Table calendar shows this band in town on December 9 & 10, but the recording is clearly labelled December 16. Other curiosities that muddy things a bit is an incomplete second rendition of the theme from “Mannix,” and a second “thanks and see you next time” announcement after a “see you next time” announcement at the end of Push and Shove. It would seem that the source tape, long gone at this point, could have been recorded over a different show with the same band.

Regardless, enjoy this great Chicago band playing hot on a cold December night in Urbana.

Joel Spencer Quartet – December 16, 1987

Joel Spencer Quartet
Live at Nature’s Table
Urbana, Illinois
December 16, 1987
Nature’s Table Archive – Vol. 15
Source: Unknown cassette/recorder > Brad Wheeler’s remastered CD >
WAV > FLAC 8
Mixing/EQ done on source tape:
Recorded by unknown
Digital transfer by unknown
FLAC conversion, mixing/EQ (none) and upload by Sean Kutzko
The Band:
Joel Spencer – drums
Brad Wheeler – sax
Akio Sasajima – guitar
Mike Kocour – organ
(Total Time = 80:59)
01: Theme from “Mannix” (12:36)
02: I Know IT’s Wrong (13:51)
03: Arise and Shine (15:13)
04: Theme From “Mannix” – incomplete (6:18)
05: Goodbye Again (10:05)
06: Briar Patch (8:21)
07: Push and Shove (14:34)
Uploaded by permission of Brad Wheeler

 

 

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.

New Oral Histories

Thanks to the efforts of Jeff Machota, we have a lot of new oral histories about the Table posted now.

Early Table employee Laurie Solomon, Sorgum organist Russell Cheatham, and Terry’s wife Shelley Masar have all been interview by Jeff in the last two months and posted in the Oral History area.. All three were heavily involved with Nature’s Table for many years.

Thanks to Laurie, Russell and Shelley for their insights!

Nature’s Table Archive Volume 14: Sorgum – May 14, 1988

Another warm spring night at the Table, another chance to record Sorgum. I made this recording with PZM mics on the back wall of the seating area, and it came out really well.

First recording here at Nature’sTable.net that features Tim McNamara (sax) and Tom Flanagan (trumpet). Guitarist Lamont Parsons also makes a cameo, sitting in on the first two tunes of the second set. Too bad I ran out of tape before The Way I Feel ended… sorry ’bout that, Tom.

Enjoy!


Sorgum – May 14, 1988

Sorgum
Live at Nature’s Table
Urbana, Illinois
May 14, 1988

Nature’s Table Archive – Vol. 14

Source: Sony home cassette recorder> Radio Shack PZM microphones taped to the back wall >
Maxell UDXLII-90 cassette > WAV > FLAC8

Mixing/EQ done on source tape: Normalized to -1dB;

Recorded by Sean Kutzko
Digital transfer by Doug Berkman and Sean Kutzko
FLAC conversion, mixing/EQ and upload by Sean Kutzko

The Band:
Russell Cheatham – Hammond B3 Organ
Charles Tripp – Guitar
Walter  “Jelly” Hines – Drums
Tom Flanagan – Trumpet
Tim McNamara – Tenor Sax
Special guest: Lamont Parsons – Guitar on “Tough Duff” & “Mellow Mood”

(Total time = 2:31:37)

Set I (56:51)
01: Driftin’ (11:49)
02: Banter1 (2:07)
03: Morris The Minor (13:55)
04: …Killer Joe (13:17)
05:Mama Told Me (12:34)
06: Band Intros

Set II (1:34:46)
07: Set II Intro (2:29)
08: Tough Duff (14:27)
09: Banter2 (1:05)
10: Mellow Mood (15:10)
11: Banter3 (0:45)
12: Jive Samba (12:32)
13: Banter4 (0:37)
14: Nica’s Dream (15:07)
15: Banter5 (1:08)
16: A Real Good ‘Un (13:07)
17: …West Coast Blues (10:51)
18: The Way I Feel… (7:28)

Set notes:
1) Tape flips before “Killer Joe” & “West Coast Blues”
clips the intro of each song

2) Tape ran out during Tom Flanagan’s solo during “The Way I Feel”

Notes by Sean:
My friend Geoff Applebee had just acquired these Radio Shack PZM mics and
I wanted to try them out. Sorgum was playing that night at the Table, so
what better way to try them out? I took my home tape deck out of my stereo
cabinet, threw it and the mics into my backpack and biked down to the Table.

PZM mics need a flat surface to mount them to, so I set up in the back of the
kitchen, on the prep table by the storage area. Ran the mics to the back wall
on the opposite side of the storage area and let the tape roll. I was amazed at
the bass response that came through on this recording.

Lamont Parsons came to the show, and Chuck let him sit in for the first two
tunes of the second set. Lamont used Chuck’s guitar and amp; he didn’t bring
his own gear. This was the first time I recall hearing Lamont.
I think this is also the only recording I made that has Tim McNamara and
Tom Flanagan.
Just another spring night at the Table, full of great music, a Gondolette
sandwich, and a few Augsburger Darks. Life was good then!

***
Part of the Nature’s Table Archives Project
More information on Nature’s Table can be found online at:


http://www.40north.org/jazzthreads/jazzyarns/naturestable.html
http://www.cujazz.org/natures_table/
“I Used To Play, Work or Hang At Nature’s Table” group on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=17787069962

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.

Nature’s Table Archive Vol. 12: Ron Dewar Quintet – August 27, 1980

Volume 12 takes us back to the early days. Jeff Machota recently received several tapes from pianist Joan Hickey, including this gem of her playing with Ron Dewar in a quintet setting. We don’t know much about the lineage of the recording, but it sounds pretty good for being 35 Dewar-Tableyears old!

Thanks for the tapes, Joan!

Ron Dewar Quintet – August 27, 1980 (Nature’s Table Archive Vol 12)

Ron Dewar Quintet
Live at Nature’s Table
Urbana, Illinois
August 27, 1980

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

Mixing/EQ done on source tape: None

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
Lin Halliday – Sax
Joan Hickey – Piano
Marlene Rosenberg – Bass
Mike Friedman – Drums

(Total Time = 94:02)
01: Woody N’ You (9:29)
02: Like Someone In Love (9:00)
03: Banter1 (0:19)
04: Summertime (7:01)
05: Trane’s Blues (15:07)
06: Pent-up House (11:50) [tape flip at 5:50]
07: Walkin’ (7:43)
08: Valse Hot (7:58)
09: How Deep Is The Ocean (14:44)
10: After You’ve Gone (10:27)

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.

The Willis Conover Collection

My love for shortwave radio was already strong by the time I was six years old. It was fascinating to me to tune in radio stations from around the world and hear different languages, news from places I had to look up on the map, and stories from cultures I knew nothing about.

And, of course, new music.

From an early age, while listening to our own shortwave international powerhouse, the Voice of America, I would regularly hear this:

 

As a kid, the music was new and exciting to me, and that voice was soothing. That was Willis Conover, who went on the air at VOA for over 40 years, broadcasting jazz to the world. He was all but unknown in the US; around the world, however, he was bigger than life for bringing American music and culture over the Iron Curtain. Many people learned English or even became jazz musicians themselves because of Willis Conover.

I have wanted to hear some of those old recordings for many years. This summer, after many years of archiving Conover’s material, the University of North Texas received a grant and began digitizing some of the thousands of recording they have of Willis. I was excited to learn they’ve started releasing the material for all  to enjoy, thanks largely in part to Maristella Feustle, UNT Music Special Collections Librarian (and jazz guitarist).

The initial batch of material includes two compete episodes of Music USA on VOA, interviews with Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong, a set from Bill Evans, and much more.

If you enjoy jazz, check out this site and learn more about Willis Conover and his role in jazz history.

collections_music_willis-conover_1200x480

Summertime Done Come And Gone

Happy almost-October! The summer has flown past and there haven’t been any additions to the Archives. However, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any activity.

The big news is that NTAP has officially formalized a relationship with the Sousa Archives imageand Center for American Music at the University of Illinois. Jeff Machota donated over a dozen vintage Nature’s Table shirts to the Sousa Archives, Here’s a photo of Jeff and I (left & middle) making the donation to Sousa Archivist Scott Schwartz (right):

This formally creates a procedure by which donated materials to NTAP will be transferred to the Sousa Archives for safekeeping, cataloging and preservation. In the case of recordings, the physical media (cassettes, reel-to-reels, etc) will be handed over to the Sousa Archives after NTAP digitizes them.

Scott Schwartz also provided Jeff and I guidance on creating a Deed Of Gift form for NTAP, similar to the one we fill out when NTAP gives material to the Sousa Archives. Many thanks to Scott for his assistance!

Another noteworthy item: during my last visit to C-U in August, I managed to get an oral history recording from Jeff Machota, describing his time at the Table from 1984 until the end. I hope to have that posted to the Oral History area soon.

Of course, the main thing folks are interested in is the music. Jeff and I have had very busy summers with work, and life has simply gotten in the way. I hope to get back on track and start providing new recordings at a minimum of once every month. Keep following the What’s New tab here on the ste, or the Nature’s Table group on Facebook,  and you’ll see the latest devlopments

Thanks for the support! Drop us a line if you have any questions or donations; we’d love to gear from you.

Sean