Nature’s Table Archive Vol 8: Russell Cheatham and Friends – May 24, 1990

Updated January 24, 2015

I originally released this set (NTA Volume 8) on December 21, 2014 as “Mitch Paliga Quintet, May 23, 1990.” It turns out that date and band is likely incorrect. Bear with us for an explanation.

This was originally thought to be a recording of the Mitch Paliga Quintet from May 24, 1990. The source tape came from Jeff Machota’s collection and was labeled Mitch Paliga 5/23/90.

The recording sounded very well-balanced to me, and was a cut above the standard “boom box on the bandstand” recording a lot of  our material comes from. The recording levels in Audacity were pretty even, the visual audio wave patterns looked remarkably even and well-formed in the audio editing software, and it sounded like the recording was a couple cassette generations away from the source tape. There was also approximately 60 minutes of usable material, with 30 minutes of very distorted audio on the remainder of the recording. It sounded like digital noise to me, the kind where a digital tape machine misreads the material. This digital noise, coupled with a very uniform, clean wave pattern on the recording, led me to believe it was recorded by Paul Wienke for airing on WILL-FM at a later date, and he’d had some sort of digital error when recording the second set.

However, a few weeks after posting the show, there developed two rubs:

1) Mitch Paliga had no recollection of this gig, which would be strange if he was the bandleader.

2) My theory of the source of the recording was questioned by Jeff Helgesen, who played on this gig.

Mitch, Jeff Helgesen and Scott Frillman are listed as personnel this night, and all agree that the lineup is correct. Jeff Machota found the monthly flyer advertising the coming shows, and saw that Russell Cheatham and Friends was booked on Saturday, May 24, the day after Paliga was headliner.

Then, a rather nice thing happened: Paul Wienke chimed in out of the blue, and stated he didn’t record the gig. While it turned out my theory on the recording source was completely incorrect, it’s far better to have concrete information.

The common accepted information among the musicians who played the gig is that this is the Russell Cheatham and Friends gig from the next night, May 24, 1990. The recording is likely what Jeff Helgesen speculated: a recorder of unknown origin set up on the front table. Jeff Machota had the source tape in his personal collection; it was likely he asked the original recordier for a dub of the tape, which was made shortly after the gig, and either he or the original recorder simply mislabeled it.

In any case, the statements I made at the time of the original posting are still true.  We find Scott Frillman playing baritone sax. This is the first recording I’ve heard that has Scott on bari, and he’s certainly doing a great job with it. Second is Russell Cheatham playing in a group that’s not Sorgum. While I’m an unabashed Sorgum junkie and love the funk-jazz they made, it’s great to hear him in a more bop and standards-oriented group, too. Jeff Machota told me this gig occurred when Sorgum guitarist Chuck Tripp was out of town, hence the different lineup.

So, my apologies for getting the info wrong the first time. Even with all of the collective brain power used to try and get as many of the details on these tapes correct, there will no doubt be some mistakes along the way.

The Band:
Mitch Paliga – alto, tenor, soprano sax
Jeff Helgesen – trumpet
Scott Frillman – baritone sax
Russell Cheatham – organ
Danny Deckard – drums
Russell Cheatham and Friends – May 24, 1990 (NTA Vol 8)