Nature’s Table Archive Vol. 20 – Von Freeman Quartet, March 8, 1986

This tape is one of my holy grails of my early days recording live shows. If ever a tape had a pedigree, it’s this one.

I was 18 years old in March of 1986. I’d been recording live shows for about nine months and was still very much fumbling in the dark with respect to proper recording technique and mic placement. I was spending a lot of time at the Table by this point, when word came down that Von Freeman would be coming down from Chicago again for another show.

I had no idea who Von was; what I did know was everybody was making a big deal out of his appearance, so therefore it needed to be recorded. He’d been at the Table a few times before; Von knew Guido Sinclair from his time in Chicago, and Guido would get Von to appear in Urbana every once in a while. There’s another recording of Von at the Table on November 21, 1982 that hasn’t been posted… one day.

I set up my cassette deck with my little stereo mic right in front of the stage and let ‘er rip. Von was loose and somewhat informal this night, although the music is sharp. There were a TON of people in the place, packed in close. It was the most number of people I think I ever saw there. And you can sure hear them on this recording. After the show, I packed up my gear, ran home, dubbed a copy of the show for [Table owner] Terry Masar and gave them to him. He was appreciative.

At some point, I lost the masters. I don’t know when. When I asked Terry about getting a copy of the copy I gave him, he told me he couldn’t find them. My  heart sank. Every now and then I’d think about this show, but I could never find my tapes, and I’d kick myself for losing the masters.

This went on for over a quarter of a century.

After Terry died, Jeff Machota worked with Shelley to sort through some of the old Table memorabilia. I hoped the tapes would magically appear, but they never did.

In 2014, Shelley gave Jeff a box of cassettes she found in her basement. There they were. After 28 years, they had shown up, ready to be listened to. Jeff shipped them out to me in Connecticut; when they arrived, I sat down in my living room and listened to them. They were definitely rougher than I remembered…. In my mind for all those years, they were pristine, the perfect audience recording. These tapes don’t bear that out…it’s a decent audience recording, but in spots where the crowd really gets into it, it’s pretty noisy. But it’s still quite listenable.

Another interesting fact: The drummer this night was Larry Beers. 35 years later, in the summer of 2021, I played a gig with him at NOLA’s Rock Bar. Last month, when I was at Paul Kotheimer’s house listening to him digitize the tapes, I heard Larry’s name as the drummer. Needless to say, Larry was a bit surprised to learn I had a copy of this show.

So here it is…. The Ulysses of tapes, finally home after its 28-year journey of being lost. I hope you enjoy them.

Von Freeman Quartet – Live at Nature’s Table March 8, 1986

Special thanks to Paul Kotheimer for digitizing them with care, and Mark Stryker’s assistance with the setlist.

Nature’s Table Archive Vol. 19: The Jack Webb Band – February 22, 1980

Again, after a prolonged absence, we can offer new music to fans of Nature’s Table. This one is the earliest-known recording of music at the Table. The Table opened in September 1979; sometime shortly after that, Terry saw this band perform at another local venue (was it The Ground Round?) and decided that it would be a good idea to add live music to his new establishment.

It took a bit to get music going. The fist show didn’t happen until January 1980. This show was recorded in February, so this was recorded only six weeks after Terry started having music at the Table.

The Jack Webb Band is traditional jazz from the 1920s. It’s fun, lively, with tons of energy. The band also features several table regulars, including Marlene Rosenberg on bass, Scott Mordecai on drums (later of Bontuku-fame), and the one and only Ron Dewar — playing clarinet in this group, not sax.

Thanks to Joan Hickey for this wonderful, historic recording.

The Jack Webb Band – Live at Nature’s Table February 22, 1980

EDIT October 7, 2021: I wondered aloud if it was The Ground Round in Champaign where Terry first heard the Jack Webb Band. I received this email from Mike Miller, the banjo player of the Jack Webb Band:

“… it wasn’t the Ground Round where Terry and Shelley first
heard the band.

The band did play at the Ground Round but it was the regular Thursday
night gigs at Zorba’s where Terry and Shelley started to show up in the
audience.

Those Zorba’s gigs were a blast! A giant party, not unlike what later
happened at the Table when the Webb band played there every Thursday night. “

Thanks for the clarification, Mike!

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.

Tom Paynter Memorial: Complete Audio

Friends and family of Tom Paynter gathered at the Iron Post on Sunday, July 21, 2019, to pay respects to one of Champaign-Urbana’s leading jazz musicians and composers.

Here is the complete audio from the afternoon. This includes performances by the Brad Wheeler Quartet, with Jose Gobbo, Ben Taylor, and Jeff Magby. Additional musicians sat in this day, including Ivo Braun, Elliott Torres, Justin Kramer, Johnnie Owens, and Tom Cortese.

There was a lot of video shot of the memorial as well. Once it has been edited and distributed, we will announce it here at NaturesTable.net.

Special Thanks to all the musicians who contributed to the afternoon, as well as Jeff Machota for putting the event together, and to Paul Wirth at The Iron Post.


Tom Paynter Memorial – July 21, 2019 (Complete Audio)

Brad Wheeler Plays Tom Paynter’s “Blues For Dolphy”

Just got back from the Tom Paynter Memorial at the Iron Post in Urbana. It was great to see such a big turnout. Brad Wheeler’s quartet (with Jose Gobbo on guitar, Ben Taylor on bass, and Jeff Magby on drums) took on the task of playing several pieces from Tom’s book. Lots of musicians were there to honor Tom, including Jeff Helgesen, Josh Quirk, Ben Grosser, Erik Lund, Lamonte Parsons, and others. There were even a few sit-ins, as drummer Justin Kramer, bassist Elliott Torres and trumpeter Ivo Braun played a couple standards

We’ll post the full gig very shortly, but here’s a taste for now: Tom’s piece “Blues For Dolphy.” Great stuff here!

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

Nature’s Table Archive Vol 17: Chris Lega Quintet – February 27, 1989

Our latest release finds us on a cold Monday evening in Urbana with alto sax player Chris Lega and his group of Table regulars. Lega had played at the Table as early as 1986, and was part of the famous U of I Jazz Band led by John Garvey in the mid-1980s before joining Ray Charles’ band. He went on to play in Chicago, and was part of the Chicago Jazz Orchestra during their 2004 performance at the Chicago Jazz Festival, which was conducted that evening by the great Toshiko Akiyoshi, playing her arrangements.

Lega is joined for this straight-ahead set by Tom Flanigan (trumpet), Gary Peyton (piano), John Hurtubise (bass) and Danny Deckard (drums).

Chris Lega Quintet – February 27, 1989

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

Nature’s Table Archive Volume 16: Tom Paynter Quartet – June 24, 1988

Volume 16 showcases pianist, flautist and composer Tom Paynter leading a quartet at a Friday Happy Hour gig in June 1988. Tom is equally comfortable hanging out in the avant-garde as well as the inside, straight-ahead world. This session is firmly in the latter category, with Tom on flute.

Paynter played the Table in the “later” period. He was in one of Table regular Guido Sinclair’s last bands, and was one of the musicians who played at Guido’s funeral. Paynter went on to earn a PhD in music from the University of Chicago. Tom’s also hosted a jazz show on WEFT-FM for several years.

The band is comprised of Table regulars and students of the day. Curt Morrison was also in Oscar Sulley’s Bontuku in 1985-1986;  Listen to Curt in Bontuku here. John Hurtubise played bass with almost everybody during his tenure, most notably with trumpeter Jeff Helgesen.

It doesn’t sound like there were a lot of people in the audience. As this was a happy hour gig in June, maybe everybody was enjoying $1 bowls of red beans and rice on the front step.

Tom Paynter Quartet – June 24, 1988

Tom Paynter Quartet
Live at Nature’s Table
Urbana, Illinois
June 24, 1988
Nature’s Table Archive – Vol. 16
Source: Unknown Cassette > ? > WAV > FLAC8
Mixing/EQ done on source tape: None
Recorded by Tom Paynter
Digital transfer by Jeff Machota
FLAC conversion, mixing/EQ and upload by Sean Kutzko
The Band:
Tom Paynter: Flute
Curt Morrison: Guitar
John Hurtubise: Bass
Mike Gould: Drums
(Total Time = 1:21:19)
01: Stella By Starlight (10:00)
02: Serenade To A Cuckoo (10:25)
03: All Of You (9:24)
04: Ode To A Hecklephone (9:21)
05: Autumn Leaves (9:27)
06: Banter1 (0:31)
07: Dolphin Dance (12:18)
08: Windows (8:55)
09: Banter2 (1:43)
10: 500 Miles High (9:10)