Berklee lands Patrick jazz treasure trove
Governor donates father’s legendary memorabilia
By David Abel
Globe Staff / March 17, 2010
The mischievous baritone saxophonist, known as much for accompanying jazz legends as for the deep, soulful bellow of his own compositions, left a trove of recordings, scores, photographs, and assorted personal artifacts.
The cultural legacy of Laurdine “Pat’’ Patrick, who died of leukemia in 1991, is like gold for music historians, said officials at the Berklee College of Music, who announced yesterday that they have received a vast collection of the musician’s archives as a gift from his son, Governor Deval Patrick.
“It was a lot of stuff, and we weren’t quite sure what to do with it, so we made contact with some cousins by marriage at Berklee,’’ the governor said in an interview yesterday. “Berklee is here in Massachusetts. We wanted to have access to it here as a family.’’
He added: “The material offers real insights into my father’s life and times, even for me.’’
Pat Patrick was best known for his 40-year association with band leader and composer Sun Ra, whom he accompanied on overseas tours and collaborated with on albums. Patrick also played with jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk.
“The story of Pat Patrick and the Sun Ra Arkestra is an important one for our students to know,’’ Berklee president Roger Brown said in a statement. “The band was dedicated to their own artistry and creativity and not commercial pursuits. They thrived by creating and populating their own community, which became a parallel universe to the mainstream music industry.’’
The Patrick Patrick collection includes original scores and arrangements by Patrick and Ellington; hundreds of photographs and negatives of Patrick on tour, in the studio, with his family, and with associates such as Monk and trumpeter Clark Terry; a ledger book from El Saturn Records, Ra’s label, in which Patrick tracked album sales from 1957-1959; a scrapbook of his music jobs in Chicago during the 1950s; and a recording of him playing trumpet at 10.
The collection will officially become part of the college’s Africana studies archive after a dedication ceremony and celebration of Patrick’s life March 24. The governor plans to speak at the event, and Berklee students and faculty will perform music written or recorded by his father.
Professor Bill Banfield, director of Africana studies, said Patrick’s career should serve as an example for students on how to become a complete artist, someone well-versed in a variety of disciplines, more interested in perfecting his skills than becoming famous.
“We want to teach musicians to be broader-based, deeper musicians and not just seeking to be on ‘American Idol,’ ’’ Banfield said. “Pat Patrick was a total artist. He wasn’t just interested in playing. His work expanded the traditional definition of a musician: He wrote, arranged, composed, orchestrated, and documented the culture.’’
Ed Hazell, a jazz historian from Somerville, said he was eager to spend time studying the collection, which he said includes “really stunning stuff that provides a unique window into African-American music.’’
He described Patrick as the rare musician whose skills allowed him to span many styles of jazz, from bebop to hard bop.
“Because he was so broad-based in his abilities, the collection reaches in all kinds of directions,’’ Hazell said.
Patick’s domestic life was more complicated, and the governor had a distant relationship with his father, who largely abandoned his family. In 1984, in one of the instances he reappeared, Pat Patrick showed up at his son’s wedding with a band. The music was his gift.
Pat Patrick was the son of a trumpet player and a native of East Moline, Ill., where he learned to play the baritone, alto saxophone flute, and clarinet.
In the early 1950s, he made a name for himself in Chicago, where he played with Sammy Davis Jr. and Eartha Kitt. He later signed on with the Sun Ra Arkestra, an African-American group known for its avant-garde compositions. In the 1960s, he accompanied Ellington and Coltrane, and served as musical director for Mongo Santamaria, the Cuban drummer. Later, he traveled around the country with several Broadway shows.
Patrick wrote more than half a dozen songs, including a fast-paced bebop tune called “Yeh, Yeh,’’ which became a hit after it was released in 1963 on Santamaria’s album “Watermelon Man.’’ It was featured in commercials for Chrysler and AT&T.
The governor said he learned about his father’s trove shortly after he was inaugurated.
“I got a call from a guy in East Moline who said he owned a storage facility,’’ the governor said. “He said the storage facility had been emptied out except for his papers and stuff and that he had on a couple of occasions thrown them away but then gone back to the Dumpster and got them out, because he just couldn’t bring himself to get rid of it.’’
The governor said the man drove to Massachusetts with the collection, which included boxes full of photos, journals, and original musical manuscripts in his father’s handwriting.
Patrick gave most of the collection to Berklee several years ago, and he said they have been cataloguing it ever since.
“Berklee students have dazzled [my wife] Diane and me on countless occasions,’’ the governor said. “I love the idea of giving such talented students something they might really make something of.’’
John Guilfoil of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. David Abel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.