Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sun Ra Arkive Book Review: Pat Patrick: American Musician and Cultural Visionary by Bill Banfield

Pat Patrick: American Musician and Cultural Visionary by Bill Banfield, 
Rowman and Littlefield.
Bill Banfield's 2016 book, "Pat Patrick: American Musician and Cultural Visionary," chronicles the largely unsung, but massively important, jazz performer's life, times, music and philosophy. Published by Rowman and Littlefield, this 140 page hardcover includes previously unseen photographs and is a welcome addition to the existing core bibliography of excellent Sun Ra related books.

Of all of the beloved stalwart Sun Ra Arkestra members - from John Gilmore to Marshall Allen and June Tyson - none has received their own biography to date. Laurdine "Pat" Patrick is perhaps the most qualified first subject for his own book, because he had such a long, diverse and independent life outside of Sun Ra's sphere.

Now Bill Banfield, currently Director of the Center for Africana studies and professor at the Berklee College of Music, gives focus to Pat Patrick's fascinating life with his book that draws from diverse sources such as historical reportage, interviews with family and peers, excerpts from Patrick's journals and the extensive lists he kept of his professional accomplishments.

For long time devotees of Patrick's robust and expressive baritone saxophone playing that always wanted to know more about the person and his work, Banfield's book illustrates a well-rounded and complex picture of the soft-spoken musician's life and greatly expands our understanding of the man. By letting the source material speak for itself, Banfield doesn't bring his personal agenda to the subject, allowing readers to have their own unique emotional experience and interpretation.

"Pat Patrick: American Musician and Cultural Visionary" provides an insightful cultural perspective of the artist's times as an educated, thoughtful and principled African-American artist in the 20th century. The author gives context to the societal obstructions and aspirations Patrick gave uncompromising - yet graceful - voice to through his work, while always maintaining pride and humanity.

Through interviews with Patrick's family, the book tells the unflinching story of the affects his life choices had, and the emotional and philosophical lessons his children learned from them. Professor Banfield gives space to their individual stories and lets their words speak for themselves without imposing his own interpretation.

The young Laurdine "Pat" Patrick from Bill Banfield's "Pat Patrick: American Musician and Cultural Visionary"
For the first time in print, aspects of Patrick's career that were previously unchronicled are collected. Apart from it's human story, it is the book's most substantial contribution to Sun Ra scholarship. From the Pat Patrick Band's 7" single of "I Ain't Done Nothing To You" backed with "Hot Springs," the Andrew Hill Combo's 45 featuring Pat's composition "Down Pat," and Coleman Hawkins' performance of Patrick's "A Tune For The Tutor," to his compositions and performances with Mongo Santamaria, Johnny Zamot and James Moody, discovering these songs for the first time may be the greatest joy listeners will get from this story.

Devoted Sun Ra fans will likely approach this book hoping for a focus on Pat's time with the Arkestra and previously unheard stories. However, the book takes a different perspective and seeks to provide a more complete appreciation of the human being himself, not only as a member of Sun Ra's band. Ironically by not meeting preconceived expectations, it greatly exceeds them, offering a pleasantly surprising read and a far deeper learning experience.

Bill Banfield's "Pat Patrick: American Musician and Cultural Visionary" is highly recommended, and will hopefully bring further public attention to Pat Patrick's recorded work and Berklee College of Music collection.

- Christopher Eddy, Sun Ra Arkive

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