GUY RAZ, host:
This is the music of jazz legend Sun Ra. He led this famous Arkestra for four decades, and for much of that time, Sun Ra was accompanied on the baritone sax by a man named Pat Patrick.
(Soundbite of music)
RAZ: Over the course of his career, Pat Patrick played with the greats -Coltrane, Monk, Ellington. Patrick died in 1991, too early to see his son, Deval, elected governor of Massachusetts in 2006. Shortly after Deval Patrick's inauguration, he acquired a vast archive of his father's work - photos, recordings, scores - a whole life in jazz packed into long-forgotten boxes.
Governor Patrick donated that collection to Boston's Berklee College of Music, and this past week, the school celebrated the opening of the Pat Patrick collection with a concert.
(Soundbite of music)
RAZ: And Pat Patrick's son, better known as Governor Deval Patrick, joins me from member station WBUR in Boston.
Governor, good to have you on.
Governor DEVAL PATRICK (Democrat, Massachusetts): Great to be with you, Guy. Thank you for having me.
RAZ: Are people who
Gov. PATRICK: Music sounds good, doesn't it?
RAZ: It does, it really does. Are people who may not know your biography surprised to discover that your dad was a pretty significant part of jazz history?
Gov. PATRICK: They are blown away, I think because - particularly, if you know Sun Ra's music - and folks look at me and say, well, that guy's pretty straight by comparison. But my relationship with my father was really through his music and really as adults. I didn't know him so well when I was growing up, and I'm grateful for that music as a pathway to have that relationship with him.
RAZ: And as you mentioned, you didn't really know your dad well growing up. You sort of got to know him in the last decade of his life. Did you have a sense as a kid of who your dad was in the jazz world?
Gov. PATRICK: My parents split when I was about four, and my father lived in New York for most of the time that I was growing up on the South Side of Chicago. And we would see him intermittently, you know, when he came through town on a concert tour. But I didn't appreciate his artistry until I was a late teenager, early 20s, and was a little more informed about the music.
And I didn't really appreciate his following really until recently, when these materials were donated by my family to Berklee. And the enthusiasm over there for it has just been marvelous.
RAZ: And I understand you didn't know about this collection of your dad's archives until pretty recently, right?
Gov. PATRICK: Well, not exactly. After he died in 1991, we had a memorial service early the following year out in East Moline, Illinois, which is where he grew up. He had left my sisters and me - I have a half-sister, Lashawn(ph), and my sister, Rhonda - all these papers. He was a total packrat. He kept everything, notes and playbills and recordings of his own, record albums that he had acquired over time.
We were so overwhelmed by all this material that we just took a few things, a few instruments, each of us, a few boxes of pictures and we left the rest of it in my grandmother's care. She passed away and then we didn't know what came of all the rest of this stuff.
And, Guy, it was shortly after I was elected governor of the Commonwealth, I got a call from a fellow who described himself as the owner of a storage facility in Moline, Illinois, and he said that there was an abandoned storage facility that had a few boxes left of papers that he had thrown out and then taken out of the dumpster over and over again over a course of a couple of years.
And finally, he said he'd read in the paper that I was elected and he wondered if I was related to Pat Patrick and would I like this stuff. And I said, well, in fact, he was my father and sure.
RAZ: Now, presumably, you haven't been able to look through everything, but I imagine you, simply out of curiosity, looked through some of it. What did you find in there?
Gov. PATRICK: There were thousands of photographs. There was correspondence, including some very touching and personal correspondence between him and my mother in the year or two after they first split up and where she was seeking a reconciliation and really amazing stuff. There were letters that my sister and I had written to him when we were six and seven and eight years old.
There were scores of parts he had played, including a score written for him by Duke Ellington.
RAZ: Your father is probably best known for this recording he made with Mongo Santamaria, and it's called "Yeh Yeh."
(Soundbite of song, "Yeh Yeh")
RAZ: This is very much a different sound, sort of swinging jazz.
Gov. PATRICK: Yeah.
RAZ: This album was actually a huge seller, probably the most successful record he was part of. This came out in 1963. Do you ever listen to your father's music now?
Gov. PATRICK: I do listen, and I'm, you know, as I have learned more about his music and his composition and arranging, which he did a great deal for Mongo Santamaria. There's another famous tune of his called "Watermelon Man," and you got to take some time to really absorb that, and I've been trying to do that more as the years have gone by.
RAZ: Do you play any instruments? Did that kind of genetic code get passed down to you?
Gov. PATRICK: You would have to ask?
RAZ: I would, yeah.
Gov. PATRICK: I studied percussion for years and I love music. I can read music. I got more interested in melody over the years. So, when I have some time, I'm going to study piano.
RAZ: Are there things that you discovered about your father that you didn't know until you started to sort of look at the archives that he left behind?
Gov. PATRICK: I didn't appreciate until a few years ago just how great his range was. I didn't fully appreciate his relationship with Thelonious Monk, the time he spent with Count Basie, his work with John Coltrane, and how central he was to their work.
And you know what? I guess I also didn't appreciate just how deep his fan base was, how many people knew about and appreciated him. And I know that he spent a lot of his life feeling unappreciated. So, the fact that they've made such a fuss over at Berklee College of Music over what, for my sister and me, was really the cleaning out of our attic is a very nice thing.
RAZ: Governor, for most of his career, your dad tended to accompany other musicians, great musicians. But at one point, he did take the band leader role, and he made a record - it's called "Sound Advice"(ph) - in 1977. And on that record, he had a piece called "Uptightedness(ph)."
(Soundbite of song, "Uptightedness")
RAZ: Governor Patrick, I know you saw your father play.
Gov. PATRICK: Yes.
RAZ: What was he like on stage?
Gov. PATRICK: Completely involved. He made a point of listening very, very closely to what was going on around him and feeding off of what the other musicians were doing and building on it. He would talk about how this or that musician was saying something and not saying something and he was trying to say something back in what he was playing.
The only time I ever saw him focus on something or someone who was not in the ensemble he was with was at my 25th birthday. When I was working in Washington, I was in law school and working in Washington in the summer and he came through on a concert tour and called and said, would you like to get together for your birthday? And I can't remember when before then we had last had a birthday together.
And he was performing at jazz club in Northeast Washington called Pigfoot. I'll never forget it; small club. And he asked me to come by and I did for the late set. And I sat at a little table by myself and he saw me come in, and he said, I want to dedicate this next number to my son whose birthday is today. And, mind you, you know, we had been groping toward having a relationship for years at that point, not always smoothly.
And he played this wonderful old standard called "I Can't Get Started," which has these incredibly, for us, meaningful lyrics. I don't know if you know the tune but it's, I think it goes something like: I've been around the world in a plane, I've started revolutions in Spain. The North Pole I've chartered, still I can't get started with you.
And it said so much about our relationship and his understanding of our wanting this relationship and not quite being able to get it. And he played this incredibly soulful solo and we just locked eyes through the whole thing. And I would say that that was the best and most meaningful bridge for the two of us in finding a place for each other.
(Soundbite of song, "I Can't Get Started")
RAZ: That's Deval Patrick. He is the 71st governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The work of his father, jazz saxophonist Pat Patrick, was honored this past week at the Berklee College of Music.
Governor Patrick, thank you so much and congratulations.
Gov. PATRICK: Thanks a lot, Guy. Be well.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.