At this point, Pat Patrick might be best known for abandoning his wife and children. That’s because his son, Deval, has made the story of his childhood struggle a central part of his biography as he campaigns for governor.
But the elder Patrick has long been a cult figure among music fans. He ditched the family to play saxophone with the Sun Ra Arkestra, the space-obsessed avant-garde jazz big band whose leader envisioned the black race moving to another planet in the solar system.
It’s hard to imagine that Deval, with his squeaky-clean persona and corporate lawyer background, is the offspring of a crucial member of one of the single wildest bands of the 20th century. But sure enough, Sun Ra fanatics say Patrick was an Arkestra mainstay.
“He was with the Arkestra pretty steady from 1956 to the late ’60s, and then was back with them periodically after that,” says Charlie Kohlhase, a Boston-area saxophonist and host of a weekly jazz show on WMBR-FM.
The Arkestra lived communally and ran their own label, pressing tiny numbers of each record. Its members performed in glittering costumes that could be described as half-Egyptian, half-spacesuit, and the music managed to mix together swing, chants and early electronic instruments.
But, Kohlhase points out, Patrick was a “really creative musician who could work in a lot of situations. He played with [Latin jazz great] Mongo Santamaria, and also played with Thelonious Monk for a bit in the early ’70s.”
A tune Patrick co-wrote for Santamaria, “Yeah Yeah,” even became a fluke Top 40 pop hit when covered by British singer Georgie Fame.
Deval Patrick’s campaign press office did not respond to several inquiries about his dad. “It’s interesting how they don’t really bring this out,” says Kohlhase.
Still, the younger Patrick has long made his father’s jazz career a part of his official biography. And a 1993 Globe profile talked about how Pat Patrick showed up, unexpected, when his son graduated from Milton Academy. “I think he was distrustful of his son going to the ‘white man’s school,’” says Kohlhase.
The Globe story also mentioned that Pat Patrick played a song at his son’s wedding, the jazz standard “I Can’t Get Started.” It’s a tune he had recorded with the trumpeter Blue Mitchell. But Deval Patrick told the paper that “that tune sort of summed up our relationship.”