Tuesday, July 31, 2007

July 30th gig at The Palms

This night was massively cool. Major thanks to Ricky Peterson and Lenny Castro and Joe Melotti for coming to hang and sit in tonight. Wow! Props also gotta go to tenor sax sub Dan Philippus (above) from "The Producers" for comin' in and throwin' down the book so fine in Rob's absence. Below, the utterly amazing and gracious Ricky Peterson.

Above: the legendary Lenny Castro throws down! (Sorry, I had to bail to flash to get some of these shots 'cuz the bleeping lighting in the back is nil.) Below, my percussion pal Ron Crews (we actually had a rehearsal Sunday!) and Debbie diggin' the evening. Ron and I agreed that the band was exceptionally in the pocket tonight, the grooves were all right on the money, not too slow nor fast, just humpin' and thumpin' totally right there on it. I bet everyone in the crowd would agree.

I'm posting this stuff Tuesday morning, BTW, had to beg off after the gig, I was feelin' so crappy. I got a lot of keepers in my shots this time. A random sample follows.

Above: props to Johnson & Johnson brother Tyriq for comin' up and killin' us with "Soul Power." Below, Brother JJ.

Above: in case anyone didn't notice, Lenny was back last night. :-)

Below, my friend Dave Siefkes sent me this pic he shot of Ricky and me -- "Ricky Bobby" LOL!

When I first spoke to Ricky after the gig, the first thing I asked was "how's Patty doing?" Gloriously well, as it turns out. (Patty is his sister, one of the amazing, unbelievable Peterson Family.) Below. I'll repost a story about her that just ran in the Minneapolis paper the other day. It's incredible. We are all so glad she's recovered.
A Song in her heart

After a nearly fatal burst aorta and emergency surgery, Twin Cities jazz star Patty Peterson learns how to sing all over again for her comeback concert.

By Jon Bream, Star Tribune
Last update: July 27, 2007 – 6:27 PM

For a singer, a nursing home is both the easiest and the hardest gig of all. Easy because the audience is eager for entertainment and doesn't really care if you miss a lyric or a note. Hard because you have to find a sing-along tune that all these great-grandmas know other than "Beer Barrel Polka."

Patty Peterson, one of the Twin Cities' best-known jazz singers who has been working professionally for more than 35 years, is having a hard time at the Cerenity Care Center-Marian in St. Paul. No one wants to sing any songs on the lyric sheet she has distributed.

Mother's Day is only three days away, so naturally someone has requested "Mother," which Patty doesn't know. So she lets her mom and performing partner, Jeanne Arland Peterson, start it on the piano and Patty thrusts her microphone toward a woman in pink in the front row.

"M is for the million things she gave me," the 80-something woman with perfect pitch sings into the mike. Tears start streaming down Patty's face. Her 85-year-old mom, seated behind her at an electric piano, can't see that her daughter is losing it. The matriarch of Minnesota's First Family of Jazz carries on. At At song's end, Patty gets a hug and a crumpled, used tissue from Mom. Patty explains to the audience that she had emergency heart surgery in February and wasn't sure she'd make it.

"My mom was not here when I went into surgery," said Patty, 52. "She flew home. I needed my mom."

• • •

Feb. 12: After a recording session in south Minneapolis, Patty is driving home on 35W to Edina when her chest suddenly explodes with pain. Scared to death, she pulls her Jeep Cherokee to the side of the freeway and shifts into crisis mode, which for her, means doing the mothering bit and getting the triage in motion. She calmly calls 911 and then phones her husband, Stuart Paster, who is at home watching David Letterman's monologue with their 14-year-old son, Jordan.

Patty is ready for the EMTs. "Do I get a choice of hospitals?" she asks as they check her vitals. "Good, take me to Abbott Northwestern. I have a cardiologist there."

When she arrives in the ER, Stuart and Jordan are waiting. The EMTs are thinking either a heart attack or a burst aorta. Years ago, Patty had been treated at Abbott for a heart valve problem. Tonight, the ER doctors diagnose aortic dissection -- a tear in the wall of her aorta. Emergency surgery is ordered; a team swings into action.

While she is being wheeled to the operating room, she fires questions at a doctor on what is about to take place. Patty is well versed in wellness and alternative medicine, as anyone who used to listen to her talk show on WCCO Radio from 1997 to 2003 knows. But now there is no time for questions and answers.

"I'd like to get to know you better, but we've got to go," the anesthesiologist tells Patty after explaining that he'll insert a smaller tube down her throat because she's a singer. "When can I hear you perform?"Now," she insists as the drug-induced midnight approaches. And in full voice, she breaks into "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." At the double doors to the operating room, Patty glances at Jordan, the only one of her four sons still living at home, and in her sweetest voice sings "You Are My Sunshine."

Unbeknownst to Patty, Stuart has been talking to the surgeons about what's about to take place. The situation could be grave.

• • •

The 6½-hour surgery is successful: The day before Valentine's Day, Patty's heart is repaired. Of course, she wants to sing again -- was there ever any question? -- and be there for Jordan's homework and hockey games.

Stuart is already contemplating a comeback concert with the Petersons -- Minnesota's First Family of Jazz, featuring Jeanne Arland Peterson and her children, singers Patty and Linda; bassist Billy (who is in the Steve Miller Band); keyboardist Ricky (now on tour with Stevie Nicks); and singer/multi-instrumentalist Paul (now in Kenny Loggins' band), plus grandson Jason (saxophonist in Michael Bolton's group).

Stuart envisions the concert as a benefit for Abbott Northwestern. But first there will be a regimen of rehab for Patty's heart, voice, body and family.

• • •

May 4: Like a mom-to-be feeling her fetus, Patty monitors her tummy with her hand as she sings. It's rehearsal with the Girls, a harmonizing quartet in which she is the newest member. They're practicing for a service they'll lead in two days at a Lutheran church.

For a little more than an hour, she tests her brain, voice and partners, whose comedy is as spot-on as their harmonies.

"Honey, you're moving too fast for me," Patty warns pianist Lori Dokken, the group's leader.

"I know you've been sick and stuff," chimes in singer Erin Schwab with a tone that is more lighthearted than forgiving.

"No fricking mercy," Patty begs.

The humor is as much a tonic as the harmonizing. But the Girls realize the gravity of Patty's situation.

"I don't do Pilates," says Erin, who knows Patty does. "I don't do anything."We all should have had the heart attack," volunteers Judi Donaghy before a cigarette break.

Amid the banter and the musicmaking, Patty seems focused and confident about the upcoming Girls gigs: "I can fake it really well if I need to."

• • •

May 6: "I've been hearing a lot of talk about love," observes Patty, a regular speaker at churches who has a certificate that allows her to perform weddings. This Sunday morning, each of the Girls is giving testimony at Hope Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis.

"We haven't talked about gratitude," continues "Priestess Patty Peterson Paster," as the Girls like to tease her.

As she has done so many times in the past weeks, she talks about her excruciating chest pain and pulling to the side of the road, which is about as far as most people who suffer aortic aneurysms get before they die. "I had a pack of angels with me. I'm walking proof of the power of prayer. My heart is filled with gratitude."

She shows it with a song -- "Thankful."

• • •

May 11: Even though she has been singing professionally since age 15, Patty has never had a formal voice lesson. She never learned about doing stretching and breathing exercises before a performance.

"I'm not going to screw up your singing," Donaghy promises Patty as she walks her through palate-stretching exercises. Donaghy and Dokken, who is seated at the grand piano in Patty's living room, are not only members of the Girls but also on the faculty in the voice department at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul.

Today these Girls are Patty's personal trainers.

"It feels like I'm using more muscles in this 20-minute period of time than I have in three months," the pupil tells her teachers.

• • •

Between therapy sessions, Patty sings and dances at her oldest son's wedding. She officiates at singer Mary Jane Alm's wedding. She takes business meetings about a CD she's recording and she mentors a Christian singer, for whom she sings backup on CD and in concert. She recruits and rehearses the background singers for the Starkey Hearing Foundation's gala. And she does interviews to promote her comeback concert. Does Patty slow down?

Only for her son Jordan -- a studious, sports- and piano-playing teen -- who has suddenly become more clingy.

June 29: Patty has replayed that fateful night countless times in her head. She has done plenty of reading and research, talked with many doctors and nurses. But she has never met the SWAT team, as she calls them, who saved her life.

From ER to OR to ICU, Abbott's director of cardiac emergencies walks Patty through what happened in February, with a videographer capturing the replay moments. To give back to the hospital, Patty is making a film to help promote awareness of aortic dissection. At every stop, there are hugs and thank-yous, sometimes a few tears of joy and always lots of questions.

Wearing blue scrubs, Patty enters the operating room. Clutching her husband's hand, she listens as Dr. Fraser Eales describes the surgery. "It's like a symphony when it all goes well," he explains.

"I love the fact that you used the word 'symphony,' " Patty perks up.

Stuart looks awed. Patty looks humbled, grateful and emotionally overwhelmed. Jordan looks as bored as if he were attending a mandatory three-hour biology class.

• • •.

July 6: Paul Peterson, Patty's youngest brother, juggles more lineups than the Twins' Ron Gardenhire. Today, he is producing an album for Oleta Adams, best known for the 1991 Gulf War hit "Get Here," and both Paul and Oleta want Patty to sing backup vocals. She's a quick study, but not ready for an extra-long session.

On a scorching day, working in a chilly studio at the IPR Institute in downtown Minneapolis, Patty and her voice hold up for 11 hours -- longer than Oleta's or Paul's. But she's very tired after standing so long and desperately wants a back rub.

"I'm proud of myself," she tells Stuart at home. "I pushed myself to the limit."

• • •

July 13: "It's five months today, guys, that I had surgery," Patty proudly proclaims to the folks at Crave, a nicely appointed new restaurant in the Galleria in Edina, only a mile or so from her house.

This is her first true solo gig since the surgery -- three 45-minute sets, backed by a terrific trio tucked into a stageless corner by the wine rack.

"I'm completely amazed," bassist Billy Franze admits after the second set. "She's bounced back like a rubber ball."

Patty figures she's 90 percent recovered. She's still dealing with high blood pressure and lack of stamina, among other issues. On this night, her voice is dry. By the third set, her back is aching.

Stuart has gone home, and so has Patty's mother, who sat in on piano for a couple of numbers. It's 11 p.m., and the Friday-night audience, which filled the place during the opening set, has dwindled to one snuggling couple and a few familiar faces -- the bassist's wife, the pianist's young daughter and her two pals, and a bunch of Crave staffers.

"This is dress rehearsal," Patty announces to kick off the third set. No, she reconsiders. "This is life."
Wow. Bless you and your family.

To all of our Santa Fe blog fans, I hope the post was worth the wait. I was really feelin' like hell last night. Stressed from all this next-of-kin stuff I been doin' lately, I guess. Gotta run off and do some more of it shortly.

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