Sunday, June 23, 2013

Jazz Face: Jeanne Arland Peterson, 1921-2013

© Andrea Canter

If Minnesotans only know one area jazz musician by name, it’s most like Jeanne Arland Peterson. Maybe they remember her as the organist for the Minnesota Twins 40 years ago. Or remember her voice and piano skills over two decades on WCCO radio. More recently, she was often heard with three (and later four) generations of family musicians on holiday concert and jazz festival stages, or with her daughters Patty and Linda at a Mother’s Day brunch. Area jazz fans delighted in her forceful swing and amazing dexterity that recalled her muses, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. With Judy Garland, Jeanne held the distinction as the only women in the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, and two governors proclaimed days in her honor. And she once joined the “other” grand dame of jazz, Marian McPartland, on a segment of NPR’s Piano Jazz.

Jeanne passed away today after 91 years of a life invested in music and family. And there was no tighter bond for Jeanne than music and family. Jeanne and her late husband Willie raised five amazing musicians (Linda, Ricky, Billy, Patty and Paul) and inspired many more across the next generations, within the family but also within the larger community of musicians. Over the years we all became part of the Petersons (Minnesota’s First Family of Music), through those holiday concerts, birthday celebrations at the Artists Quarter and Dakota, the family affairs on the stages of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and numerous fund-raising and celebratory events.

Failing health couldn’t keep Jeanne away from the piano. Even when it seemed she couldn’t muster the energy to face the day, she couldn’t pass up the chance to play one more song. Her music was her life source, and the legacy she leaves all of us.