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Everyone's a Critic

The Observer's culture blog

Archives for August, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Scott Petersen: RIP - A Remembrance by Paul Keller

Scott Petersen

It is with incredible sadness that I report to you that our dear friend and awesome saxophonist, composer and arranger, Scott E-Dog Petersen, died Friday, August 11, 2011. Scott passed away after a long fight with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a double lung transplant and, in the last few weeks, trying to overcome an infection. Because of his chronic condition, Scott was expected to live only to 25 years of age but he made it to 55. He was one of the longest-living Cystic Fibrosis patients ever in history! His life was extended 3 years by his transplant.

Scott was one of my closest friends - more like a brother. He was an amazing multi-saxophonist and an incredible musical genius! But more importantly: he was a honorable man who was loved by everyone who knew him.

E-Dog loved fast cars (his email address was, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Larry Young, Thad Jones, parallel chord harmonies (lots of his compositions use parallel chord motion), the Blues, his Detroit and San Francisco friends, Dominic Dog, kids, his CD E-DOG-ORIKO (which in Japanese means: Good Guy) and most of all his beautiful mate Susan Zeitler (who cared for him and stood by him for the past 20 years).

The first time I met E-Dog was in 1982 in Grand Rapids, MI after he a Walt Szymanski played a Saturday night gig at the Intersection with the Usual Suspects. (He already had the nick-name E-Dog at that point) I showed up late to hear the band at the Intersection after my steady gig with drummer Bennie Carew. Walt, Scottie and I instantly became friends. We partied all night that night. After a night with no sleep, we went for Sunday breakfast at Gaia Restaurant and wound up jamming in the front window of that diner until we couldn't stand up anymore. What a great memory! Here's another one: When I was traveling in Europe somewhere (can't even remember where), I was in an electronics store and found a little electronic robotic dog called E Dog! I had to buy it. I saved it and it was a year before I was able to see Scott at my house on one of his Michigan visits. My little boy Nat gave him the E Dog and Scott roared laughing with pleasure when Nat gave it to him. Those are just two remembrances out of thousands of beautiful moments I spent with Scott.

Scott Petersen played in many Detroit jazz groups including the Motor City Jazz Quintet, The J. C. Heard Orchestra, the Paul Keller Orchestra (he was the lead alto saxophonist), the Sun Messengers, the Suspects, Johnny Bassett, and Bill Heid and the Blues Insurgents. He studied music at Oakland University with Marvin "Doc" Holliday, Sam Sanders and Herbie Williams. He was a beloved mainstay on the Detroit jazz scene for many years until his health issues forced him to move to the San Francisco Bay area where the climate was easier on his lungs. Not surprisingly, he had great success, as well, in San Francisco as a free-lance musician and steady member of the Mike Vax Big Band and Steve Lucky and the Rhumba Bums.

Scott fought all of his life just to stay alive but he never complained. Doctors say that playing the saxophone every day helped exercise Scott's lungs and extended his life by many years. Jazz and the saxophone certainly gave a deeper meaning to his life and his music gave great pleasure to many thousands of his friends and fans. Thankfully, we can remember Scott Petersen through several great recordings that he made including his own CD: E-DOG ORIKO, The Paul Keller Ensemble: TALL CORN, Bill Heid: WET STREETS and many others. Scott Petersen lived his life with grace, humor, humility, compassion and love. E-Dog was always trying to get good - to get better - to be the best he could be. I am comforted by the many fond memories of great musical experiences with E-Dog and laughing so hard that we could hardly move! I am a richer and better person for having known and loved Scott E-Dog Petersen!

Posted by John Hilton at 4:39 p.m. | 1 comment Bookmark and Share

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Peggy Page and her Grandfather Ernest on her wedding day

My grandfather adapted easily to change, which may be why he lived to ninety-seven. He defied the usual expectations of age that companies use to rationalize hiring only people with pre-pubescent arteries.

Ernest was born in a tiny log cabin in Virginia before automobiles and electric power. He served in France during World War I. He taught high school and was a school principal before getting laid off during the Great Depression, because he wouldn't falsify school enrollment to get more state aid. He was a whiz at geometry. No matter how many people were at the party - eleven, thirteen, seventeen - he could cut a round birthday cake into prime-ly equal slices.

He retired at seventy-nine from his job as a clerk at a school supply company that is still in business today. In his eighties, Papa discovered Chinese food. In his nineties, I remember him asking me "Are you getting paid enough at work?" - a radical question to ask a woman at that time. When reading the classics got harder for him to do, he became an avid fan and statistical expert on ACC basketball. He was the guy you'd call as your quiz show telephone life line.

He was so flexible in mind and spirit that a few years ago I dreamed he'd done his Christmas shopping online. When I woke up, I realized he couldn't have done that. He died before the internet entered our homes, but if he'd lived another decade, he would have been the neighborhood geek.

So for some people, the singalong version of The Sound of Music, which is playing at the Michigan Theaterat 7 p.m. Tuesday, is just some ancient, saccharine musical with corny, feel-good songs and children who adapt perfectly to their blended family.

But for me? This 1965 Best Film Oscar winner was the first film I remember seeing, and I saw it with Papa. We walked from his home in Cameron Village, Raleigh's version of the Old West Side, to the old movie palace on Hillsborough Street across from North Carolina State.

We went on a Sunday afternoon. It was cold. Papa wore his church suit and church coat, of course. My sisters and I wore our pastel Sunday school dresses, ankle socks and patent leather shoes.

Papa bought the tickets and turned to us. I can still remember that moment, that look of excitement on his face with those ticket stubs in his hand. He was taking his grand daughters to something splendid - a movie - today's equivalent of taking the grandkids to the moon or to Mars.

We sat in the worn burgundy velvet seats. Our petticoats rustled while we wiggled, waiting for the movie to start. I looked in awe at the gilded plaster ceiling and cornices.

When I was in college, I dated a guy who was a neighbor to the real Maria after the Von Trapp family moved to Vermont. My beau told me she was very different from the film Maria. He even used the b-word to describe her, but out of deference to Papa, I ignored his heresy.

To me, Maria is the rebellious, young novice nun who runs in alpine meadows, "is always late to everything except for every meal," who learned to look first before sitting down for dinner, finds her calling as a mother and a wife, and wears a knockout dress at her wedding in a cathedral that set the standard for my generation for what a royal wedding should be.

So on Tuesday evening, I will honor my Papa by taking my pierced, long-haired, twenty-one-year-old son to watch The Sound of Music at the Michigan Theater and see this film the way it is supposed to be seen.

I'll wear a flowered dress, perfume and heels, and ask my son to take a cell phone photo of me holding our ticket stubs in my hand as I stand on the sidewalk by the movie palace with the gilt ceiling.

Posted by John Hilton at 2:16 p.m. | 0 comments Bookmark and Share

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