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 Tuesday, 01 December 2015
Jazz in the High 80s: Birthday Salutes to Jeanne Peterson, Irv Williams at the AQ PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Friday, 10 August 2007

Irv Williams Andrea Canter
Mid-August brings more than heat and humidity to the Twin Cities. It’s also time for celebrating birthdays of two local legends of jazz, pianist Jeanne Arland Peterson and saxophonist Irv Williams. And somehow they keep getting younger! On August 16th, the Artists Quarter will host the 86th birthday bash for Jeanne.

August 16, 7 pm. Although she began playing the piano at age three, Jeanne Arland Peterson did not take a formal lesson until she was 15—shortly before she had her first paying gig. From then on, her career as a pianist/vocalist was on star trajectory, her approach heavily influenced by the great Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. She spent 22 years performing on WCCO radio as well as around town on club stages and in recording studios. She was the organist for the Minnesota Twins from 1969-71, and built a resume that included work with Perry Como, Bob Hope, Dianne Carroll, Sonny Stitt, Roy Eldridge, Bud Shank, and George Benson. Along with Judy Garland, Jeanne is one of only two women in the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, and two Minnesota governors—Rudy Perpich and Arne Carlson--declared days in her honor. Additionally, Jeanne was the first woman to receive the prestigious Arts Midwest Jazz Masters Award for excellence in jazz musicianship (1977) and one of only two women in the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame (along with Judy Garland).

Jeanne Arland Peterson Don Berryman
Almost as amazing as her 70-year career in music is Jeanne’s role as head of Minnesota’s “First Family of Music.” She now heads three generations of talented musicians including five musician offspring. It’s hard to find a gig or recording in the Twin Cities that does not include at least one Peterson. And Jeanne is not content to sit back and enjoy the talents of her family—she is still gigging and arranging. Although Jeanne has said, “Age is just a number – and mine is unlisted,” the AQ will nevertheless be the scene of one big party, featuring Jeanne on keys and a lot of folks named Peterson in supporting roles. Sorry Jeanne, that’s 86 and still counting.

Irv Williams Andrea Canter
August 17-18, 9 pm. Raised in Cincinnati and Little Rock, Irv Williams first performed in the Twin Cities as a clarinet and sax player with the Navy during Word War II. Turning down invitations to play with Count Basie and Duke Ellington, he stayed in the Twin Cities, although his vita includes stints with Fletcher Henderson, Mary Lou Williams, and Billy Eckstein. Here at home, Williams has played at every jazz venue, past and present, including the old Flame Bar where he was often back to back with such stars as Sarah Vaughn, Dizzy Gillespie, and Johnny Hodges. The first jazz musician to have his own “Irv Williams Day” granted by the State of Minnesota (1984), he has been inducted into the Minnesota Jazz Hall of Fame and was pictured on the “Celebrate Minnesota” official state map in 1990. At the 2005 KBEM Winter Jazz Festival, Irv was one of three recipients of Lifetime Achievement Awards. Throughout his sixty-year career, Williams has focused on the Great American Songbook and the tenor sax as a solo vehicle. His knowledge of the idiom is legendary and fellow musicians marvel at his ability to play any song in any key. Noted Matt Peiken (St. Paul Pioneer Press), “Veteran saxophonist Irv Williams has always been about sweetness not power, and he's still gigging strong.” Irv is gigging and blowing as strong as ever, turning out three recordings in the past three years, including the acclaimed Duos (2006) with pianist Peter Schimke. As noted in City Pages, Irv Williams is “either the coolest old guy or the oldest cool guy in St. Paul.” The usual suspects (Peter Schimke on piano, Billy Peterson on bass, Kenny Horst on drums) and guests will help Irv blow out 88 candles—but he needs no help blowing that sax.

Maybe music does increase longevity. There’s no better proof than Jeanne Peterson and Irv Williams!

Come down to the Artists Quarter at 408 St. Peter Street in downtown St. Paul and celebrate birthdays with Jeanne Arland Peterson (August 16, 7 pm) and Irv Williams (August 17-18, 9 pm). See

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