By now, most of you know that I lost my good friend Pat Cerello two weeks ago....I guess the reality of Pat's passing didn't start to hit me until a few days ago. Although the hurt and loss was immediate, it was over the past few days that I began to realize the impact that Pat had on me as a friend and a musician, and I also realize the incredible void that he leaves behind, which is felt by so many.
I first met Pat during the summer of 2000 - I was playing gigs with saxman Tom Hamilton in Northeast PA, and Tom got me on a gig with "The All-Night Band", filling in as a trumpet player (with the occasional vocal tune). After years of playing easy, by-the-book Top 40 gigs, this opportunity was invigorating, as it was a gig where all of my favorite styles of music (jazz and r&b in particular) were played, and I had to really bring my "A" game on each and every gig....Pat soon realized that being a vocalist is my strong suit, and he offered me a full-time gig with the band. From this our friendship developed quickly, and my ears were opened to a whole new level of musicianship!
The gig that really allowed Pat and I to bond was the now-imfamous "Gig From Hell", which happened Labor Day weekend 2001 (10 days before 9/11).....we played a wedding for a friend of Pat's up in Lake Placid, and to say it was exhausting was an understatement....schlepping 6 hours up to Lake Placid to crappy overnight accomodations with no showers, cold temperatures, and being the "secondary" band to Johnny Maestro & The Brooklyn Bridge (seriously....these guys all looked and sounded like used-car salesmen with bad combovers!) would be enough to make most guys turn around and go home, but Pat did everything in his power to keep everyone in good spirits, all things considered. I rode up and back with him that weekend in his brand-new Volvo, and we spent hours talking about life, family, and of course, music. Pat and I found out that we had many things in common (we both have older siblings that were put up for adoption that we reconnected with), and the time we spent hanging out that weekend is something that I will never forget.
Pat and his family are the true definition of generous - anytime that I was at Pat's house late after a gig, his wife Cindy made sure I did not leave the house without a "to go" cup of coffee for my drive back to Pennsylvania. And anytime you were at the house, you knew you would get a good meal....(I admit, there were a few times when I skipped lunch driving up to Pat's house, because I knew my tummy would be happier from Cindy's leftovers compared to anything I would get at McDonalds!) I think about the conversations that Pat and I had in his downstairs recording studio about how talented his daughters are (the understatement of the year), and the hours of us listening to music and trying out musical equipment, and how much I learned about life spending time with him and his family, and I know that I'm truly blessed to have had such quality time.
Pat and I had the 'stupidest' of fights a few years back (a fight well documented by some), but I'm thankful that we were both able to put aside our differences and patch up our friendship. It meant a lot to me to gig with Pat during the last couple of years, as there was a comfort and a routine to playing music with him that I have never felt playing with anyone else. It still blows my mind that Pat could play at such a virtuoso level, even when he was either worrying about an angry bride, or if the band got fed after the first or second set. He would always talk about how much better he played when "he wasn't the bandleader", and that was one of the primary motivators for me to invite him to play the "Partners In Crime" gig with me in Woodstock two years ago...that for me is my "Super Bowl" gig - there wasn't anything earth-shattering about the gig, but for me, it was an honor to have my brother Lee and my "brother from another mother" Pat on the same stage, as they are two musicans that I will always look up to. To see them having fun and playing their asses off is something that I will always cherish!
I guess what has been really hitting me hard is knowing the void that many of us feel right now, as Pat's time came way too soon. Knowing that I won't hear him play "In a Sentimental Mood" anymore frustrates the hell out of me, as that was always the highlight of my gigs with Pat. He played a solo on the credenza that was always a MOTHERFUCKER (sorry to be so blunt, but there is no other word to truly describe how good his solos were)....as our friend Jan Stevens said at Pat's funeral service, Pat had sense of humor that he would share at the gigs and that he would also incorporate into his music, and that was always refreshing.....who else would encourage me to sing songs like Surfin' USA and Beer Barrel Polka on gigs, as not only was I the only black person in the band, but also the only black person at the 200-guest wedding?
Pat, I miss you terribly, and I will never forget all the fun times we had over the last 11 years.....I feel like you gave me my Master's Degree in "Gigology", as you challenged me to reach my musical potential in a way that nobody else ever has....please rest in peace knowing that your friends will do everything that we can to be there for your family, and know that we will never let your musical legacy be forgotten. Love ya, man...