America Patton: Son of Rufus Harley
Updated: Jan 6
The composition, Theme for the Eulipions written by Rahsaan Roland Kirk with words by Betty H Neals begins;
“Ah Hun, you wouldn’t forget him either, if you had met him where I met him, talkin’ about desolation, Lord, desolation is a railroad station round about 2am on a weeknight, when you walk into desolation like that, and suddenly, out of nowhere comes a warm song, you aren’t about to forget it.”
Being around trumpeter, America Patton, you begin to feel like you are wrapped in a warm song. His mind is always engaged. His soul is always clear. America, as his father, jazz bagpipe player, Rufus Harley named him, is here for a purpose.
As a child, America begged his father, “Why, why did you name me that? They make fun of me.” He dad replied, “Son I thought long and hard before I named you that. You are here for a purpose and your name tells people that.”
The short film, or mini-mentory, as it is called, America Patton: The Man, The Mentor, The Musician. Begins with a statement: “The legacy of legendary jazz musician Rufus Harley, as well as the site of the Quindaro ruins, is carried on by one man: America Patton.”
In high school, America tried to play football, but an injury ended that career. As America puts it,
“I was cryin’ all the way home, I thought my career is over. But I’m not going to give up. It is discipline. The game is 80% mental, music is 80% mental, it’s not about how many notes I can play, how many tunes I know, it’s about the lifestyle. It’s about what I do off the band-stage.”
This attitude alone keeps this young man on his trajectory. He goes at everything in life as if it is part of this trajectory, one piece of the whole of eternity being lived in this very precious moment.
Minnesota Avenue, Quindaro and all of eastern Kansas, in fact are his home. He is a substitute teacher of history with the drive of a CC Rider. Going from school to school, in town after town as if he is on a one-man Church Circuit Pastor, spreading the gospel of Black History to any and all who will hear it.
Young and Old.
Elderstatesmen Elliott Clemons baritone saxophone, Lee Edward Brown baritone saxophone, America Patton trumpet, Morgan Faw alto saxophone, Steve Hicks bass, Gary Nelson guitar Not pictured, Reggie Watkins piano, Kenneth Davis drums
Before Christmas, America stopped by the American Jazz Museum to help Gerald Dunn drop off meals to musicians who were unable to get out that night. Shut in, not quite up for the weather, or perhaps without a car, America stepped in and joyfully took care of those who could not help themselves. He knows what it is like to be an Elder Statesman of Jazz. Five of his siblings grew up in KCK with their mother and the other six in Philly, where his father lived.
Rufus Harley had 12 kids in all, and the one named America has a lot of goals. He has a teaching degree, he makes his own recordings, he’s the father of a beautiful 9-year-old girl. He helps his brothers and sisters re-release his father’s work and keep up Harley’s website.
America has a passion for history. Especially the buried history of the Quindaro district of Kansas City, Kansas. Quindaro was thriving in the eighteenth century. The Underground Railroad and John Brown himself have a strong connection to the area. Western University was once a prestigious Black University.
American has a goal of celebrating that history. A well-appointed museum and a National Historic Area are underway, with America leading the charge, and with the help of the Kansas City Kansas Community College and others.
A few years ago, America’s dad, Rufus Harley had a gig in Paris. This was when America was attending college. One night, after he came home from school Rufus Harley said, “Son, you have to come play with me in Paris.”
Knowing that it would be a problem, America was reluctant to ask for time-off from classes. Besides, he didn’t feel confident enough on the trumpet to, “get up on the world stage.” But he asked the Lord for strength and then he went and did what he had to do.
A loving audience greeted father and son in Paris. His brother, Messiah played saxophone on the trip. The attentive listeners remembered Rufus Harley from his 1960s European appearances with saxophone legend Sonny Rollins and tours of the Ray Charles Orchestra. Rufus was, after all the ONLY jazz bagpipe player. The crowd was excited to welcome their friend back and they were just as happy to welcome his warm song of a son and his brother, Messiah.
The short film, or mini-mentory, America Patton: The Man, The Mentor, The Musician can be found at www.truththereason.com – proceeds from the small fee you’ll pay to watch it go to support America’s work in KCK. You may want to see it, before the warm song steps into your life, as he stepped into mine.