Les Peetz, a writer who knew his way around some glorious jazz
Union member, jazz pianist, award-winning journalist, published author, attorney, legal services developer for the State’s Executive Office on Aging, son of a Big Island plantation supervisor… There’s a lot to the late Les Peetz, 68, a lot more that people never knew.
Originally from Laupahoehoe, Hawai’i, Peetz did a fair amount of traveling way beyond the islands to the Pacific Northwest, D.C., and Indiana. He studied law at Spokane’s Gonzaga University and received two excellence awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for “Letter from Hilo” and “Antique Alley.”
In 2014, his first published book, “The Holiday: Stories of Time and Place,” came out, indulging fully in an interest with writing, which sparked 15 years or so prior.
Earlier, in 2004, Peetz showcased his journalism skills on a profile of fellow Hawaii musician, jazz percussionist Noel Okimoto, for Honolulu Magazine as a regular contributor.
In his free time, Peetz — known around town as a really nice guy — would moonlight as a jazz musician sitting in on a number of gigs, performing quite a few of his own, and even appearing on stand-out recordings, including Tone Colors with acclaimed drummer Okimoto and bassist Dean Taba — both major session players for the big guns.
Recorded live at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Tone Colors featured the acoustic jazz trio tripping on standards and originals for the first time together.
Peetz was a huge Bill Evans fan, and it showed in the live recording, where he could be heard feeling out his parts and making the most of his time on unconventionally standard jazz tunes, as well as one or two of the trio’s own showstoppers.
Music fans loved him with established local singer and longtime collaborator Rachel Gonzales around town — and in quite a number of memorable albums. He played on Gonzales’ Four-Part-Inventions group, which incorporated jazz into a number of people-pleasing musical styles, as well as standard jazz with a personalized twist.
Gonzales’ friendship meant a lot to the late pianist, according to his Nashville-based son, Dr. Allan B. Peetz.
Les Peetz died June 10, 2018 of complications from cancer while in hospice care.
A tribute concert’s in the works. Email HaleKaiLani@hawaii.rr.com to be a part of it.