Wednesday, August 21, 2013
I first heard "Piano Jazz", her weekly NPR radio program that started n New York City in 1964 before going national (and international) in 1978, 25 years ago when we began taking summer trips to the Adirondack Mountains in New York State. The show consisted of Ms. McPartland interviewing a musician (often a pianist) about his or her music and upbringing, giving her subject room to perform and, then, joining that musician in 1 or 2 or, many times, 3 duo performances. And, she had no qualms about inviting people whose music seemed quite different from her "straight-ahead" stylings. Pianists such as Mary Lou Williams, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, George Shearing, Jaki Byard, Clint Eastwood (yes, he plays), Kenny Barron, Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley, Matthew Shipp, an Middletown, CT-based Noah Baerman sat at the instrument across from her as did musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Kurt Elling, Milt Jackson, Willie Nelson, and even the great journalist Studs Terkel. The shows were often gracious, sometimes a bit raucous, but always honest. She treated everyone the same, as a musical equal and always did this with wonder in her voice and appreciation for the talent that every guest brought to the program.
Over her career, one that spanned 70 years, she recorded over 30 Lps and CDs, spending over 3 decades (1978 - 2009) and issuing 21 albums for the Concord Jazz label. Selected "Piano Jazz" shows were also released on the label. She was a prolific composer, not only composing for her Trios but also for Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra.
Marian McPartland lived a long life, a full life and a good life. We are extremely lucky to have has her wit, wisdom and talent in our lives. You can search for her shows archives by going to www.npr.org/series/15773266/marian-mcpartland-s-piano-jazz.