Marian McPartland, 1918-2013

Marian McPartland, jazz musician, composer, educator, broadcaster, and keeper of the flame, has died:

Marian McPartland, a jazz pianist and composer whose radio show “Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz” was National Public Radio’s longest running and most widely carried jazz program, has died. She was 95.

McPartland died of natural causes Tuesday night at her home in Port Washington, N.Y., NPR reported.

One of the jazz world’s most visible female instrumentalists, McPartland’s highly personal style was rich with colorful harmonies and briskly swinging rhythms, enhanced by a love of bebop, while adapting smoothly to the many stylistic changes taking place in jazz over the course of a career spanning more than half a century.

“Marian McPartland is a harmonic genius,” pianist Bill Charlap said. “Her singular musical voice encompasses the past, present and the future of jazz.”

NPR also has a lovely obit.

In the historic semi-impromptu photograph “A Great Day in Harlem”, pictured above, possibly the greatest assemblage of jazz musicians ever, taken in 1958, she’s standing in the first row.

Marian McPartland is a great favorite around here. We must have a dozen of her recordings. And we were enthusiastic listeners to her radio program, Piano Jazz, for many years.

One of my favorite memories is of Marian McPartland. One Sunday afternoon, many years ago, we drove up to hear a workshop conducted by her at one of the small theaters at Ravinia, summer home of the CSO and the location of the oldest music festival in the United States. As we stood in line, waiting for the “first come, first served” tickets, the heavens opened and the throng of hardy fans were drenched with, perhaps, two inches of summer showers. Under the circumstances we were allowed into the theater a bit early.

When Ms. McPartland and the other members of her trio showed up on stage, she looked out at the dripping, bedraggled audience and said “I don’t know what a ‘workshop’ is. What would you like me to play?” Someone in the audience shouted “Here’s That Rainy Day!”, the Jimmy Van-Heusen-Johnny Burke standard. She played a lovely rendition. The next two hours were filled with her giving tips to a few young musicians who’d been signed up for the event, stories, and her unmatchable playing. It was grand.

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