Marian McPartland, gone too soon at 95

Marian McPartland - St. Joseph's Villa

You can hear Marian McPartland’s playing of “Key Largo’ by clicking the media player here and listen as you read.

Very sad to learn today of the passing of an all-time favorite and one of the most underrated musicians of the 20th century. The absolutely amazing Marian McPartland. I think the fame from being the host of her radio show, Piano Jazz, was something that actually drew attention away from her own singular greatness.

She was a magnificent jazz artist. She lived a long life, but along with the passing of Cedar Walton just a few days ago, this is a very sad day in the history of music. I listen to her all the time. In the last 15 years or so I’ve come to truly understand and accept how really great she was. Very sad.

From the LA Times obituary:

“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.”

Critic John S. Wilson described McPartland’s playing in a New York Times review as a “series of paces that were, in effect, a thumbnail history of jazz styles. She took it from basic ragtime to very modern harmonies, throwing in some bebop and some stride piano, shaping the whole concept into an exhilarating performance.”

“One of my greatest influences was Duke Ellington,” she wrote in a 1999 article for Piano & Keyboard Magazine. “I listened to Fats Waller (though not as much as Duke), [but] I never really got into stride piano. Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton, with whom I later worked, influenced me, as did Mel Powell, Teddy Wilson and Jess Stacy. Then other people came into the picture, like Art Tatum and Bud Powell. What has stayed with me is Bill Evans.”

Yes. Bill Evans. He oozes out of everything she did. As well as Duke. This great lady of jazz will be sorely missed.



    1. It’s very sad for me. I have song lists made and a lot for later in the evenings when we want to cool out our brains… Key Largo and It Was Just One of Those Things are on those lists. We listen to them almost every night. Last night included. I started last night with Key Largo and said to Bernadette, we listen to this too much. Next day find out she’s gone. I used to listen to Piano Jazz on NPR from a car radio or at home in the steel mill town where I came from. After going to music school at Berklee in Boston it was like keeping a connection alive with the big city world of jazz and thinking about jazz and music that had been my life at Berklee. Connections exactly like those are what kept me in some kind of loop that inspired me or drove me to finally move to Los Angeles (starting) 28 years ago. But this lady could play that piano. Cedar Walton just died and he is an all-time great as well, great composer to a degree that Marian wasn’t. But other than jazz fame and reputation, Cedar Walton had nothing on Marian McPartland as a pure player. She was every bit the equal of everyone but the absolutely pinnacle of artists like Bill Evans or Horace Silver. JMO.

      Thank you for commenting and visiting!


      1. Thanks for sharing that additional information. Whilst life has taken me away from my childhood piano lessons, now that I am of retirement age I am enjoying rediscovering the joy of piano music. We recently discovered a little jazz piano bar in our nearest town……an 80 year old one-legged piano man provided beautiful entertainment in a cosy little bar/restaurant. I just read in the newspaper the other day that he had died. At least we were able to listen to him once….and hopefully they will find a replacement for him.

      2. Well it’s sad that these musical inspirations have passed, it’s great that you are reconnecting with the music inside of you at this point in your life. I’ve been musically speaking out of it for most of this year. I feel like MMs passing reawakened something in me even if just for a little while.

        Thanks for visiting and good luck with those piano lessons.


  1. Thank you for visiting today and commenting, I could not get my “reply” to work so I just came “calling”…Your work is outstanding. An artist must paint or photograph as they see the image and your on spot with it all. Keep up the wonderful work. Ann

  2. Marvelous piano work. First I’ve heard of her too, now I’ll have to look her up and see what I can find.

    Sad to hear she’s gone, but we all just stick around a little while and that’s it. She left something special for those that know of her, there’s a gift.


  3. Heard her last night on the way home on a repeat of Piano Jazz, and realized this morning I hadn’t paid enough attention to remember who her guest was 😦

    It will come to me in a quiet moment

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