Marian McPartland

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.