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Marian McPartland at 86

By Published: July 22, 2004

LV: I bet you have a rhythm section on the West Coast and New York.

MM: I do. I have a West Coast rhythm section and a New York rhythm section. I've got them spread out all over the place.

LV: I'm sure it's an honor to play with you, too.

MM: Well, I don't know. It's, um, we've been doing it for quite awhile. I've been working with them for a long time. Anyway, then I'm going out to California later to play at Monterey. And that'll be nice. Then I'll use my other rhythm section! The California one.

LV: Someone told me you're currently in the studio right now. Is that true?

MM: That I'm in the studio? No, I'm not. I'm trying to get the record that I made at my birthday party last year, trying to get that out, and the lawyers are diddling around with it and it probably won't be out until next year. I don't know.

We had a tremendous party at Birdland. We had Norah Jones, Tony Bennett, Phil Woods, Nnenna Freelon, Barbara Carroll, and on and on and on. We had a wonderful time. We're hoping to get this thing out this year but God knows whether we will.

I understand Concord just bought Fantasy. So, they're working with that right now. It's a big deal. The only thing that I can think of that I like that's on Fantasy is the record Bill Evans made with Tony Bennett.

LV: Wasn't Brubeck on Fantasy for a minute? And they own that Original Jazz Classics catalogue.

MM: Years ago he was. They got all that stuff. It put Concord into a better category, I think.

Who knows what's going on in the record business? Boy, I'm just quietly doing my thing, and I hope they'll look around and get my record out.

LV: I hope so, too. What about your record label, Halcyon?

MM: Well, Halcyon is still a valid label. Concord took over some of them. Actually, I put one out myself just for fun. I made a record with Teddi King. Do you ever remember her?

LV: No.

MM: Well, it's a shame: nobody does. Last year at the festival they did a tribute to her, so just for laughs I put out my Halcyon recording of her. Just printed up 3,000 copies and sold them at the festival.

LV: What festival was that?

MM: Part of George Wein's. We did a tribute to Teddi at the Danny Kaye Playhouse. Just part of George Wein's festival that he has every year, you know, the JVC Festival in New York.

This year it's their 50th Anniversary so I'll be playing at Newport, Rhode Island, in that part of the festival.

LV: The Newport Jazz All Stars came through Muskegon this year.

MM: Oh did they? Who were they all-starring this time?

LV: Well, it was Cedar Walton and the band had, boy, Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums and then James Moody and James Carter and Randy Brecker, and Howard Alden. (see review ).

MM: Not a bad group!

LV: That's a big deal, Newport's 50th Anniversary.

MM: It is. So, I'm evidently playing some duets with Renee Rosnes and, Oh! Jason Moran. I love him. Then they couldn't think who to put me with for the third go around so I asked, "Why not George Wein?" (Laughs). He's not the world's greatest pianist, but I think it would lend a touch of something or other to the 50th Anniversary if George and I played a duet.

LV: I think he was kind of an Earl Hines guy, right? His main influence was Earl Hines?

MM: Yes, absolutely. In fact I remember when he had the festival in Nice he had Earl Hines on the roster and Earl Hines and I did a duet. Several duets. I kept thinking I know he's going to call off "Rosetta" in a minute. He did. Luckily it is a tune I like to play.

LV: That's incredible that you played with Fatha Hines. He is one of the great virtuosos of all the music.

MM: Well, I went to South America with him — I was so lucky - with a piano quartet: Earl, Teddy (Wilson), Ellis Larkins and little old me. We went all over South America in the 1970's. I recorded it all on Halcyon.

LV: That's the "Concert in Argentina?"

MM: Yes. Right. You probably have that.

LV: I've heard that one. But I also know there's at least one solo record by Earl Hines on your label that hasn't come out on CD yet, right?

MM: Yes, it's on LP. Well, um, I didn't do anything about it. I probably should have because, what? it was his 100th anniversary or birthday recently, wasn't it?

LV: The thing is the playing he did in the 70's when you were with him is some of the strongest playing of his whole career. I mean, everybody loves "Weatherbird" and the music with Jimmie Noone's band and his own big band; but in the 70's when he was playing solo piano he was one of the most marvelous musicians. He was so creative. For you to have interacted with a guy at the level at that time is something else. Chiaroscuro hasn't brought out the solo records on CD, either, so I think a lot of people don't know that stuff very well, which is too bad because it is some of the great piano music recorded in jazz.

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