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Marian McPartland at 86

By Published: July 22, 2004

MM: That was this year, actually. It was for "Piano Jazz" and for the things I've done in schools with kids. I did not appear at that gross affair they have. You know, they always have the jazz people separate as if they're not quite up to the standard of the big concert. So I didn't go to the big concert. If I had, I guess I would have received the award there, but I didn't want to go to that. So, anyway. Norah Jones made a speech about me so I was sort of featured in the big concert. I was thrilled to have her do it. Oh, and they just showed a picture of me that was terrible. But I was so thrilled to have the Grammy. I think it's wonderful.

LV: Yes it is. Congratulations. I did see Norah Jones announce that on stage, now that you mention it. That's fantastic.

MM: She's so great. I love that chick, and her Mother is equally nice. We've become great friends.

Have you heard of a kid named Taylor Eigsti?

LV: Yes I have. We have one of his records.

MM: Well, don't you think he's good?

LV: Oh yeah.

MM: He's going to be at Tanglewood with us on the 4th of September. I really predict that he'll be a - I don't see anybody that you could call 'great' coming up, but he certainly will be somebody that will be very, very good, I think. He's got a good personality. Very funny kid. We had a wonderful time on "Piano Jazz" so Tanglewood should be a blast.

LV: All right. I really did enjoy that show you did with Norah Jones, that live concert came off well. You know Norah Jones was educated up at Interlochen?

MM: I know.

LV: That's near Sutton's Bay, right up in the same neck of the woods.

MM: I spoke to somebody who mentioned that Interlochen is close by and a lot of people will come over. That will be great....I hope they have a descent piano.

LV: They usually bring one in from Detroit. They usually get a Steinway, or in your case a Baldwin, right?

MM: Baldwin is sort of getting to be a bit funny. I don't know what happened, but a few years ago they suddenly went bankrupt and Gibson bought the whole outfit. Since then they haven't seemed to be doing an awfully good job of providing pianos. In fact, I really don't care. I'd just as soon be on a good Steinway or Yamaha just as well. I better check what they've got up there.

LV: Well, the last two festivals have featured Ramsey Lewis and Ahmad Jamal and they've had Steinways for them. Marian I'm sure you're about ready to wrap up and get on with your day, but, has the Internet drastically changed your life?

MM: I honestly don't know. At the risk of being a fuddy-duddy I don't have a computer; I don't have e-mail; and I really don't need something in my house that I would be sitting in front of for hours. I need to get up and walk around and keep my knees from getting bad, which is what's happening.

So I have a friend who works for me once a week. She's got e-mail, so anybody that must send an e-mail, they send it to her and she faxes it to me. Sounds like a long way of doing things, but it works for me.

I would really hate to have e-mail. It's bad enough with all the mail I get. Every mail has a CD in it from somebody who wants to be on "Piano Jazz." The house is in turmoil with records on every space. In the kitchen and in the dining room is covered with records. I don't have a big enough house to accommodate everything.

I get rid of a lot of them. I mean, people that really shouldn't think they should be on "Piano Jazz": you get singers, bad piano players and it's really hard to keep up with people.

LV: They've got to get back to the woodshed, right?

MM: Well...

LV: (laughs)

MM: Not exactly. A lot of them you just look at them and think how could this person want to be on "Piano Jazz"? I pack them all in a box and send them to the library. They love to have them.

LV: How much recorded music do you listen to a day?

MM: Well, it depends. Sometimes none. But having got this record that we made doing three pianos I've been listening to that a lot. And then I just got Diana Krall's new record so I listened to some of that. But I get so much I kind of fast-forward some of the things. I don't know that I listen that much.

I listen to the radio station a lot, WBGO, to try to hear what's new and coming up that I hadn't heard.

I'm just about to call Taj Mahal and have him on the show. I think he'd be a good guest, wouldn't he?

LV: Oh, beautiful. You know the last time we spoke you were just getting ready to do Artie Shaw. You were in negotiations to get Artie Shaw on the show.

MM: Well, we did. But it's so hard because he kept getting sick and being in the hospital. So eventually what we did was we did the show with Dick Sudhalter. Do you know him?

LV: Sure. Bix's biographer. The trumpeter.

MM: I had Artie tape a whole bunch of stuff at his house. What we did, Sudhalter and I would talk, and then we'd interpolate something by Artie, either a record or him talking about something. In fact they're going to replay it this summer.

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