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Interviews

Marian McPartland at 86

By Published: July 22, 2004

LV: That's a great line-up on "Piano Jazz" this summer with all those top shows coming out. That's great.

MM: I would love to get him just alone but it's too hard. He's very—it's a shame, the poor guy, he's so deaf and he's got whatever that eye thing is, Macular Degeneration, and can't see very well. That's really a shame because there's a man who loves to read and he can't read anymore. He's not taking it very well. He's just lying around doing nothing. Which is really a shame. He just had his 94th Birthday. I hope I'll see him when I got out there to do Monterey.

LV: Need to cheer him up.

MM: I try, but he's very hard to cheer up. (Chuckles). He's totally, 'the glass is half empty.'

LV: Yeah, "The Trouble With Cinderella."

MM: He can write. There's so much that he could do, but he's really doing very little of anything. Although he was telling that me he's trying to walk again. But he doesn't do any exercise; just lying on a couch all day. So, anyway, the show came out fairly well.

LV: Yes, it did. Just the last time we spoke you were getting it together and jumping through all those hoops.

MM: Yeah, jumping through all those hoops. There's a guy out there in Portland named Ted Halicks - I don't know if I told you about this - and he has done a whole series of interviews with Artie, like his whole life. There are 13 tapes and they are so fantastic. Any station that wants to run the whole series, Ted will let them have it for free...

LV: Please, one question before I let you go?

MM: O-okay.

LV: And it regards jazz today in the market place. Jazz today is claiming a small portion of the market place and I wondered if you had any ideas as to why that might be?

MM: What, that it's so small? Well, because people are getting dumber and dumber and the music they put out for them to listen to is dumb music. A lot of kids will say to me, "Why don't we hear more jazz on the radio?" Well it's because the record companies are pumping away with their commercial stuff. I think it's a shame. Although I do feel that with a show like ours we ourselves are getting a lot more young listeners at concerts. So we're trying to make a dent, but I don't know what's going to happen now with Concord and Fantasy, whether they're going to concentrate on more jazz or more pop or whatever. It just seems like everybody wants to make a pile of money, never mind how. Like anything to do with taste in good music has sort of gone out the window for the most part. Maybe you don't agree with me, but...

LV: I was just wondering do you think there's anything in the music itself that's changed? Do you think jazz has changed in a way that's turned people off at all?

MM: Well some of it has—it's so far out you don't hear any melody. I guess I'm very old-fashioned. I still like to hear standard tunes and I still like to hear melodies. And I get so many records by people I've never heard of playing their own original tunes and not one single standard. Or maybe one, like sort of condescendingly playing "Lush Life" or something, and it really bugs me when I get all of these things. All original tunes. I'll listen to a couple of them and then I'll put the record in the box and send it to the library.

LV: I see. Well, you're a helluva'n improviser, Marian, you can take it out: I've heard you do it.

MM: I am, and I can, and I do, but you don't want to do that ALL the time. I know that people will politely listen. Like we did a free piece in our concert in Rochester with the three pianos. But only ONE because when I listen to it I thought people must think, "What the f*** are they doing?"

LV: (Laughs) Did it work?

MM: Yeah, but I think average people, young and old, like to hear something they've heard before. I know I do. Maybe that's being square, but when I think of having met all these people like Harold Arlen, Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, and met Cy Coleman - all these people who have written wonderful tunes, and then to play something by, I don't know, some kid that's just trying his hand at writing...I don't know. I'll probably get arrested for the thing I'm saying.

LV: I understand what you're saying.

MM: I know you understand.

LV: Sure. I do. There's something to be said for those tune smiths of the past. They were amazing artists.

MM: Well, they just have this film - I guess Diana Krall is in it - "DeLovely" about Cole Porter. Maybe that will refresh some of the tunes. I can't think of one tune of his that is not a great tune.

LV: He was a master at making "list" songs.

MM: That's funny. I never thought of that.

LV: Well, lyrically. Not musically. You know. He was really good at that. He'd just make a list of things and make a song out of it. It was really fun.



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