Marian McPartland can be described on one word: gracious. Listeners have been treated to weekly installments of Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, on US National Public Radio, for the past twenty-nine years, experiencing firsthand her graciousness in her light but stubborn Berkshire accent, her unmatched interview style, and, above all, her gin-crystalline pianism. That would be impressive enough if one were not to consider the fact that McPartland is the living corporate memory of jazz.
Marian McPartland celebrates her ninetieth birthday on March 20, 2008. She has been performing since age fifteen, professionally since age twenty-five. In 1944, she met and married cornetist Jimmy McPartland, allowing her to touch the New Orleans/Chicago jazz of the 1920s (in 1924, Jimmy McPartland replaced Bix Beiderbecke in the Wolverines) while still vibrant, still performing it today.
Between 1952 and 1960, McPartland led a trio at New York City's famous Hickory House, then located at 144 W. 52nd St during the heyday of be bop, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, and the rest of jazz history. There McPartland was able to see and associate with the royalty of American jazz while becoming a member herself.
Twilight World, released just prior to McPartland's ninetieth birthday, is her twenty-ninth recording for Concord Music Group. The disc has McPartland in her most familiar territory, the piano trio, with longtime collaborators bassist Gary Masaroppi and drummer Glen Davis. The repertoire is rife with ballads, with the trifecta of "Close Enough For Love," "How Deep Is The Ocean," and "Alfie" more than enough to certify her ballad bona fides.
To these well-known ballads, McPartland adds paths less taken with the title track and "Blackberry Winter." She transforms Bill Evans' "Blue in Green" into a completely accessible, impressionistic blues. Her playing has changed little and resembles that of Errol Garner in passing. But make no mistake, there is but one Marian McPartland and we should be grateful she remains a part of our life soundtrack.
Personnel: Marian McPartland: piano; Gary Masaroppi: bass; Glen Davis: drums.