Two octogenarian, piano-playing jazz legends, Dave Brubeck and Marian McPartland, brought jazz Joy to the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia March 16.
MARIAN MCPARTLAND'S TRIO performance follows the release of the two-CD 85 Candles: Live in New York celebrating her 85th birthday at Birdland. The only problem with the title at this time is that as Ms McPartland explained to me, laughing, was that she is really going to be 87 years old on March 20. She is internationally known for her National Public Radio program, "Marian McPartand's Piano Jazz" heard as she pointed out on some 300 stations in the United States, Europe, "even out in the Bush. Her club dates going back to the 1940-50 period. She said, "I consider them the golden years of jazz and I don't think we will ever see anything like that period again." She added, however: "I do think things are rapidly improving. There is a lot more good music around now with many young people in the audience and performing." She noted the artistry of Christian McBride, a Philadelphia native. She was looking forward to playing the Kimmel, saying, "I feel lucky to be playing the best place in town. I would like to do some standards by Kern and Coltrane, Duke Ellington, some of my own tunes, Thelonious Monk, but don't nail down what until I am on the bandstand." She added she was planning a tribute album for Jimmy McPartland. He was her trumpet playing, late husband, with whom she worked after meeting him in Europe at the end of World War II where they were both playing. They worked together for several years and she worked at such top clubs as New York's Hickory House. He was a major jazz musician working with everyone from Benny Goodman to Eddie Condon. She said, "Jimmy did so much for me." Ms McPartland comes from a family with several generations of musicians and her great uncle was Mayor of Windsor.
Ms McPartland will be with her trio, Gary Nazzaroppi, on bass and Glenn Davis on drums. Acknowledging their experience and artistry, she said they hd been with her for years and, "were fun guys to work with." Ms McPartland has been inducted into the International Association of Jazz Education hall of Fame, received honorary degrees from five american Universities and colleges, a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, a Gracie Allen Award from the American women in Radio and the National Music Council's American Eagle Award. The tough jazz critic Leonard Feather said, she is,"a thoughtful skilled musician who achieves a fine mood..."
The CD 85 Candles is a recording of a multi-generational gathering of top jazz musicians at Birdland. The 22-track collection includes such top stars as Norah Jones, Dr. Billy taylor, Regina Carter, Chris Potter, Jim Hall, Jason Moran, Bill Charlap and Karrin Allyson. McPartland herself is on 14 of the tracks.
THE DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET had the Kimmel jumping the last time he was here and he did it again this trip. The pianist-composer-leader's career spans more than half a century. He created what they called the West Coast sound and worked with everyone from Louis Armstrong to Jimmy Rushing and Joshua Redman. He also performed with the New York Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra.
He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Jazz Institute Hall of Fame at Rutgers University and the International Jazz Hall of Fame in 1996. Often considered a cool jazz master, he can bring any audience to their feet with excitement at his swinging style. McPartland said that Brubeck is clearly the star of the show and that she had worked with him many times previously.
McPartland was every bit as gracious on the stage as she had been on the phone conveying warmth and understanding expertly to the audience. Brubeck was not quite as exciting as he had been the last time, but his sax man, Robert "Bobby" Militello, held the fort masterfully. Brubeck sounded a bit hoarse speaking to the audience, but he still managed a few lovely solo pieces.
THE ERIC MINTEL QUARTET was the lead in peformance for the night at the Plaza Stage located in the area outside of Verizon Hall.
Kimmel Center, Verizon Hall, Broad and Spruce Streets, 215.893.1999, 8 p.m., Wednesday, March 16, $35 to $78, Brubeck/McPartland.