One of the nicer things about reviewing a new release by Marian McPartland is that one needn't prattle on about what a marvelous pianist she is - everyone knows that - and can move on to other fundamentals such as her choice of playing partners and the music itself, both of which are, in this case, first-class. To help celebrate her 80th birthday McPartland invited half a dozen of her friends and fellow pianists to take part in a series of duets, much like those that have become almost second nature to her, thanks to the long-running (19 years) and award-winning PBS radio program, Piano Jazz, over which she presides so elegantly each week. Her guests include a quartet of decorated veterans - Tommy Flanagan, George Shearing, Dave Brubeck, Gene Harris - and two widely praised newcomers, Renee Rosnes and Geri Allen - and while their styles differ in many respects, McPartland enwraps each of them as gently as the proverbial glove. Most of the dozen duets (two with each of her guests) are standards, with these exceptions: Chick Corea's "Some Time Ago" (with Rosnes), a spontaneous free improvisation entitled "Chrysalis" (with Allen), McPartland's own composition, "Twilight World" (with Shearing) and Brubeck's tribute piece, "Marian McPartland," which he and Marian play. There's a 13th number, "Marian's Solo (for Jimmy)," dedicated to her late husband, cornetist Jimmy McPartland, which charmingly combines two melodies he loved to play, "When the Saints Go Marchin In" and "Bluebells of Scotland." Exactly who is improvising when on each of the duets isn't disclosed in the liner notes or on the jacket, but it doesn't matter, as everyone plays brilliantly. McPartland, as we said, meshes well with everyone, from Shearing's bop-based stylings to Harris's blues-oriented approach, Flanagan's urbane attitude, Brubeck's classically-tinged point of view and Allen's more avant-garde musings - and at no time is one aware of any "generation gap." These are McPartland's peers, regardless of age, and she is perfectly comfortable with each of them. Those who like their piano music pure and sparkling should find this a thirst-quenching delight.
Track Listing: Jeepers Creepers; I've Got a Crush on You; Some Time Ago; It's You or No One; Just Friends; Twilight World; Lullaby of the Leaves; Chrysalis (an improvisation); Gone with the Wind; Marian McPartland; There Will Never Be Another You; Lady Be Good; When the Saints Go Marching In (72:53).
Personnel: Marian McPartland, Tommy Flanagan, Renee Rosnes, George Shearing, Geri Allen, Dave Brubeck, Gene Harris, pianos.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.