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Along with fellow pianist Dave Brubeck, Marian McPartland is a jazz wonder who continues to make great music at an advanced age. To celebrate her 80th birthday, McPartland reconvened her 1950s trio that served as the house band at the old Hickory House on 52nd Street in New York.
Bassist Bill Crow and drummer Joe Morello reunited with McPartland at the new Birdland in September 1998. The trio played together for two nights, and this resulting live CD is a classy collection that mostly consists of melodic standards.
The Hickory House Trio never recorded during the '50s, so this one makes up for lost time. Bassist Crow seems more assertive in this setting than he usually did with Gerry Mulligan, while Morello swings out in the polyrhythmic style that has made him so popular with the Brubeck band. McPartland's playing shows plenty of imagination here, but she never strays too far from the melodic center of a song. She sounds almost like a classical pianist on Hoagy Carmichael's "New Orleans," and later she swings out righteously on "Things Ain't What They Used to Be."
Perhaps the most interesting track is the McPartland-Morello composition "Cymbalism," which finds the veteran players tackling a free-sounding, avant-garde number. Who says you can't teach an old jazzer new tricks?
Reprise is a delightful collection of jazzed-up melodies performed with great tenderness in an intimate setting. If anything, each of these players have gotten better with age, and here's hoping this isn't their final collaboration.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.