Pianist, writer, jazz educator and composer Marian McPartland, born March 20, 1918, became known to listeners around the world as a performer and as the host of one of public radio’s longest-running programs, Piano Jazz. McPartland in many ways, embodied the best of what jazz has to offer; she was a complex and original musician steeped in the history of the music and yet endlessly modern, an unassuming pioneer for women in jazz who started her own record label, and an open, always searching artist. In a 2010 Downbeat article she wrote, “Don’t sit back and say, ‘Now I’ve done it all,’ because you never have.” And through her recordings and her hundreds of Piano Jazz programs, she personified something that Thelonious Monk once said: that jazz can bring true friendship. On this edition of Night Lights we’ll hear some McPartland recordings with a special emphasis on her own compositions, as well as excerpts from a 1975 interview in which she talks about her life and artistic journey, including her World War II experiences and her marriage to cornetist Jimmy McPartland, her first foray into jazz education, and what it was like for an aspiring girl jazz musician to grow up in 1930s and 40s Britain.
Marian McPartland interview from the WFIU Dick Bishop Collection.