Sunday, August 8, 2010

Marian McPartland

There is something beatific about Marian McPartland's voice. And it's not because she's 92. It might have something to do with her English accent. For almost every night of the last four months, I have fallen asleep to her NPR radio show, "Piano Jazz," in which she talks with jazz musicians about their influences, their tastes, their methods. She also jams with them.

There is something coy, wistful, agnostic, ecumenical, self-effacing in her speech and comportment that makes me feel at ease when I switch on her show, which she has been hosting since 1979. Some of the episodes I enjoy the most have been with Michel Petrucciani, Rosemary Clooney, Mary Lou Williams, Chick Corea, John Lewis, George Shearing, Aaron Diehl.

If you want a better portrait of Marian McPartland than I can paint, read the chapter "The Key of D is Daffodil Yellow" in Whitney Balliett's book, "Alec Wilder and His Friends," which Ben Ratliff lent me this summer. It is a wonderful book about some wonderful jazz musicians and singers, one cabaret singer, and two radio comedians:

If you don't have time to find this book, which, I think, you can only buy on Amazon--unless you get lucky at a used book store or rummage sale--watch this video, in which Marian talks about her style, and plays a bit:

Marian McPartland Talks About Her Sound

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