It's a sign of the inevitable passage of time that we find ourselves weekly, even daily, bidding farewell to our few remaining links to that great gesture of American music which we know fondly as "The Great American Songbook." One such link, one of the last, passed away on Tuesday night, August 20th. Sadly, we must say our farewells to Marian McPartland.
Ms. McPartland was no stranger to public radio. Her long running "Piano Jazz" showed her to be a great conversationalist and an ever enthusiastic duet partner with guests ranging from Billy Taylor to Ray Charles to Bill Evans to Willie Nelson (yes, really!). There might be occasional awkwardness with some of the genre bridges she sought to build, but all in all Marian McPartland could pull it off with great aplomb.
I was a great admirer of Marian McPartland, with immense respect for the many musicians whose paths she crossed during her lifetime. This is why I sought her out in October of 2004 as I neared the end of producing a series of seven radio programs which spoke to the topic of "The Great American Songbook." Joe Gwathmey, then General Manager of Texas Public Radio, helped pave the way for a mid-day phone interview with Ms. McPartland. I was thrilled.
In memory of Marian McPartland, here is that interview (linked above), with a few musical interludes from The Marian McPartland Trio, Frank Sinatra, and Marian McPartland solo. I hope you enjoy these memories, intended to keep fresh always the significant contributions of Marian McPartland and "Piano Jazz." May she ever rest in peace at that great Hickory House in the sky.