Saturday, March 15, 2008

Marian McPartland: “In a Mist” (1974)

Marian McPartland plays “In a Mist” composed by Bix Beiderbecke in 1927.

Margaret Marian Turner was born in England on March 20, 1918. She was a musical prodigy from the time she could sit at the piano, about the age of three. Marian studied classical music, and, in addition to piano, has mastered the violin.

Marian was introduced to jazz by a boyfriend who often brought jazz records to her house. For hours they would listen to the music of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and others. From that point on, Marian was hooked on jazz. In 1943, Marian began playing in USO camp shows in Belgium and France, where she met a Chicago cornetist named Jimmy McPartland, a Bix Beiderbeck protégé. The two were married and performed at their own wedding at a military base in Germany. In 1952, Marian's trio began what was to become a long-running gig at New York's Hickory House, where many legendary musicians to whom Marian had once listened often sat in the audience listening to Marian.

In 1964, Marian McPartland launched a new venture on WBAI-FM (New York City), conducting a weekly radio program that featured recordings and interviews with guests. In 1978, Marian began hosting her own radio program for National Public Radio: Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. The program features Ms. McPartland at the keyboard with guest performers (usually pianists). It is currently the longest-running cultural program on NPR.

Marian McPartland turns 90 next Thursday. Happy birthday, Marian.

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