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Marian signs off

Marian signs off

I was saddened to hear Marian McPartland passed away this week at age 95. My god I don’t want this blog to turn into an obituary but I can’t let this one go without a proper word or two.
Marian was the host of “Piano Jazz” radio show for over 40 years and carried on NPR for over 30 yrs. She was an accomplished jazz pianist herself. The format of her show was Marian interviewing another jazz artist, usually a piano player. Marian would play one of their songs and then they would play a song and then finish with a duet. I can honestly say I learned more about jazz music and it’s artists from Marian than any other person. See I’m not a formally trained musician. I learned on my own and don’t consider myself much of a jazz player at all. I’m a competent pop and rock pianist but have always loved listening to jazz. Running a business and raising kids have been my excuse from delving further into learning and playing more jazz. Someday. But I listened to Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz any chance I got since I was a teen. I can recall many a time sitting in my car in the garage after arriving at home listening to a song or end of an interview with Marian and some jazz great. She had the loveliest sounding speaking voice. She sounded like a sweet old lady. I mean that in the best possible way. She knew everything and everybody to do with jazz. She had an amazing ear too. She didn’t generally play with a lot of fireworks but what she did play was well constructed and more importantly, beautiful. Make no mistake, she could rip it up if she wanted. In her early years she woodshedded by copying runs by the likes of Art Tatum by ear. If you aren’t familiar with what that means just know that it’s insane. I can’t even listen that fast. She horrified her parents by leaving home to pursue a career in music in the early 1930s. She was a pioneer for women in music by becoming a respected instrumentalist and then band leader in the 1940s. But it was her radio show starting in 1978 that made her a world wide star. Everyone that was anyone in jazz has been on her show. My 1 degree of separation is Karrin Allyson. Karrin is a Grammy nominated jazz vocalist and pianist in New York City that grew up here in Omaha and went to UNO. It was at that time that we played in a pop band together. We eventually kicked her out cuz she wasn’t being honest to the melodies as they were performed on the radio. The truth is she was too good for us. She was itching to do more anyway and I’d like to take underserved credit that this move sent her forever upward and onward into the jazz world. Karrin is now the one with the Grammy nominated albums while I’ll be appearing at the Ozone some weekend coming soon. Check your local listings. See how that worked out? Karrin also had the amazing privilege to be on Piano Jazz with Marian. As it turned out Marian became quite an admirer of Karrin and asked her to performed with her on her 30th anniversary show. So that’s why she’s my 1 degree of separation from Marian. I’ve also had the honor of playing with jazz great Branford Marsalis who happens to be good friends with my band mate, Nikki Boulay. Branford and his whole family have played with Marian at one time or another. In the advanced solo piano book and CD, “Marian McPartland’s Portaits” she wrote “Portrait of Branford Marsalis.”
She will be missed by the entire world of jazz.
It is no stretch to say that Marian and her show influenced more generations of jazz artists and fans than perhaps any other.
Thank you so much Marian McPartland. I’ll play you a sad one tonight.

Thomas

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