News / Arts & Entertainment

Jazz Pianist Marian McPartland Dead at 95

FILE - Marian McPartland playing the piano during a celebration of her 90th birthday at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, March 19, 2008.
FILE - Marian McPartland playing the piano during a celebration of her 90th birthday at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, March 19, 2008.
Eric FeltenBernie Bernard
Marian McPartland, one of the best-known jazz artists in America, died August 20 in Port Washington, New York. She was 95. A musician who broke ground for women instrumentalists in the 1940s and ‘50s, she would later become best known as host of the long-running radio program “Piano Jazz.”

McPartland’s elegant approach to jazz gracefully spanned several major eras, from swing to bebop and beyond. McPartland brought the musical knowledge earned over decades playing in nightclubs to National Public Radio, where for more than 30 years she hosted “Piano Jazz,” a program that mixed conversation and performance with many of the world’s best musicians.
Remembering Marian McPartland
Remembering Marian McPartlandi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Born Margaret Marian Turner in Windsor, England, as a girl she took up piano. To her parents’ dismay, when she was 20 she left home to join a four-piano vaudeville act. On a tour playing for Allied troops during World War II she met American jazz trumpeter Jimmy McPartland. They married, and, after the war, moved to the United States. With her husband's encouragement, McPartland went on to lead her own small bands.

McPartland landed a steady job performing at a New York City jazz club, the Hickory House. She played there for eight years, and developed a reputation not only for her fine piano playing, but for her melodic original compositions. Her songs were recorded by singers such as Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, and Peggy Lee.

At first, McPartland was so nervous about her songwriting she wouldn't take the credit for her own tunes.

"Years ago, I felt very insecure about writing songs, and I wrote one at the Hickory House," she said. "Somebody said, 'That's a nice song,' so then it was O.K. for me to say that I had written it. Isn't that sick?"

Starting in the 1960s, McPartland traveled to schools around the United States, encouraging students to develop an appreciation for jazz. She would use popular songs to introduce young listeners to the many sounds of jazz.

"I'll probably pick a tune that they know, something they've all heard, like the theme of [television program] 'M.A.S.H.,' for instance. They all know that. Then I'll do it another way, maybe like jazz, blues or something slow.  And I'll go through a whole thumbnail history of jazz. I'll do some boogie-woogie and so on, and really kind of grab them with that. But as long as you know tunes that they know, I think that helps a lot."

McPartland took that approach to the airwaves in 1979. Her weekly show, “Piano Jazz” became one of the most popular programs on public radio, airing across the United States for over three decades. Each week she would engage noted musicians in casual, relaxed interviews. She would take turns with her guests playing songs, and then would perform duets with them. Both in its music and its conversations, McPartland’s “Piano Jazz” expressed the core jazz virtue of improvisation.

The National Endowment for the Arts recognized McPartland as a “Jazz Master” in 2000. Four years later she won a special Grammy Award for her lifetime achievement. She continued to perform and broadcast into her 90s.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Paquito D'Rivera, who has won 12 Grammys, is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer. D'Rivera's latest project, “Jazz Meets the Classics,” was released this month. He joins us on the latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."