Marian McPartland

Margaret Marian McPartland OBE (née Turner;[1] (born March 20, 1918) is an English-born Jazz pianist, composer, writer, and the host of Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz on National Public Radio.

Marian Turner was a musical prodigy from the time she could sit at the piano, about the age of three, who studied classical music and the violin, in addition to the piano. She pursued classical studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Much to the dismay of her family, she developed a love for American jazz and musicians such as Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, Mary Lou Williams, and many others. In 1938, despite her family’s efforts to keep her at Guildhall, Marian left to join Billy Mayerl’s Claviers, a four-piano vaudeville act, performing under the stage name of Marian Page. The group toured throughout Europe during World War II, entertaining Allied troops.

While touring with USO shows in Belgium, she met and began performing with Chicago cornetist Jimmy McPartland in 1944. The couple soon married, playing at their own military base wedding in Germany.

After the war, they moved to Chicago to be near Jimmy’s family. Then, in 1949, the McPartlands settled in Manhattan, living in an apartment in the same building as the Nordstrom Sisters. With Jimmy’s help and encouragement, Marian started her own trio which enjoyed a long residency at the New York City jazz nightclub, the Hickory House, during 1952-1960. The drummer Joe Morello was a member of the group until he departed to join Dave Brubeck‘s Quartet. She also played at The Embers.[2]

After many years of recording for labels such as Capitol, Savoy, Argo, Sesac, Time, and Dot, in 1969 she founded her own record label, Halcyon Records, before having a long association with the Concord Jazz label.

An astonishing piano quartet. Stereo recording, from Left to Right:

Dick Hyman, Marian McPartland, Roland Hanna, Hank Jones.

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. Pacifica Radio‘s West Coast stations also carried this series, which paved the way for Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, a National Public Radio series that began on June 4, 1978. It is the longest-running cultural program on NPR as well as being the longest-running jazz program ever produced on public radio.

Several programs in the new series, which features McPartland at the keyboard with guest performers (usually pianists), have been released on CD by the Concord Records label. McPartland celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the NPR series with a live taping at the Kennedy Center for which Peter Cincotti was the guest.

Marian was awarded a Grammy in 2004, a Trustees’ Lifetime Achievement Award, for her work as an educator, writer, and host of NPR Radio’s long-running Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz. Although a master at adapting to her guest’s musical styles and having a well-known affinity for beautiful and harmonically-rich ballads, she also has recorded many tunes of her own. Her compositions include “Ambiance”, “There’ll Be Other Times”, “With You In Mind”, “Twilight World”, and “In the Days of Our Love”.

Just before her 90th birthday, she composed and performed a symphonic piece, A Portrait of Rachel Carson to mark the centennial of the environmental pioneer.[3] She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours.[4]

George and Ira Gershwin’s, “How Long Has This Been Going On”

Sources: Wikipedia,, NPR (bio), YouTube


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