Remembering Marian McPartland (1918-2013)

For many years, the legendary and pioneering jazz pianist Marian McPartland was a regular in our studio, recording promos for her NPR show "Piano Jazz," making special recordings for friends, and even recording a few of her original tunes for the Omni library!

Funny, articulate, classy and full of energy and ideas, Marian was a musical daredevil - not afraid to venture far out on the limb, taking harmonic liberties with old standard tunes that made me sometimes worry if she had forgotten where she was. And then, just at the end of the chorus, she'd plant her left hand on the dominant chord and - just like that - she'd be back to the tune again. It was amazing.

I had the good fortune to record Marian's reading of her autobiography "All In Good Time," which was fascinating because her life intersected so many other famous jazz musicians I loved. It was a challenge to record, because I'd get so engrossed in her stories I often didn't realize that Marian had strayed from the text to tell me an interesting anecdote that wasn't part of the book!

But what I remember about Marian most was how interested she was in everybody else. She was always asking me what projects I was working on, or how things were going at the ASCAP Board. Even though she had met and played with just about every famous jazz musician in the world, she never dropped names, and remained modest about her own achievements, even when she was awarded an OBE by Queen Elizabeth!

Thanks for the memories, Marian. We were privileged to share a small part of your extraordinary life!

-Doug Wood


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