Yoko Miwa

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Marian McPartland and Yoko Miwa

Remembering Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz

Long before there were podcasts or YouTube there was Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, a weekly radio program that featured recordings and interviews with guests which was aired nationwide on NPR from 1979 to 2010. I remember listening to Piano Jazz on Sunday afternoons when I first moved to the US.

Marian McPartland was a brilliant pianist in her own right but she conducted the show Piano Jazz in such a selfless way always making her guests the focus of the show. Although she would often play piano duets with guests she always remained humble, there are many podcasts now featuring interviews with musicians but there’s nothing like Piano Jazz. Marian had a way of getting a legendary jazz pianist to open up and tell their story of how they got into playing jazz, how they learned to play the piano, what music they listened to instead of just talking about their latest release or tour or accomplishments. When you listened to Piano Jazz you really felt like you knew who the guest was by the end of the interview, for me it was like getting a free piano lesson from a master of the music and a lesson you couldn’t get any other way. Additionally, Marian was a great supporter of women in jazz long before it was a popular trend. As the show progressed her guests were not only limited to pianists, she interviewed jazz players of all instruments and jazz vocalists as well.

In 2011, I had the honor of performing with my trio in a special show at Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center in NYC which was billed as Marian McPartland and Friends. It was a celebration of Marian’s 93rd birthday and it featured a who’s who of legendary and up and coming jazz pianists. The evening was recorded for a special edition of Piano Jazz which I don’t think ever made it to the airwaves. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog where I’ll go into more details about that memorable night.

Check out the link below to hear some archived shows of Piano Jazz. There’s also a link to one of my favorite episodes where she interviewed
one of my heroes the legendary pianist, Bill Evans.

https://www.npr.org/series/15773266/marian-mcpartland-s-piano-jazz

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZDy3MQni78

5 comments

  1. Saw her trio in Boston the last time she was here–not sure of the year. In addition to everything you said, she was a warm and witty person with a wonderful sense of humor. It was such an amazing show.

  2. Yes, you are right! She had a great sense of humor 🙂 Watch out for my future blog about Marian McPartland and Friends show where I will go into more detail about that night!

  3. I attended all but one of her Sat. afternoon performance interviews at Tanglewood. The one that I missed was–HAWHAWHAW!–Norah Jones, maybe just before she be became famous. They were always interesting and fun. One of of the last ones was with Elvis Costello. At its end, who came out for a cameo appearance? None other than a very pregnant Diana Krall!

    Ms McPartland came to the Hartford area at least twice that I can remember.

    I have a CD of a birthday party for her in NY. I can’t remember which birthday, but it may have been 93. I’ll have to look. Her radio interviews have been available on CD. I don’t know if this is still true.

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