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.