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Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz With Guest John Medeski

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Album Review

Jazz purists may scoff at some of Marian McPartland's guest choices in the early years of the new century, inviting pop/rock players like Elvis Costello, Bruce Hornsby, and Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, on to her long-running series Piano Jazz. But the fact is that the subject of discussion is still piano jazz, no matter who the invited guest is, and Marian McPartland is a great conversationalist with a vast and personal knowledge of jazz history. So it really shouldn't be a surprise that her session with jazz maverick John Medeski for Piano Jazz: McPartland/Medeski, is just as enjoyable and informative as any of her shows. In conversation, Medeski discusses his classical training and how he started playing jazz piano. He also mentions that Medeski, Martin & Wood actually started as a piano trio and describes their evolution towards electric music. The two discuss their love of Monk, with Medeski turning in a solo version of "Ba-Lue Boliver Ba-Lues Are," and McPartland and bassist Gary Mazzaroppi join him for a fun "Bemsha Swing." McPartland seems a bit surprised when Medeski pulls out Harold Arlen's chestnut "Out of This World," and they discuss Duke Ellington's Money Jungle, which was the model for the version of "Caravan" they do here. McPartland's history is one of the main reasons Piano Jazz is such a successful show, and her personal stories of both Duke Ellington and Harold Arlen demonstrate her longstanding connection to the tradition. About halfway through the show, after asking McPartland to play something, Medeski not only confesses that she signed an album for him when he was 13-years-old, but that he still has cassettes of Piano Jazz shows he taped in the early '80s. He talks about what an impact the show had on him as a young player, and mentions some specific lessons he carries to this day. The conversation between them is lively and it's clear that they're having a good time. The most surprising moment is probably when Marian McPartland, "the grand dame of straight-ahead jazz," suggests that they play a "free piece," proving that she's one of the hippest 85-year-old women on the planet. She even joins in on the piano version of MM&W's "Bubble House." This is another wonderful edition of Piano Jazz that will appeal equally to current fans of the show and John Medeski fans, and will probably prove to be a valuable document to young players of the future just as past Piano Jazz shows were for John Medeski. Thank you, Marian McPartland.


Born: 08 June 1965 in Louisville, KY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Organist John Medeski has become a recognized and respected player in N.Y.C.'s downtown jazz scene and, more popularly, with his group Medeski, Martin & Wood. Born in 1965 in Kentucky, Medeski was raised in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where he began playing piano along with his father while still a toddler; classical piano lessons began at the age of five. In addition to his affinity for Bach, Beethoven, and Debussy, Medeski learned, and entertained family with, old favorites of the '40s and '50s. By...
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Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz With Guest John Medeski, John Medeski
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