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Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz Radio Broadcast (With Mary Lou Williams)

Marian McPartland & Mary Lou Williams

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Album Review

Marian McPartland chose her old friend Mary Lou Williams to be her very first guest on her long running NPR series Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, though the taping of this inaugural show was not without its problems. First of all, McPartland intended to have Williams as her sole guest, but Williams brought along bassist Ronnie Boykins without telling McPartland, who ended up accompanying her instead of the hostess on all but one song, while the finale features all three musicians. As a result, McPartland seems a bit nervous at times during the show, occasionally talking over her guest, while Williams hardly helps by abruptly calling out changes to Boykins in the middle of several songs. But eventually things settle down somewhat, with McPartland getting Williams to loosen up enough to sing a chorus of "Rosa Mae" after she completed an instrumental take of it. Williams' rendition of John Stubblefield's fascinating blues "Baby Man" briefly detours into a bit of free jazz; the stunning take of "Caravan" is no surprise since it was long a favorite of Williams. Another great original blues, "Scratchin' in the Gravel," features the two pianists together. The rough spots in this initial show don't keep it from being an important historical part of Williams' career because she was never consistently recorded. McPartland would get over these early butterflies to develop into a superb interviewer and imaginative musical partner when she had the chance to consistently play with her guests.

Biography

Born: March 20, 1918 in Slough, Berkshire, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Marian McPartland became famous for hosting her Piano Jazz radio program beginning in 1978, but she was a well-respected pianist decades before. She played in a four-piano vaudeville act in England and performed on the European continent for the troops during World War II. In Belgium in 1944, she met cornetist Jimmy McPartland and they soon married. Marian moved with her husband to the United States in 1946, where she sometimes played with him even though her style was more modern than his Dixieland-oriented...
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