August 21, 2013

McPartland, jazz legend and radio host, dies at 95

The Washington Post

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In this March 2008 photo, Marian McPartland plays piano during a celebration of her 90th birthday in New York.


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In this Nov. 13, 2007, file photo, Marian McPartland talks with students at the University of South Carolina during a master class at the School of Music in Columbia, S.C. McPartland, 95, the legendary jazz pianist and host of the National Public Radio show "Piano Jazz," died of natural causes Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 at her Port Washington home on Long Island, NY (AP Photo/Brett Flashnick, File)

NPR remembers Marian McPartland

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She often improvised spontaneous musical portraits of her guests, who covered the full range of jazz and included such jazz-loving pop stars as Steely Dan, Elvis Costello and Willie Nelson.

"You really showed me how my songs can work as jazz," composer Burt Bacharach said when he was on "Piano Jazz" in 2005. "When you played 'A House Is Not a Home' and 'Anyone Who Had a Heart,' it was incredible. And if you can make 'I'll Never Fall in Love Again' sound good, I can only imagine what you might do with 'What's New, Pussycat?' "

Away from her radio show, McPartland continued to tour and make new recordings after age 90, even after arthritis made it difficult for her to walk. She received a Grammy for lifetime achievement in 2004.

In the 1980s, she and Jimmy McPartland decided "our divorce was a failure," and they began to share a house on New York's Long Island. They had no children together.

She had him on "Piano Jazz" in 1990, when he was in his early 80s, and they played and joked together like old times.

"In case you're wondering what's going on here," she said at one point, "we're having laughs and enjoying ourselves. My guest today is Jimmy McPartland, a gentleman well-known to me, of course."

On Feb. 27, 1991, at their home, they were remarried 46 years after their first wedding.

Exactly two weeks later, Jimmy McPartland died at 83.

One day after the funeral, McPartland, ever the trouper, was back on the road.


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