October 9, 2011

Lady grand

A new documentary from Portland filmmaker Huey explores the life and jazz of pianist Marian McPartland.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Marian McPartland at home in Port Washington, N.Y., during filming in 2007 of “In Good Time: The Piano Jazz of Marian McPartland,” which will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hannaford Hall on the USM campus in Portland.

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McPartland with the filmmaker Huey at a screening for cast and crew of “Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz.”

Additional Photos Below


7 p.m. Thursday at the Abromson Community Center, University of Southern Maine, Bedford Street, Portland, with music at 6:30 p.m. by USM jazz students. $10.

Movies at the Museum at the Portland Museum of Art will screen it Nov. 18-20; it will screen at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville on Dec. 4.

The film will tour across the country this fall, including screenings in Oregon, Hawaii, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. On Dec. 10, McPartland will attend a screening in her hometown library at Port Washington, N.Y.

INFO: filmsbyhuey.com

In her advancing age, McPartland has eased her performance schedule. Huey saw her in New York a few weeks back. She had the energy to perform a few songs, and her spirit was strong.

"She's slowing down, and it's hard for her to walk," he said. "Her fingers are tiring, but she's still got it. She still has her wit. If we could all age the way she has, we'd all be blessed and happy."

"In Good Time" is winning praise among jazz buffs because it calls attention to McPartland, who is revered in some jazz circles.

Jon Weber, a pianist and frequent guest host of "Piano Jazz," said the movie appealed to him because it accurately portrayed McPartland as a band leader, composer, musician and radio host. She has an engaging personality and sharp wit, and that comes across in the 85-minute movie, he said.

"Marian makes jazz likeable, and perhaps some folks discovered that they were jazz fans when they started tuning in to 'Piano Jazz' every week," Weber said in an email. "She makes a very complex art form feel un-threatening, and lots of listeners who are curious about jazz can glimpse into its mystique and beauty through a warm, accessible and know-ledgeable host."

Donna Gourdal, the granddaughter of McPartland's late husband, Jimmy, loved the movie for its intimate view of McPartland's life and world. "It's not a clinical documentary. It seems almost like a home movie," she wrote from France.

Gourdal said McPartland feels good about the movie, too. Huey screened it for her a while ago, and she was happy with the result.

She was a reluctant subject at first, Gourdal said. McPartland didn't think anyone would be interested enough to sit through a documentary about her life and career. But she liked the final cut, and was relieved with its sympathetic portrayal.

"She feels it is honest and, yes, she feels it captures her spirit . . . It gives a glimpse of her great sense of humor and it also shows her as a composer; that is something she would really like people to pick up on."

Chris Oberholtzer, who teaches jazz at USM, said part of McPartland's legacy lies in her ability to introduce people to jazz. Several of his students will perform in advance of the screening on Thursday.

"Her show has been on the air since I have been paying attention to jazz. She's been on the air since 1978, and I graduated high school in '79. It's been a mainstay for me," he said.

"Many of my jazz majors and other students, they all know who she is. In a good way, that was a very pleasant surprise to me. They are up on current artists, but not all traditional classical artists do they know about until they study them in one class or another. But her name is very well known."

Huey feels blessed to have had the opportunity to make this movie. McPartland is a special person who has touched the lives of many people with her music and her ambassadorship in the world of jazz, he said.

"She has been an inspiration to a lot people, and she is still performing and living this incredible life," he said. "This is a woman who has dedicated her life to what she has always wanted to do. It's everybody's dream."

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:


Twitter: pphbkeyes

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Additional Photos

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McPartland at the piano in the 1950s.

Photos courtesy of Huey

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McPartland with the Hickory House Trio in New York in 1954. McPartland, bassist Bill Crow and drummer Joe Morello performed at the Hickory House, a legendary jazz spot, throughout the 1950s, along with the likes of Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington.


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