Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Classical Stations: Sun, 7-8 pm | News Stations: Sat, 8-9 pm

Jazz legend Marian McPartland hosted Piano Jazz for over 30 years. The program continues to showcase the world's top musicians of all time with broadcasts and podcasts from it's archive. Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz is NPR's longest-running and most widely carried jazz program. A national production of South Carolina Public Radio.

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Ahmad Jamal
Courtesy of the artist

One of the most popular stylists in contemporary jazz, pianist Ahmad Jamal has been a major force on the jazz recording scene ever since his 1958 live album made at Chicago’s Pershing Lounge. On this 1985 Piano Jazz, Jamal reprises two classics from that session—“Poinciana” and “But Not for Me”—in duet with McPartland. Jamal solos on Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday,” and he and McPartland close the program with a final duet on “Silent Night, Holy Night.”

News Stations: Sat, Mar 04, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Mar 05, 7 pm

Trudy Pitts
lifelinemusiccoalition.com

Organist, arranger, composer, teacher, and singer Trudy Pitts (1932 – 2010) earned a reputation not only for her technical prowess, but also for her ability to convey a wide range of emotions. Her formal training was classical: she studied piano at Juilliard and Temple University, but came to jazz by way of the organ. On this 1992 Piano Jazz, Pitts’ sensitive touch is apparent when she solos on “A Child is Born.” Then she and McPartland create a memorable “Mood Indigo.”

News Stations: Sat, Feb 25, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Feb 26, 7 pm

Doug Wamble
dougwamble.com

Guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Doug Wamble grew up listening to the Southern gospel, country, and blues traditions of his Tennessee home. Once he developed his love for jazz, Wamble began to soak up the sounds of jazz masters like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Ornette Coleman. Along the way he discovered his off-the-cuff singing was a hit with fans and critics alike. In this 2005 Piano Jazz session, Wamble and McPartland span the jazz genre, from “St. Louis Blues” to Charlie Parker’s “Naima.”

Keith Ingham (left) pictured with bandmate Harry Allen on the cover of a 1994 Progressive Records release.
Progressive Records

British-born pianist Keith Ingham began his jazz career in London after studying Mandarin at Oxford University. In the late ’70s, he moved to New York, which led him to connect with the likes of Peggy Lee, Benny Goodman, and Susannah McCorkle, for whom he was pianist and musical director. He was McPartland’s guest on this 1997 Piano Jazz. Ingham opens the program with “A Foggy Day in London Town.” He and McPartland close the show with a duet of “Little Rock Get Away.”

News Stations: Sat, Feb 11, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Feb 12, 7 pm

Barry Harris
Courtesy of the artist

Barry Harris is a seminal figure in the jazz world. As the “keeper of the bebop flame,” Harris is committed to preserving jazz through education and performance. His workshops play an important part in his life and in the lives of many young musicians. On this 2002 Piano Jazz, Harris demonstrates how he earned the reputation as one of the most inventive and respected pianists today when he solos on “It Could Happen to You.” Host McPartland and Harris show off their bebop chops on Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave.”

Kendra Shank
John Abbott

From a background in visual arts and French literature at the University of Washington, Kendra Shank has been pursuing a successful singing career from Seattle to Paris to New York, where she is currently based. Shank’s sensuous phrasing and crystal clear tone have earned praise from critics and fans alike. On this Piano Jazz from 2007, Shank’s thoughtful yet emotional voice illuminates Jerome Kern’s “Long Ago and Far Away.” Shank also shows off her skill on the guitar, as she joins McPartland for “In the Days of Our Love.”

Lalo Schifrin
Price Rubin and Partners

Composer, arranger, and pianist Lalo Schifrin trained classically as a young man in Argentina. He went on to study at the Paris Conservatory as he developed a career as a jazz musician, playing and recording in Europe. He has written more than 100 film and television scores and has won multiple Grammys and Academy Award nominations. On this 1997 Piano Jazz, Schifrin treats listeners to a solo version of his composition “Down Here on the Ground” from the hit movie Cool Hand Luke.

News Stations: Sat, Jan 21 , 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Jan 22, 7 pm

Jeannie Cheatham with her late husband, Jimmy Cheatham.
Courtesy of the artist

Pianist and vocalist Jeannie Cheatham began piano lessons at the tender age of five and at 13 became intoxicated with the sounds of jazz. Cheatham toured with such blues artists as Jimmy Witherspoon, T-Bone Walker, Odetta, and Big Mama Thornton.

In the 1950s she met her husband, bass trombonist Jimmy Cheatham, and the pair formed the Sweet Baby Blues Band. On this 1989 Piano Jazz, Cheatham performs “Midnight Mam.” McPartland and Cheatham join forces for a swinging duet on “Perdido.”

News Stations: Sat, Jan 014, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Jan 15, 7 pm

Toots Thielemans

Jan 2, 2017
Toots Thielemans
Jos Knaepen

This week Piano Jazz remembers Jean-Baptiste “Toots” Thielemans (1922 – 2016), unrivaled master of the jazz harmonica. He was recognized the world over for his trademark style and tender sound, and he worked with greats such as Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, and Quincy Jones. With a list of recording credits including the theme for Sesame Street, alongside film scores and commercials, Thielemans was a legend. In this session from 2005, he exchanges stories with McPartland and joins her for “Giant Steps” and “Georgia.”

Loston Harris
Courtesy of the artist

For more than a decade, Loston Harris has headlined at Bemelmans Bar in Manhattan, delighting audiences with his smooth, soulful voice and piano style. Harris began his jazz career as a drummer but was encouraged by mentor Ellis Marsalis to switch to the piano. Hence, he discovered a new instrument and a new musical world. On this 1999 Piano Jazz, Harris performs “I Just Can’t See for Looking.” McPartland joins him for a rousing duet of Ellington’s “Do Nothing ‘til You Hear from Me.”

News Stations: Sat, Dec 31, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Jan 01, 7 pm

André Previn
Lillian Birnbaum/DG

Conductor, composer, and pianist André Previn has received multiple Lifetime Achievement Awards, including honors from the Kennedy Center, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Grammy Awards. Previn achieved an exceptional reputation as a jazz pianist in a series of recordings he made in the 1950s and 1960s. On this 1990 Piano Jazz, Previn plays a special treatment of “Stormy Weather” and then joins McPartland for an improvisation of “Stars Fell on Alabama.”

News Stations: Sat, Dec 24, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Dec 25, 7 pm

Patti Wicks
Jimmy Katz

Pianist and vocalist Patti Wicks (1945 – 2014) began picking out tunes at the age of three and learned to play by ear because she was born visually impaired. As an adult, Wicks continued her music education at the Crane School of Music, SUNY. She honed her craft in New York jazz clubs and went on to perform in major venues and festivals the world over. In this 2004 Piano Jazz session, Wicks solos on McPartland’s tune, “There’ll Be Other Times,” and joins McPartland for “Body and Soul.”

News Stations: Sat, Dec 17, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Dec 18, 7 pm

Saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. (1943-1999) was a master musician and multiple Grammy winner. He performed internationally and worked with names like Bobby McFerrin, B.B. King, Patti LaBelle, and Nancy Wilson. He performed at the 1993 Inauguration of President Bill Clinton. Washington’s purity of tone and long, fluid lines are evident on this 1994 Piano Jazz. He and McPartland join forces to play “Prelude to a Kiss” and “What Am I Here For.”

News Stations: Sat, Dec 10, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Dec 11, 7 pm

Meredith D’Ambrosio
meredithdambrosio.com

A sensitive and romantic vocalist and pianist, Meredith D’Ambrosio is a champion of the lesser-known songs of famous composers. She is also respected as a visual artist, composer, and teacher. In the late eighties, she met her late husband, pianist Eddie Higgins, and the pair went on to record and perform as a musical duo. On this 1994 Piano Jazz, D’Ambrosio sings and plays her own songs “Beware of Spring” and “Give It Time.”

News Stations: Sat, Dec 03, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Dec 04, 7 pm

Lonnie Liston Smith
Scott Miller

Lonnie Liston Smith is one of contemporary music’s most versatile keyboardists. With a career spanning four decades, Smith has worked as a soloist, bandleader, and sideman to greats including Miles Davis, Betty Carter, Max Roach, and Pharaoh Sanders. He was McPartland’s guest on Piano Jazz in 2002. Smith presents his relaxed style on “What is this Thing Called Love.” Then he and McPartland swing into “C Jam Blues.” 

News Stations: Sat, Nov 26, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Nov 27, 7 pm

Nellie Luchter, circa 1950
Public Domain

Nellie Lutcher (1912 – 2007) started out playing piano at fifteen but soon transitioned to singing. She built a career as a prominent jazz vocalist in the 1940s and 1950s with hits such as “Fine Brown Frame.” She joined McPartland for Piano Jazz in 1986. Lutcher performs two of her most popular compositions, “Hurry on Down” and “Real Gone Guy.” McPartland solos on “Love Is the Sweetest Thing,” and the two combine their talents on “I’ve Got a Right to Sing the Blues.”

News Stations: Sat, Nov 19, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Nov 20, 7 pm

Richard Sudhalter (1938 – 2008) was a true “Renaissance Man” of jazz. A top jazz cornetist, he was also a respected critic, author, recording artist, and featured guest at major jazz festivals. He co-wrote Bix: Man and Legend, which was nominated for a National Book Award, and in 1983 won a Grammy for his liner notes for Bunny Berigan: Giants of Jazz. On this 1992 Piano Jazz, Sudhalter reminisces about Bix Beiderbeck and joins McPartland for a duet of “Chasing Shadows.”

News Stations: Sat, Nov 12, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Nov 13, 7 pm

This 2003 Piano Jazz with guest Sir Roland Hanna (1932 – 2002) was recorded before a live audience at the 2002 Tanglewood Jazz Festival. A subtle and insightful pianist, he was a superb two piano partner, as evidenced when he and McPartland get together for “Blues in the Closet.” In this session, Hanna uses his solid sense of rhythm as a springboard into exciting explorations of melody and harmony. He shows off his skill as a composer with his “Portrait of John Lewis.”

News Stations: Sat, Nov 05, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Nov 06, 7 pm

Mario Grigorov
Courtesy of the artist

Born in Sophia, Bulgaria, Mario Grigorov studied classical music until he fell in love with jazz. As a child his parents performed in the Sophia Symphony Orchestra before moving to Iran, where his father played in the Shah’s symphony orchestra. Grigorov continued to study music intensively as his family moved to Austria and Australia before he settled in the United States in 1992. On this 1995 Piano Jazz, Grigorov’s stunning originality is evident on his own “Lost City.” He and McPartland duet on Jobim’s “Wave.”

News Stations: Sat, Oct 29, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Oct 30, 7 pm

Esperanza Spalding
Courtesy of the artist

Bassist Esperanza Spalding is one of the most talked about artists in jazz today. She scored a surprise win for Best New Artist at the 2011 Grammy Awards and went on to win three additional Grammy Awards. On this Piano Jazz from 2008, bassist and vocalist Spalding brings her neo-soul style to a set of standards with the aid of pianist Leo Genovese. McPartland’s piano provides a perfect accompaniment to Spalding’s bass and vocals in Duke Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss.”

News Stations: Sat, Oct 22, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Oct 23, 7 pm

Roy Kral (1921 – 2002) was working in Chicago with the George Davis Quartet when he met Jackie Cain (1928 – 2014). They formed a duo, Jackie and Roy, and the rest is history. The vocal and piano duo blended witty lyrics and unusual melodies with a light modern jazz feeling. These dear friends of McPartland’s were her guests for Piano Jazz in 1992. A sophisticated and charming pair, the husband and wife team play Alec Wilder’s “While We Were Young” and join McPartland for a trio of “Joy Spring.”

Chucho Valdés
Francis Vernhet/International Music Network

At one time, pianist Jesus “Chucho” Valdés was banned from performing in the United States. Today, he enjoys performing and teaching here as well as in his native Cuba. Valdés is a world-class innovator in Latin jazz. In 1973 he founded Irakere, a group that introduced a new fusion of African traditional music with Cuban jazz. On this Piano Jazz from 2000, Valdés and host McPartland share a love of pianist Bill Evans, and in tribute they create their version of “Waltz for Debby.” Valdés treats listeners to his composition “Claudia.”

Grammy and Emmy Award-winning conductor, pianist, composer, and arranger Lee Musiker has long worked with leading jazz, classical, pop, and Broadway performers. He conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the National Orchestra in the US and Canada. He has also worked as a music director for top artists, and his work can be heard on the soundtracks of Hollywood films. Musiker brings a wealth of knowledge to this 2005 Piano Jazz, performing "Fascinating Rhythm" with McPartland.

News Stations: Sat, Oct 01, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Oct 02, 7 pm

  Vibraphonist Cecilia Smith is a leading proponent of the four-mallet technique. She has performed at nightclubs, concert halls, and festivals all over the world and collaborated with greats such as Mulgrew Miller, Cecil Bridgewater, and Randy Weston. On this Piano Jazz from 2000, she and McPartland combine talents in a rendition of “Old Devil Moon.” Smith solos on her “Lullaby for Miles and Bill” and a piece dedicated to her mother, “Mourning Before Grace.”

News Stations: Sat, Sep 24, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Sep 25, 7 pm

  Leonard Feather (1914 – 1994) was hailed as “the Dean of Jazz Journalists.” He critiqued artists for DownbeatMelody MakerWire, and his own weekly syndicated column for the Los Angeles Times. He authored works including The Jazz Years: Ear Witness to an Era and The Encyclopedia of Jazz. Feather also played piano and composed works recorded by Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Sarah Vaughan, to name a few. On this 1988 Piano Jazz, he solos on “Lost in the Stars” and an original “Blues Medley.”

Oliver Jones
Courtesy of the artist

  Oliver Jones is one of Canada’s premiere pianists and winner of the prestigious Oscar Peterson Award. As a child he took lessons with Daisy Peterson Sweeney, Oscar Peterson’s sister. With a long career as a performer, composer, and educator, Jones is an important player in the international jazz piano scene. Piano Jazz celebrates Jones’ 82nd birthday with this session from 1990. His music speaks for itself as he plays his own tune “Jordio.” Then McPartland and Jones say it all with “Three Little Words.”

Walter Davis, Jr.
Carlo Rondinelli, via Wikimedia Commons

  Pianist Walter Davis, Jr. (1932 – 1990) spent more than four decades contributing to the development of jazz history. He worked with a wide variety of talent including Dizzy Gillespie, Donald Byrd, and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Shortly after sitting down with McPartland for Piano Jazz in 1990, this great giant in the jazz world passed away. One of the great bebop stylists of his time, Davis plays his own tune, “Backgammon” and joins McPartland for a tribute to one of his main influences with “Blue Monk.”

Marian McPartland and Norah Jones, 2002.
SC Public Radio

  Vocalist Norah Jones has a smoky, sweet voice that makes standards sound not only revived, but completely new. Her style branches out into the realms of folk, country and western, soul, pop, and jazz. In 2003, the year she was McPartland’s guest on Piano Jazz, she won her first Grammy Awards for her debut album, Come Away with Me. Jones brings her warm vocals to Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You,” and McPartland and Jones kick off a “Beautiful Friendship.”

News Stations: Sat, Aug 27, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Aug 28, 7 pm

  Pianist Marty Napoleon (1921 – 2015) came from a musical family. He was the nephew of trumpeter and bandleader Phil Napoleon and brother of pianist Teddy Napoleon. In 1950 he joined his uncle’s group, The Memphis Five, and later became a member of the Big Four, led by Charlie Ventura. He also played with Louis Armstrong’s All Stars, led his own trio, and performed as a soloist. On this 1992 Piano Jazz, Napoleon solos on his original “Over and Over,” and McPartland joins for “All of Me.”

News Stations: Sat, Aug 20, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Aug 21, 7 pm

David Sanchez
Siebe van Ineveld Rotterdam, via Wikimedia Commons

  Multiple Grammy Award-winning saxophonist David Sanchez weaves threads of Latin American and North American jazz into a colorful tapestry. His vast experience includes performances with Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Palmieri, Paquito D’Rivera, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Kenny Barron. On this 1998 Piano Jazz, bassist John Benitez, drummer Adam Cruz, and host McPartland join Sanchez in a quartet to perform “My Shining Hour” and “The Way You Look Tonight.”

News Stations: Sat, Aug, 13 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Aug, 14 7 pm

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