In 2004 she was given a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. In 2007 she was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Known mostly for jazz, nonetheless, she composed other types of music as well, performing her own symphonic work A Portrait of Rachel Carson with the University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra in 2007. In 2010 she was named a member of the Order of the British Empire. Margaret Marian Turner was a musical prodigy from the time she could sit at the piano, about the age of three.
She studied classical music and the violin, in addition to the piano. She pursued classical studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Much to the dismay of her family, she developed a love for American jazz and musicians such as Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, Mary Lou Williams, and many others. In 1938, despite her family's efforts to keep her at Guildhall, Marian left to join Billy Mayerl's Claviers, a four-piano vaudeville act, performing under the stage name of Marian Page. The group toured throughout Europe during World War II, entertaining Allied troops. While touring with USO shows in Belgium, she met and began performing with Chicago cornetist Jimmy McPartland in 1944.
The couple soon married, playing at their own military base wedding in Germany. After the war, they moved to Chicago to be near Jimmy's family. Then, in 1949, the McPartlands settled in Manhattan, living in an apartment in the same building as the Nordstrom Sisters. With Jimmy's help and encouragement, Marian started her own trio, which performed at The Embers from 1950, and subsequently enjoyed a long residency at a New York City jazz club, the Hickory House, during 1952–60.
The drummer Joe Morello was a member of the group until he departed to join Dave Brubeck's Quartet. In the 1953–54 season, she appeared as a regular on NBC's Judge for Yourself quiz program emceed by Fred Allen. In 1958 a black and white group portrait of 57 notable jazz musicians, including McPartland, was photographed in front of a brownstone in Harlem, New York City. Art Kane, a freelance photographer working for Esquire magazine, took the photo, which was called, "A Great Day in Harlem", and it became a well-known image of New York's jazz musicians of the time. Immediately preceding her death in August 2013, she was one of only four of the 57 participating musicians who were still alive.
After many years of recording for labels such as Capitol, Savoy, Argo, Sesac, Time, and Dot, in 1969 she founded her own record label, Halcyon Records, before having a long association with the Concord label. Marian and Jimmy divorced in 1972, but they remained close, and remarried in 1991, shortly before Jimmy's death. In 1964, Marian McPartland launched a new venture on WBAI-FM (New York City), conducting a weekly radio program that featured recordings and interviews with guests. Pacifica Radio's West Coast stations also carried this series, which paved the way for Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, a National Public Radio series that began on 4 June 1978. It was the longest-running cultural program on NPR, as well as one of the longest-running jazz programs ever produced on public radio.
The program featured McPartland at the keyboard with guest performers, usually pianists, but also singers, guitarists, other musicians, and even the non-musician Studs Terkel. Several Piano Jazz programs have been released on CD by Concord Records. She celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the NPR series with a live taping at the Kennedy Center for which Peter Cincotti was the guest. After not having recorded a new show since September 2010, on 10 November 2011, NPR announced that McPartland was stepping down as host of Piano Jazz.
She then asked her long-time friend, jazz pianist Jon Weber, to carry on with the show. As a result, Piano Jazz: Rising Stars, an NPR series hosted by Weber, began broadcast on 3 January 2012. Piano Jazz soon returned to the air in repeat broadcasts. Marian was awarded a Grammy in 2004, a Trustees' Lifetime Achievement Award, for her work as an educator, writer, and host of NPR Radio's long-running Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. Although a master at adapting to her guest's musical styles and having a well-known affinity for beautiful and harmonically-rich ballads, she also recorded many tunes of her own.
Her compositions included "Ambiance," "There'll Be Other Times," "With You In Mind," "Twilight World," and "In the Days of Our Love." Just before her 90th birthday, she composed and performed a symphonic piece, A Portrait of Rachel Carson, to mark the centennial of the environmental pioneer. McPartland was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours, "For services to jazz and to aspiring young musicians in the USA". McPartland's encyclopedic knowledge of jazz standards, highly musical ear, involvement in over 60 years of evolving jazz styles, and rich experience blending with radio guests led to a musical style that was described as "flexible and complex, and almost impossible to pigeonhole." She was known as a harmonically and rhythmically complex and inventive improviser. "She was never content to be in one place, and always kept improving. She has great ears and great harmonics. Because of her ear, she can go into two or three different keys in a tune and shift with no problem." She was also a synesthete, associating different musical keys with colors, stating that "The key of D is daffodil yellow, B major is maroon, and B flat is blue." McPartland died on 20 August 2013 of natural causes at her home in Long Island, New York.
She was 95 years old. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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