WBGO Blog
  • Bourne's Journal: Dame Marian And The Queen

    August 22, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    WBGO's celebration of Marian McPartland continues with these memories shared by host Michael Bourne:

    Marian McPartland ought to have been honored as Dame Marian by the Queen. She was instead in 2010 appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. O.B.E. -- one step above Ringo.

    10 06 10 Queen to Marian

    She was certainly a great player, a great broadcaster, a great lady, and a great Dame to all of us in the jazz world. Smart, sweet, witty, with two of the most open ears in the jazz world, always curious, always swinging, never suffered fools, said what she meant, always with that enchanting voice and accent, and always with a twinkle -- no, a sparkle -- no, a bright star of light flashing in her eyes.

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    I knew Marian ever since she called me decades ago. 3:30AM, it was. "Hi," she said. "This is Marian McPartland," she said -- which I already knew immediately when she said hello. "I met a friend of yours," she said with that voice, that accent. "He said you play my records. He said you were up all night and I should call you."

    I remembered that call every time Marian called me when I was jocking on WBGO. She was always listening. "Who is that?" she'd ask, and she'd tell me what was remarkable about the musician. "I should have (whoever-it-was) on the show."

    One talk with Marian I'll never forget ...

    I was working on a feature for DownBeat when Marian was being honored for all her extraordinary work in jazz education. I'd included her birth date, but Marian didn't want the date included. She didn't want anyone to know how old she was -- turning 70 around then. When she celebrated her 75th birthday with a concert at Town Hall, I remembered when she didn't want anyone to know her age. "I didn't," she said, "but now that I'm 75, the hell with it."

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    When we were talking for the DownBeat story, from something she said I realized that, after living so many decades in America, Marian was nonetheless a citizen of Great Britain. She'd met and married cornetist Jimmy McPartland when they were playing for soldiers around Europe at the end of WWII. Together, they settled first in Chicago, then in New York.

    "You didn't become an American when you married Jimmy?" I asked.

    And she said the most wonderful thing I've ever heard anyone say about a loved one.

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    "I didn't marry Jimmy to become an American," she said. "I married Jimmy for love."

    I was dumbstruck by the passion in her voice. I could only think to ask about children.

    "No," she said. "We didn't have children."

    "No," said Marian. "We only had bass players and drummers."

  • WBGO Says Farewell to Marian McPartland

    August 21, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: RIP

    Marian McPartland passed away last night at her home in Long Island. She was beloved to all of us, especially to fans of her Piano Jazz show, which aired on WBGO and other NPR stations for more than three decades.

    A master musician in her own right, Marian invited generations of listeners to sit with her at the piano  and share the fun of what happens on the bandstand.

    At WBGO, she was first and foremost a friend, and a mentor. We'd like to offer our thanks and share some memories with you, so read on.

    We will also honor her this evening at 6:30 with a broadcast of her trio, with Gary Mazzaroppi on bass and Glenn Davis on drums, at the Kennedy Center in 2005, followed by a NPR tribute to her at 7:30.

    Farewell, dear Marian!

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    JazzSet senior producer Becca Pulliam writes:

    I met Marian in Milwaukee in the latest 1970s or early 80s: she was playing outdoors, opening for Sarah Vaughan.


    I had a series called Woman-Made Music on Wisconsin Public Radio, and that evening I interviewed Marian. She had her own label then - Halcyon Records. I remember looking "halcyon" up in the dictionary.

    Skip ahead to my arrival in New York: I was invited to a party, and Marian was there. She remembered me; she offered friendship.

    I was editing a piano magazine then, and transcribed a piece of Marian's with an interview. This provided more chances to enjoy her company. Marian was good company. And her insights on music came freely. She shared; she did not hoard.

    In January of 1992, WBGO launched a new series, "JazzSet with Branford Marsalis," There wasn't any time to pilot the new show, so we went straight to air.

    After a few shows, Marian called me at home. "What is this new show?" she asked. She was well into hosting "Piano Jazz" at the time. And she didn't think the music in the first month of JazzSet was up to her standards. I remember specifically what she complained about -- an artist who played standards incorrectly!

    Marian knew more than a thousand songs - I think that's what she told me. In any case, she knew lots of songs,  and she knew them RIGHT. She took liberties with her wonderful fresh harmonies and personal melodic improvisations, but Marian knew her repertoire.

    When I visited her at home, I loved her rooms full of books, books, books, mementos, photos and drawings on the walls and shelves. She told me she'd run her record company from her garage.

    In her sunny kitchen, she had an impromptu office. The phone rang and rang, and an answering machine took  messages. Her calendar was full of gigs (Marian was 87 at the time). In her sunken living room, the grand piano.

    This memory stays with me. As I wrote later in a script, "Truth is, wherever Marian sits down at a piano, the space around her becomes her living room."

    It's the friendship I will probably most treasure.

    Portraits in Blue host and record producer Bob Porter writes:

    When I was doing Savoy reissues in the 1970s, I called her when we got to her material. She not only assisted with the compilation, but had a new cover photo taken! I ‘m certain this was not vanity, but a desire to have the best looking product on the market. And she bought copies of the album to sell on her gigs, a rarity at the time.

    She would call on occasion at WBGO when I was doing mid-days, usually to ask about someone new she heard. I remember an occasion where she felt she was running out of talent to present on Piano Jazz. I suggested she try Sam Price and some of the older blues specialists, and I think she did a show with Sam. Later, she flipped when she heard the young Ragtime composer Reginald Robinson.

    I think the Piano Jazz show she did with Oscar Peterson should be required listening for musicians and fans alike.

  • WBGO Says Farewell to Cedar Walton

    August 19, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    WBGO says farewell to our friend Cedar Walton, who passed away at his home in Brooklyn early this morning. Long before he was an NEA Jazz Master, Cedar's piano was the sound of jazz for many of us, from his early years with the likes of John Coltrane, J.J. Johnson and Benny Golson, then as both pianist and arranger for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and in his own trios.

    WBGO shared many great moments with Cedar: we interviewed him many times, most recently in June when he stopped by with fellow pianist Barry Harris for this conversation with Michael Bourne.

    Cedar was a favorite performer at the Village Vanguard, and we chose his trio to be one of of the first of our live broadcasts from the famed East Village nightclub in 2008. We also brought the Cedar Walton Combo from New Jersey City University to our studios every April during Jazz Appreciation Month.

    We would like to share some of these interviews and concerts again with you now: follow the links below to hear audio. Thank you, Cedar, we will miss you!

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    Here is Cedar's trio at the Village Vanguard from, with Lewis Nash on drums and David Williams on bass, on December 17, 2008:

    Cedar Walton Trio Sign at Village Vanguard

    And here's Josh Jackson's conversation with Cedar, at his home in Brooklyn, the day before the Vanguard show:

    Cedar Wlaton Vanguard Hallway

    Here's NJCU's Cedar Walton Combo performing live at WBGO on April 1, 2013:

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    Michael Bourne spoke with Cedar and trumpeter Roy Hargrove in 2009,

    and

    Gary Walker spoke with Cedar in August of 2004.