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.
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.
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."
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.
"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."
© 2013 WBGO