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Marian McPartland

St. Joseph's Villa school for disadvantaged children - 1975
Background information
Birth name Margaret Marian Turner
Born March 20, 1918
Origin Slough, England, UK
Genres Classical jazz
Cool jazz
Mainstream jazz
Swing music
Post bop
Occupations Pianist
Radio host
Instruments Piano
Years active 1938–present
Labels Halcyon Records
Concord Jazz
Jazz Alliance
Bainbridge Records
Savoy Records
Capitol Records
RCA Records
Associated acts Jimmy McPartland
Notable instruments
Baldwin SF10 Artist Grand [1]

Margaret Marian McPartland OBE (née Turner;[1] (born March 20, 1918) is an English-born Jazz pianist, composer, writer, and the host of Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz on National Public Radio.


Early life

Marian Turner was a musical prodigy from the time she could sit at the piano, about the age of three who 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.

Jazz pianist Marian McPartland at the Village Jazz Lounge in Walt Disney World (photograph by Laura Kolb)

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 McPartland's 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 enjoyed a long residency at the New York City jazz nightclub, the Hickory House, during 1952-1960. The drummer Joe Morello was a member of the group until he departed to join Dave Brubeck's Quartet. She also played at The Embers.[2]

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 Jazz label.


Radio career

Marian McPartland interviews Ramsey Lewis on her radio show, Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz in 2009

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 June 4, 1978. It is the longest-running cultural program on NPR as well as being the longest-running jazz program ever produced on public radio.

Several programs in the new series, which features McPartland at the keyboard with guest performers (usually pianists), have been released on CD by the Concord Records label. McPartland celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the NPR series with a live taping at the Kennedy Center for which Peter Cincotti was the guest.

Awards and compositions

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 has recorded many tunes of her own. Her compositions include "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.[3]

She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours.[4]

Musical style

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[5] has led to a musical style that has been described as: "flexible and complex, and almost impossible to pigeonhole".[6] She is 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."[7]

She also is 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".[8]


Honorary degrees

Other awards


  1. ^ Hasson, Claire Marian McPartland: Jazz Pianist: An Overview of a Career. PhD Thesis. Retrieved on 2008-08-12.
  2. ^ Jazz spots such as the Hickory House and The Embers were thriving night clubs.
  3. ^ Day, Jeffrey (2007-11-13). Jazz great McPartland to unveil symphonic piece on Rachel Carson. []. Retrieved on 2009-04-26.
  4. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59282, p. 24, 31 December 2009.
  5. ^ Hasson, Claire. A Discussion Of Marian McPartland's Style in Marian McPartland: Jazz Pianist: An Overview of a Career
  6. ^ MacFadyen, J. Tevere (1985) Liner notes to Marian McPartland: Willow Creek And Other Ballads, Concord Jazz Inc.
  7. ^ Zych, D. (1997) 'Marian McPartland: True Devotion', JazzTimes, vol. 27, no. 8, October, pp. 31-37.
  8. ^ Balliett, W. (1977) New York Notes: A Journal Of Jazz In The Seventies, New York: Da Capo Press Inc. p. 289.

External links


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