Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Classical Stations: Sun, 7-8 pm | News Stations: Sat, 8-9 pm
  • Hosted by Marian McPartland

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.

Piano Jazz Shorts Archives (September 2011 - September 2014)
 

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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

Marilyn Crispell
marilyncrispell.com

  Critics hail pianist Marilyn Crispell as a “luminous presence at the forefront of creative music.” Known for challenging compositions and improvisations, she plays free jazz with an evocative and disciplined style. She has performed on stages the world over and in 2005 received a Guggenheim Fellowship. On this 1998 Piano Jazz, Crispell solos her own composition “Fragments.” She and McPartland conclude the hour with Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser.”

News Stations: Sat, Aug 06, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Aug, 07, 7 pm

Eric Reed
Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr

  Pianist and composer Eric Reed began playing piano as a small child. He was only 18 when he played his first string of gigs with Wynton Marsalis, work that catapulted him to the forefront of jazz musicians. He has played with Joe Henderson, Betty Carter, and Joshua Redman, among others, and has established himself as a notable leader, producer, and educator. On this 1995 Piano Jazz, the then 24-year-old Reed’s distinctive style is evident on a solo of “Cedar’s Blues.”

News Stations: Sat, Jul 30, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun Jul, 31, 7 pm

Jacky Terrason, Gent Jazz Festival, July 7, 2013
© Bruno Bollaert

  Pianist Jacky Terrasson was born in Berlin and raised in Paris. After moving to the US, he studied at Berklee College and went on to win the 1993 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition. He has toured internationally and collaborated with greats such as Ray Brown, Cassandra Wilson, and Ry Cooder. Terrasson demonstrates his extraordinary talents in this 1995 Piano Jazz session, playing “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” and “Oleo.”

News Stations: Sat, Jul 23, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Jul 24, 7 pm

Carla Bley and Steve Swallow
Klaus Muempfer/Courtesy of the Artist

  Bassist Steve Swallow and pianist Carla Bley are both acclaimed jazz composers and performers with international reputations. On this 1996 Piano Jazz, they team up to talk with McPartland about their combined repertoire of innovative music. Bley and Swallow kick off the program with a duet of Bley’s composition “Major,” McPartland joins Bley for a unique duet of “Chopsticks,” and they close the show as a trio with Bley’s “Ad Infinitum.”

News Stations: Sat, Jul 16, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun Jul, 17, 7 pm

Aaron Parks

Jul 4, 2016
Aaron Parks
Bill Douthart/ECM Records

  A true prodigy, pianist Aaron Parks was still in his teens when he was McPartland’s guest in this 2001 session. That year he placed first in the fifth American Jazz Piano Competition, landing the Cole Porter Fellowship. He went on to place third in the 2006 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition and has built a prolific career as a performer and recording artist. On this Piano Jazz, Parks performs Cole Porter’s “Miss Otis Regrets.”

News Stations: Sat, Jul 09, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Jul 10, 7 pm

Valerie Capers
valeriecapers.com

  Valerie Capers is a fabulous pianist, composer, and educator. The first blind graduate from the Juilliard School of Music, she is blessed with a diverse piano style that combines elements of Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, and Bill Evans, with some Chopin thrown in. On this 1998 Piano Jazz, Capers shows off her classical chops when she solos on “It Could Happen to You.” Then she and McPartland swing out on “Scrapple from the Apple.”

News Stations: Sat, Jul 02, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Jul 03, 7 pm

Benny Golson at Smoke, No. 2, 106th and Broadway, NYC, 3/11/06.
Ed Newman/Flickr

    Saxophonist and composer Benny Golson began studying piano as a child but was soon seduced by the tenor saxophone sounds he heard on jazz records. He gained recognition as a composer when he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s big band, and he went on to form The Jazztet, a hard-bop group, with trumpeter Art Farmer. Golson has devoted much of his time to jazz education and he continues to record and tour regularly. On this Piano Jazz from 2006, McPartland and bassist Rufus Reid join Golson to perform “Along Came Betty” and “I Remember Clifford.”

Monty Alexander
Courtesy of the artist

      Guitarist Monty Alexander grew up in Kingston, Jamaica. His earliest musical experiences came from the folk and popular songs of his country as well as the Calypso rhythms that originated from Trinidad. Alexander moved to Miami in 1961 and worked in clubs before moving to New York City in 1962, where he played at Minton’s Playhouse. He was McPartland’s guest in 1991. Known for his rhythmic approach and melodic and harmonic inventiveness, Alexander solos on his original “Look Up” and teams up with McPartland for an unusual duet.

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