Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz on Classic 102.1

Saturday 6-7pm

Jazz legend Marian McPartland continues to showcase the world's top musicians on NPR's longest-running jazz program.

Fifty years ago today, Andrew Hill recorded what would become his signature album: Point of Departure. Fifty years later, it still sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday. Assembling a murderer's row of horn players (Eric Dolphy, Kenny Dorham, Joe Henderson) with a rhythm section for the ages (Hill, Richard Davis, Tony Williams), Hill juxtaposed complex, layered harmonies with charged grooves. The result occupies that rare territory between the comfort of the familiar and the allure of the perceptibly unique.

David Warren Brubeck (Dec. 6, 1920 - Dec. 5, 2012) was born in Concord, California. His father was a cattle rancher and his mother taught piano. His two older brothers, Henry and Howard, studied to become musicians, but Dave had no intentions of following them, although he took lessons from his mother. He could not read sheet music, but played well enough that this deficiency went mostly unnoticed.

Russell Malone On Piano Jazz

Nov 30, 2012

On this episode of Piano Jazz, guitarist Russell Malone stops by along with bassist Richie Good for a set of solo, duo and trio performances with host Marian McPartland.

On this Piano Jazz session from 2004, Tony Bennett brings his effortlessly swinging singing to an impeccable set of tunes from the Great American Songbook, including music from Johnny Mercer, Jimmy Van Heusen, Ted Koehler, Alec Wilder and more.

Israel-born clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen joins Marian McPartland, along with bassist Gary Mazzaroppi and drummer Glenn Davis, for a quartet edition of Piano Jazz.

Pianist, composer and teacher Pete Malinverni is a multifaceted player known for his attention to melody and delicate phrasing. Spiritual influences radiate throughout his arrangement of "Deep River," and Malinverni and host Marian McPartland end a delightful hour as they join together in a performance of the Harold Arlen standard "Get Happy."

Elizabeth Doyle was brought up around all kinds of music from an early age, thanks to a truly musical family in South Dakota. Three of her four grandparents were professional musicians, including one radio performer and singing cowboy. Her father had played saxophone and clarinet in the Navy during WWII, and her mother was an avid singer and pianist. Both parents were fans of big-band music, jazz, and the show tunes of the '30s, '40s, and '50s.

Singer-songwriter Willie Nelson was born April 30, 1933, in the small farming community of Abbott, Texas. His early interest in music came about through singing in church, and he wrote his first song at age 7. By age 9, he'd begun playing in a local band; after high school, Nelson served briefly in the Air Force and studied at Baylor University. In the mid-'50s, he worked as a disc jockey in Texas and Washington state, played in honky-tonks and continued to write songs.

Piano Jazz digs deep into the archives with a session featuring James Herbert "Eubie" Blake. He was the last of the known living original ragtime pianists when he appeared on the program in 1980 with host Marian McPartland. Here, the 93-year-old Blake recalls working in vaudeville, performing at the height of the Jim Crow era, writing "Charleston Rag" and even watching a performance by the great Russian pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Dr. John's sound is a musical gumbo composed of blues, rock, R&B, zydeco, jazz and standards, anchored by his own unmistakable voice and grooving piano work. He brought this unique blend to an episode of Piano Jazz that originally aired in spring 1989.

Milt Hinton (a.k.a. "The Judge") was born June 23, 1910, in Vicksburg, Miss. As a boy, he moved to Chicago, where he studied several instruments before settling on the double bass.

This week's Piano Jazz is a rebroadcast of a show that first aired in 1985, presented as a tribute to Blossom Dearie, who died in 2009 at age 82.

The aptly named singer and pianist Blossom Dearie had a unique, childlike voice that, along with truly swinging piano work, could deliver scathing wit wrapped in a sweet package.

Delaware Water Gap, a small town in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, is home to its share of talented jazz musicians. Phil Woods lives in the area, Keith Jarrett is not too far away and the Deer Head Inn is a legendary jazz spot where both men have played.

Guitarist Mimi Fox is in the vanguard of invigorating the jazz guitar tradition. She possesses a pure tone and an amazing set of chops and cooks whether playing bebop or ballads.

Her compositional abilities are evident on this 2006 Piano Jazz as she plays her own tune "Perpetually Hip." With host Marian McPartland on piano and Gary Mazzaroppi on bass, Fox tears up the fret board on "What is This Thing Called Love."

Piano Jazz celebrates the centennial of the grandfather of the jazz violin: Stephane Grappelli. Born in Paris in 1908, Grappelli grew up very poor — his mother died when he was 4 and he spent time in orphanages and boarding schools (including one run by the famous dancer Isadora Duncan) when his father was called away to WWI. Father and son were reunited after the war.

Allen Toussaint, Elvis Costello On Piano Jazz

Sep 5, 2012

Singer-songwriter Elvis Costello sits down as a guest hot with music legend Allen Toussaint in this installment of Piano Jazz.

This episode of Piano Jazz features the unique music of soprano saxophonist Paul Winter. He joins host Marian McPartland, along with bassist Gary Mazzaroppi and drummer Glenn Davis, for a set of ballads and originals. The set also features an additional special soloist — a humpback whale.

"It was very impressive," remembers McPartland. "And we don't often do a show so full of ballads. It was a different sort of show."

Marian McPartland recalls meeting singer Melissa Walker for the first time in the "powder room" at Birdland. McPartland was immediately taken with the young singer's glowing personality — and she probably heard hints of Walker's warm and rich vocals in the few words they exchanged that night.

"She's got such a wonderful voice," recalls McPartland. "The tunes she did aren't heard too often, they were very well done though. I enjoyed that session."

On the drive from his home in Charlottesville, Va., to the Manhattan studios of Piano Jazz, pianist Hod O'Brien was inspired to compose an original tune in honor of the occasion. By the time he'd arrived, he'd worked out a swinging little ditty in his head, so he kicked off this session with a tune he called "Clarion for Marian."

"His playing was wonderful," recalls host Marian McPartland. "And I really enjoyed playing on Charlie Parker ['Now's The Time'] with Hod. I thought it came off very well."

Grady Tate has been lucky enough to have two distinct careers in jazz. He made a name for himself as a session drummer with impeccable rhythm, for music legends such as Quincy Jones, Wes Montgomery, Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin.

Though he's remembered for his intense interest in the lives of everyday folks, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and Chicago radio legend Studs Terkel was also a great lover of music, and especially jazz. His first book, Giants of Jazz, featured literary portraits of the likes of Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.

Host Marian McPartland tried for years to line-up elusive pianist Keith Jarrett for a Piano Jazz session. Following his stellar performance at Carnegie Hall in 2005, McPartland confronted the elusive performer and convinced him to put in an appearance on her show. The Allentown, Pa., native graciously invited McPartland and a small crew to his home studio, a converted barn next to his 18th-century farmhouse.

For Dave Samuels, the love of his first two instruments — the drums and then the piano — naturally led him to the vibraphone. Samuels' gift for evocative melody and his rhythmic versatility make him one of the leading mallet players of his generation, empowering him to swing from the classic-cool sounds of Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan to the contemporary rhythms of The Yellowjackets, Spyro Gyra and his Caribbean Jazz Project.

Dick Hyman On Piano Jazz

Jul 6, 2012

For this Piano Jazz recorded in 2009, host Marian McPartland welcomes back pianist Dick Hyman, who appeared on several programs throughout the years including the first season in 1979.

"Dick has such great chops," says McPartland. "He can really race up and down the keyboard — he gave me a run for my money! It was great fun having him on the show."

Pianist Helen Sung is a dazzling and passionate player originally from Houston, Texas. A graduate of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, she has played with such luminaries as Clark Terry and Wynton Marsalis.

Dave McKenna On Piano Jazz

Jun 22, 2012

This week's show is a tribute to the late pianist Dave McKenna with guest host, pianist and singer Daryl Sherman, who was a friend of McKenna's and is a musical fixture at New York's famous Waldorf Astoria.

In 2005, a young Sicilian pianist named Daniela Schaechter won the prestigious Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz competition. Marian McPartland always takes great interest in the competition, as she greatly admired Mary Lou and is devoted to the next generation of female jazz musicians. McPartland wasted no time in having Schaechter on Piano Jazz.

Piano Jazz remembers jazz piano master Gerald Wiggins, who died in 2008, in a session recorded in 1992.

This week's Piano Jazz was originally broadcast in 1987, when pianist George Shearing made his second appearance on the program.

Pianist and singer Barbara Carroll is an old and dear friend of Piano Jazz host Marian McPartland. In fact, Carroll was the second ever guest to appear on Piano Jazz when the show began 30 years ago. Carroll recalls 1979 as a banner year for her, as well — it's the same year she started what became a 25 year run performing at Bemelman's Bar, at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan.