Marian McPartland, one of the most renowned jazz pianists of her era and a staple on the radio airwaves for many decades, has sadly passed away this week. McPartland died in the comfort of her own Port Washington home on New York's Long Island from natural causes on Tuesday (20 August) at the age of 95 - NPR first reported.
The host of National Public Radio's 'Piano Jazz' show for a number of years, Marian was first a staple of the jazz scene before moving into public broadcasting, recording over 50 records in a career that spanned more than 60 years. Born Margaret Marian Turner in Slough, England just before the end of the First World War, she began playing classical piano at the age of 3, eventually earning herself a place at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music in London, where she stayed for three years before leaving to become a travelling vaudeville act, much to the displeasure of her parents. But it was on the road where Marian began to develop and nourish a love and understanding of jazz, and where she became the woman who was admired by so many throughout her lifetime.
She met her husband, Chicago cornetist Jimmy McPartland (d. 1991) whilst performing for the Allied troops during the Second World War, with the two eventually moving to New York City in the early 1950's. There she gained a part in the jazz trio Hickory House, with whom she managed to brush shoulders with some jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. She went on to record over 50 albums for the Concord Jazz label and became a regular on the road, performing live concerts even when she was in her 80's.
Also a noted essayist, writing numerous acclaimed pieces on music and her own personal experiences as a female working in a make dominated world, McPartland eventually moved on to radio in 1978 when she began 'Piano Jazz' with NPR. On the show, she and her guests would sit on separate pianos and chat away, occasionally breaking into song a various intervals in the show. Since the news of her death broke, friends, colleagues and admirers have flooded Twitter and other social media sites with tributes for the late star, including jazz bassist Christian McBride, NPR host Steve Inskeep, author and editor Sarah Weinman and journalist Frank Rich. Our thoughts go out to her friends and family in the wake of her death.