In 2003, I received a phone call from Marian McPartland inviting me to be a guest on her “Piano Jazz” radio show. I had gone to hear her play in Chicago the year before and was introduced to her in between sets. We chatted briefly, and a few weeks later I followed up by sending her one of my CDs, along with a note expressing an interest in being on her show. I can’t begin to guess how many notes and CDs she must have gotten over the years from folks with motives similar to mine, so I was completely floored by her call.
She had an eclectic mix of guests, ranging from the most famous to those occupying a quirky niche to others who were just starting out; from jazz pianists to jazz non-pianists to non-jazzers. That covers a lot of turf, so it’s safe to say that I fit in there somewhere. But I was just so darned flattered and tickled that she felt that I had something to offer to her show, and it gave me the chills thinking about all of the Jazz Deities with whom I now had something in common.
Marian was apologetic about the compensation that I’d be getting for my appearance. “It’s more of an honorarium, really. Maybe you don’t even want to do it”. I indicated that her offer was acceptable to me. Are you kidding? I would have paid my own way to New York and made a donation to her favorite charity for this opportunity, so I wasn’t about to haggle over nickels and dimes.
She was already in her eighties when I was on her show, so the conversation had a somewhat leisurely flow to it. This caught me off guard a bit, and, because I was so jacked up to be there, took some adjusting on my part. But she was a most gracious host, making me feel as relaxed as the circumstances allowed. My only regret was that we didn’t get to hang out apart from the taping of the show, as I would have loved to have gotten to know her a bit better. I have no doubts that she had a million great stories. But, alas our brief encounter ended and I never saw her again.
I’ll put this out there: I’d say that, after Louis Armstrong, Marian was Jazz’s greatest ambassador. She knew how to make the music interesting to non-musicians and to new listeners without compromising any of its artistic integrity, and she had a long-running forum on which to do it. Oh, she was a great piano player, too.
I hope that you enjoy our meeting of the minds.
Jeremy Kahn; September, 2013