Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland

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 ┬árelaxed 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

13 thoughts on “Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland”

  1. Wow…What eloquence, Jeremy. This must have been such a marvelous experience. You know how I feel about you and what you do. I finally got to hear this appearance and just smiled the entire time. I feel privileged that I got to work with you and look forward to more down the road. Be proud…I”m proud to know you.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Ron; they mean a tremendous amount. And I’m very proud to know you, too. See you around campus.

  2. Thanks for reposting this – I remember when it aired! Great to hear you get the recognition, and yes, Marian was a great ambassador for the music.

  3. Wow, I’m glad you experienced meeting Marian McPartland. I smiled the entire program. Very impressive. Did I say wow?

  4. This is just wonderful, Jeremy. Beautiful, informative, fun!
    I never heard the Mingus song before. Loved it, as did Ms. McPartland.
    What a fine lady, musician, and musical host she was. How great to have this treasure documented. You are a truly fantastic musician.

    • Hi Carole,

      Thanks for the kind words. Being on “Piano Jazz” was a tremendous honor that I’ll always cherish.

  5. This was a real pleasure. So wonderful to hear you play, and chat with the Grande Dame herself. I especially loved the duets, bringing out the best in one another.

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