It's long been an adage that true jazz is best enjoyed live in a club setting where anything goes, and discs like this offer genuine support for that idea. First the history: The legendary McPartland is host of the acclaimed NPR series Piano Jazz, and has released over 50 albums with Concord in 25 years (most of them archive documents from the radio program). She first began playing with drummer Joe Morello in New York about 50 years ago, so it's easy to revere what's happening here as a powerful document affirming their legends. Bassist Rufus Reid rounds out the trio. Apart from the back story, this date, recorded at Shanghai Jazz in Madison, New Jersey rolls along like the spirited session you expect, full of McPartland's technique blending lower-register dark chords with bright, dancing improvisations. This nuance is captured perfectly on a swinging rendition of Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," which begins as a light stroll before both bass beat and drum brushes heat up, while the guys challenge McPartland to zip along at a brisker pace. McPartland is at her most playful and punchy on the up-tempo Duke Ellington tune "Just Squeeze Me," which features a simple, subtle bassline and exotic, booming percussion to complement the steady hi-hat. Pieces like "Moon and Sand" offer quiet reflection and respite from the animated ones. While this is mostly a collection of standards, there are three originals, including Reid's "I Can't Explain," "Shanghai Blues," and the McPartland-Morello improvisational piece "A Snare and a Delusion," the latter of which was probably as interesting to watch in person as listen to here.
AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran