Marian McPartland

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Windows Review

by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

Most NPR listeners have heard of Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, which has been on the air for over 25 years. As wonderful as the radio program is, however, her close association with the show has made it difficult for jazz fans to remember her full contribution to the genre. Though many McPartland recordings exist, Windows is a fine repackaging of two of her best, Portrait of Marian McPartland from 1979 and At the Festival from 1980. Both feature the pianist in snug quartets, the first featuring alto Jerry Dodgion, drummer Jake Hanna, and bassist Brian Torff, the latter with Torff, Hanna, and alto Mary Fettig. A quick glance at both set lists identifies McPartland as a player comfortable in a number of styles, from standards like Rodgers & Hart's "It Never Entered My Mind" and Duke Ellington's "Cotton Tail" to the post-bop of Chick Corea's "Windows" and Herbie Hancock's "Tell Me a Bedtime Story." Everything clicks on Portrait, with a special nod going to the atmospheric "Wind Flower," highlighted by Dodgion's flute. At the Festival is fine live recording, captured on August 11, 1979 (and thus recorded about three months after Portrait). From the opener, Cole Porter's "I Love You," to the bouncy closer, Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," McPartland and friends turn in first-rate work. Windows only dips into two recordings from McPartland's extensive catalog, but nonetheless offers an excellent place to familiarize oneself with a fine jazz pianist.

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