Even when the great Charlie Parker fulfilled his desire to record with strings, there were many jazz fans who decried such a choice as a sellout. But the fact is that many jazz artists long to record at least one session with strings, not to appeal to the easy listening crowd but because they see it as a way to complement their playing in a different way. This recording features Marian McPartland backed by a small string section, augmented by a harpist and drums (the latter sticking to brushes when present), playing her own arrangements of a mix of standards, jazz compositions, and centuries-old melodies. She inserts a driving, boppish improvisation into the midst of Beethoven's "Für Elise," while her elegant setting of "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" is accompanied by swirling strings and harp at first, before switching gears to a swinging improvisation. Kurt Weill's "This Is New" features the strings playing pizzicato behind her, while her sensitive arrangement of Billy Strayhorn's "After All" is among the most lyrical performances of the date. McPartland's pretty ballad "With You in Mind" is probably not that well known to most of her fans, though she occasionally performed it as a piano solo in several programs of her long-running NPR radio series. This Capitol LP was once very hard to find, but a DRG CD reissue in 2006 made it a lot more affordable.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden