Should we be surprised that such a fine and enduring pianist as Marian McPartland can also be such an excellent writer? The same intelligence and insight that is a mark of her playing is now turned upon her fellow musicians, with this up-dated commentary on some of her favorite people.
Drummers Joe Morello and Jake Hanna; alto sax player Paul Desmond; pianist Mary Lou Williams; enigmatic band leader Benny Goodman, genius Bill Evans; bass players Ron McClure and Eddie Gomez; Dudley Moore, comedian and pianist; the multiracial all women band, International Sweethearts of Rhythm and composer Alec Wilder.
Marian fought through her own apprenticeship seemingly handicapped from the outset, Leonard Feather, the Jazz critic, remarked she had three strikes against her; she was English, white and a woman. This did not hold her back though, suffering backhanded compliments like, "You can't be a respectable woman the way you play the piano."
She writes with affection of the Hickory House where she opened in 1952, and of her husband, famous Jazz trumpeter Jimmy McPartland. It is with this warmth and affection that she is able to make compelling the descriptions of the musicians she writes about, breathing much understanding into their complex personalities. Indeed, such is her depth of analysis one is drawn closer to them in a most private way; I felt I had known Mary Lou Williams personally. Had Marian's piano playing not paid the rent, a day job as a psychoanalyst would have been well within her grasp.
It is always good to receive an insider's view on some of the people we often listen to but really know nothing about. One feels that Marian can be trusted; her views are positive and loving, and she does offer the opinions of other people to balance her own.
Each chapter is a story on its own; for those Jazz buffs that wish to get closer to their favorites, this will certainly help.
by Ferdinand Maylin
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