Jazz legend Marian McPartland continues to showcase the world's top musicians on NPR's longest-running and most widely carried jazz program, Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz.
Born Margaret Marian Turner in 1918 in Windsor, England, Marian began to teach herself Chopin waltzes on the piano by ear when she was only three years old. She later pursued classical training at London's Guildhall School of Music before joining a four-piano vaudeville act, traveling throughout Europe during World War II to entertain the Allied troops.
While on tour in Belgium, she met and began to perform with her future husband, famed Chicago cornetist Jimmy McPartland (left). In the U.S. after the war, McPartland performed for a brief time with her husband's Dixieland quintet. But she heard the call of bebop and began to head in other musical directions.
McPartland formed her own trio and landed a two-week stint at the renowned Hickory House in New York City. With her ability to gently shepherd a poignant ballad, to swing with real power, and to stay ahead of new developments in jazz, McPartland turned those two weeks at the Hickory House into an eight-year residency. It became a gathering place for jazz colleagues such as Oscar Peterson, Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington.
After recording for several existing labels — including over 50 albums with Concord — McPartland founded her own imprint, Halcyon Records. Artists who have recorded on the Halcyon label include pianists Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson, and Dave McKenna. McPartland's composing has not escaped notice either, and her material has been recorded by Tony Bennett and Peggy Lee, among others.
The long list of honors bestowed upon McPartland and the show include, a George Foster Peabody Award, the Gracie Allen Award given by American Women in Radio and Television, the National Music Council's American Eagle Award, and a Grammy Trustee's Award for lifetime achievement. After nearly 28 years as host of Piano Jazz, Marian will be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in late 2007. She has received honorary degrees from Hamilton, Union, and Bates Colleges, Bowling Green University, and the University of South Carolina.
Her books include The Artistry of Marian McPartland, a collection of transcriptions released by Columbia Pictures Publications, and Marian McPartland's Jazz World: All in Good Time, a collection of McPartland's jazz profiles published by the University of Illinois Press.