What a sad week in the jazz world, as we lost three masters and contributors, Marian McPartland, Albert Murray & Cedar Walton. Today, we pause to celebrate their contributions with gratitude!!
After beginning her career in British music halls, Marian McPartland came to the United States and became jazz star. She possessed a distinctive style on piano, made scores of albums and composed music that was recorded by some of the best artists in the industry. She was a trailblazer for women in jazz, leading her own trio in New York City at the famous Hickory House on 52nd St. in the 1950’s.
But her greatest contribution to jazz came later in life, through her illuminating interviews and impromptu performances with musicians on her long-running NPR program, “Piano Jazz.” She was 61 when the first “Piano Jazz” episode with pianist, Dr. Billy Taylor, aired in 1979. By the time she stepped away from the series in 2011, Ms. McPartland had won a Peabody Award for broadcasting and a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. She also helped a generation learn about jazz through her intimate interviews, conducted in her dulcet-toned, British-accented voice. “Marian McPartland has done more for jazz pianists than anyone in the entire world,” jazz impresario George Wein said in 1991. Ms. McPartland died Aug. 20 at her home in Port Washington, N.Y. She was 95.
Tune in tonight at 7 PM on GPB Radio as Piano Jazz remembers host Marian McPartland with a memorial program. This program is hosted by Marian’s longtime friend Murray Horowitz and features Marian’s original compositions and musical collaborations with Sarah Vaughan, Karrin Allison, Thad Jones, Elvis Costello, and more.
Albert Murray was a literary and jazz critic, novelist, essayist and biographer. Murray received greater attention in the 1980s and 1990s because of his influence on critic Stanley Crouch and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. With Wynton Marsalis, Murray was the co-founder of the program and institution known as Jazz at Lincoln Center. In the New Yorker magazine, author Robert Coles once wrote that Mr. Murray possessed “the poet’s language, the novelist’s sensibility, the essayist’s clarity, the jazzman’s imagination, and the gospel singer’s depth of feeling.” Albert Murray died Aug. 18 at his home in Harlem. He was 97.
Cedar Walton, a pianist and composer who worked with almost every major jazz performer of his era, from John Coltrane to Art Blakey to Abbey Lincoln, and who was honored as a National Endowment for the Arts jazz master, died Aug. 19 at his home in Brooklyn. He was 79. For more than 50 years, Mr. Walton was one of the most respected figures in jazz.
We’ll celebrate the legacies of these great artists tonight and much more on The Jazz Spot starting at 8 PM on your GPB Station!