Online since August 2002

Fascinating rhythm – and chat

Reviewed August 2006

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz Radio Broadcast: John Medeski
Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz Radio Broadcast: John Medeski
By Marian McPartland and John Medeski

The Jazz Alliance / Concord Music Group: 2006

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

On the surface it might seem an odd pairing, the 85-year-old grand dame of straight-ahead piano jazz, Marian McPartland, with 40-year-old keyboardist John Medeski of the avant-groove jam band Medeski, Martin and Wood. But Ms. McPartland, in her nearly thirty years as host of National Public Radio's "Piano Jazz" series, proves herself an gracious and open minded host to the younger musician, in conversation and on the keyboard.

John Medeski's sound, in the very successful MM&W band, revolves around an array of electric keyboard instruments. He reveals, in this interview, that he owns about fifty different types of vintage keyboards – Wurlitzers, clavinets, various organs, Fender rhodes pianos. But this disc features him and McPartland on acoustic piano, which, as he tells his host, was his first instrument in his early studies toward a goal of a carer in classical music.

The talk here is relaxed, informative and off-the cuff – improvising, in true jazz fashion – with Ms. McPartland reminiscing about her friendships with jazz greats Duke Ellington and Art Tatum, and Medeski relating his early performances playing American Songbook tunes on solo piano, in country clubs for people to dance to. "Oh boy," says McPartland, with tongue in cheek dismay.

It's not all talk, of course – it's mostly music, with Medeski treating us to a couple of Monk tunes – "Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-lues Are" and the always playful "Bemsha Swing," with McParltand sitting in, adding a classy sparkle to the melody. The hostess contributes her own "Threnody" to the set, and she and her guest duet on a particularly spirited rendition of Duke Ellington's "Caravan" and a couple of Medeski-penned tunes; and they even provide an impromptu "Free Piece," composing on the fly together.

"Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz with Guest John Medeski" features some great sounds as it treats us to some informal, always fascinating jazz education.

Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.

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