June 14, 2024

marian McPartlandMarian McPartland
Grand Dame of Jazz
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.
When you think of women in jazz most people start out with “Ella”, “Sarah” and “Billie”. Although these were wonderful performers, their combined contribution to the jazz world and the participation of women in that world pales in comparison to one little lady from England. This lady has been hosting her own live radio program (Piano Jazz) on National Public Radio since 1978. Even before that she started her own record company (Halcyon), married another famous jazz musician and had her own trio that ran for years and years at New York’s Hickory House in the 50’s. Yes… I said the 50’s, before women’s lib and burned bras. Before Hillary and Courtney and Cher, there was Marian McPartland.

Once quoted as saying “no matter when you do Duke Ellington, it’s the right time” this multifaceted pianist was present and pictured in the famous Harlem 1958 jazz portrait, which her husband Jimmy missed because he “didn’t want to get up yet.” In addition to being a published author Marian continues to play and release albums. Her “Piano Jazz” radio series has won a number of awards including the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, a “Gracie” — the Gracie Allen Award given annually by American Women in Radio and Television — and the National Music Council’s American Eagle Award.

Find out more about this jazz pioneer at the Marian McPartland Web Site at

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