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Marian McPartland: Teddy Wilson: Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz

Marian McPartland must be a great dinner party guest. As mistress of ceremonies for the long-running radio program Piano Jazz, McPartland has elegantly interacted with all manner of jazz musicians and, more recently, pop stars who harbor affection for jazz. Teddy Wilson and Bruce Hornsby are as dissimilar musical personalities as you could wish for, but on these two editions of the Piano Jazz CD series, the ever-affable British expat pianist puts them both at ease, eliciting friendly and informative conversation and quality performances.

As one of McPartland’s primary pianistic influences, the legendary Wilson holds a special place in her heart, and McPartland’s admiration is evident on this 1978 recording. For his part, Wilson displays unexpected candor spinning out details of his professional career, revealing his love for Art Tatum, Vladimir Horowitz and the songs of Billy Strayhorn as well as engaging in intriguing shop talk with his hostess. His solo performances of such warhorses as “Moonglow” and “Lush Life” are characteristically poised, and his duets with McPartland are spirited fun.

That Bruce Hornsby is a serious keyboardist with a keen appreciation for jazz comes as a surprise only to those lacking even a cursory knowledge of his work. This 2003 encounter with McPartland leans jazzward: Hornsby’s intertwining of his own “King of the Hill” with Bill Evans’ “Twelve Tone Tune” is indicative of his sophisticated harmonic knowledge and uncommon technique; his fondness for Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Evans and ease with their idioms obliterates any suggestion of posturing dilettantism. And perfect hostess that she is, McPartland also makes sure Hornsby slips in “The Way It Is.”

Originally Published