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Marian McPartland

Marian McPartland at home

The good folks at National Public Radio should invite Marian McPartland to host a botany program. The 85-year-old already coasts the airwaves as the station’s Piano Jazz host, a gig she’s held for the past 25 years, engaging well-known musical guests in revealing conversations and friendly duets, but she also pays considerably artful attention to the Japanese maple and forsythia trees outside her Long Island, N.Y., house. The well-manicured front lawn surrounds a stone walkway that leaps up stairs into a narrow indoor hallway. Feet inside, a spacious kitchen connects to a dining area that’s flanked by shelves of floral china. A porch extends into backyard pastures downstairs, with patches of green and yellow, while upstairs, the color of choice is pink: her pillows, rugs, and lampshades share that hue. Loosely composed watercolor paintings, which she “must have painted at 15,” she says, line the walls beside her living room grand piano, which gets practiced “moderately,” she explains. “I’m usually busy preparing for Piano Jazz or traveling to my [Manhattan] studio, which can take an hour in traffic.”

A driver navigates into the city, so she can rest up, because her romance with the radio show is a full-time gig, requiring extra at-home attention. “I’ve received calls here from musicians’ boyfriends or girlfriends on their behalf, asking to be on the show, and I think, ‘What bloody nerve,’ but then I think, ‘Gee, that’s what I would do!’ I’m very diplomatic.” Her low-register laugh reveals a playful sense of humor that her late husband Jimmy encouraged in her.

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