Marian McPartland was born Margaret Marian Turner on March 20, 1918 in Windsor, England. A musical prodigy from the time she could sit at a piano at age three, she pursued classical studies on piano and violin at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. However, much to the dismay of her family, she developed a love for American jazz and musicians such as Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, and Mary Lou Williams among many others.
By 1938, despite her family’s efforts to keep her at Guildhall, Marian left to join Billy Mayerl’s Claviers, a four-piano vaudeville act, performing under the stage name of Marian Page. The group toured throughout Europe during WWII entertaining Allied troops where she met and performed with Jimmy McPartland, and later married, moving to the United States.
1944 saw the McPartlands in New York with Marian forming her own trio and enjoying an 8-year engagement at the Hickory House bringing drummer Joe Morello into the fold. After many years of recording for labels such as Capitol, Savoy, Argo, Sesac, Time, and Dot, in 1969 she founded her own record label, Halcyon Records, before having a long association with the Concord Jazz label.
Marian launched a weekly radio program that featured recordings and interviews with guests in 1964 on WBAI-FM in New York City. This series paved the way for the NPR program Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz that began on June 4, 1978 and is the longest-running cultural program on NPR as well as being one of the longest-running jazz programs ever produced on public radio.
A master at adapting to her guest’s musical styles and having a well-known affinity for beautiful and harmonically rich ballads, McPartland also has recorded many tunes of her own. Her compositions include “Ambiance”, “There’ll Be Other Times”, “With You In Mind”, “Twilight World”, and ”In the Days of Our Love”.
Marian a participated in 60 years of jazz evolution, was awarded a Trustees’ Lifetime Achievement Award Grammy for her work as an educator, writer, and host of Piano Jazz, and was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2010. Pianist and composer Marian McPartland passed away on August 20, 2013 of natural causes at her home in Port Washington, New York. She was 95 years old.
More Posts: piano
Reuben “Ruby” Braff was born on March 16, 1927 in Boston, Massachusetts He began playing in local clubs in the 1940s and in 1949, and he was hired to play with the Edmond Hall Orchestra at Boston’s Savoy Cafe. Ruby teamed up with Pee Wee Russell when the clarinet was making a comeback and they recorded several sessions for Savoy Records.
Relocating to New York in 1953 Braff easily fit into a variety of Dixieland and mainstream settings becoming in demand for band dates and recordings. He recorded as both leader and sideman working with such names as Vic Dickinson, Buck Clayton, Urbie Green, Ellis Larkins and Benny Goodman.
In the Sixties he was a member of George Wein’s Newport All-Stars but for a number of years work was hard to come by for the Dixieland player until the 70s when he formed a quartet in 1973. Following this he freelanced in different small combos and duets ultimately recording with Scott Hamilton’s quintet and sparring with guitarist Howard Alden.
Ruby Braff, cornetist and trumpeter who played in the genres of Dixieland, mainstream jazz and swing passed away on February 10, 2003 in Chatham, Massachusetts.
James Dugald McPartland was born on March 15, 1907 in Chicago, Illinois and due to family problems caused Jimmy and his siblings to be partly raised in orphanages. After being kicked out of one orphanage for fighting, he got in further trouble with the law. Fortunately, he had started violin at age 5, then took up the cornet at 15 and credits music with turning him around.
A member of the legendary Austin High Gang in the 920s, they would study and attempt duplication of recordings by The New Orleans Rhythm Kings and visit with Louis Armstrong and King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band at Lincoln Gardens. After playing through high school, their first musical job was under the name The Blue Friars. In 1924, at age 17, McPartland was then called to New York to take Bix Beiderbecke’s place in the Wolverine Orchestra and who gave him a cornet he would play throughout his career.
From 1926 to the end of the decade, Jimmy worked with Art Kassel, the McKenzie-Condon Chicagoans, Ben Pollack and Benny Goodman, moonlighted in Broadway pit bands and played in a number of small combos. By the thirties he was back in Chicago working with his brother at the Three Deuces and working with other bands around the city. He spent time in South America, returned and led his own bands until drafted into WWII.
Upon his return McPartland worked with Willie “The Lion” Smith’s band that won a Grammy for the soundtrack to the 1954 film After Hours. He soon met and married Marian, encouraged her to form her own group and subsequently landed a long residency at the Hickory House. Jimmy went on to try his hand at acting resulting in a featured role in a Sal Mineo and Ralph Meeker episode “The Magic Horn” on The Alcoa Hour in 1956.
Over the course of his career James McPartland has played with Gene Krupa, Jack Teagarden, Eddie Condon, Pee Wee Russell, Bud Freeman, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Lil Armstrong and George “Pops” Foster to name a few while also guest starring with many bands and at festivals around the world. Although he and Marian divorced in 1970, they remained friends, worked together and remarried shortly before his death of lung cancer on March 13, 1991 in Port Washington, New York, two days shy of his 84th birthday.
More Posts: cornet
Quincy Delight Jones, Jr. was born on March 14, 1933 in Chicago, Illinois. When he was ten, his family moved to Bremerton, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. He first fell in love with music when he was in elementary school, and tried nearly all the instruments in his school band before settling on the trumpet. While barely in his teens attending Garfield High, Quincy befriended then-local singer-pianist Ray Charles and the two youths formed a combo, eventually landing small club and wedding gigs.
At 18, the young trumpeter won a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts but dropped out abruptly when he received an offer to go on the road with bandleader Lionel Hampton. The stint with Hampton led to work as a freelance arranger and settling in New York, throughout the 1950s he wrote charts for Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington, Cannonball Adderley and Ray Charles.
In 1964 Quincy won his first Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement of “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, in 1968 he won his second Grammy for Best Instrumental Performance with “Walking In Space” and that same year along with his songwriting partner Bob Russell became the first African Americans to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “The Eyes Of Love” and he became the first African American to be nominated twice within the same year when for Best Original Score for the 1967 film In Cold Blood.
His firsts would continue in 1971 when named musical director/conductor of the Academy Awards ceremony, being first to win the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, and He is tied at 7 with sound designer Willie D. Burton as the most Oscar-nominated African American.
His musical achievements are too numerous to list as they span the gambit from film scores such as The Pawnbroker, In The Heat of the Night, The Italian Job, MacKenna’s Gold, The Getaway and The Color Purple to his jazz works “Body Heat” and “Big Band Bossa Nova” from which Soul Bossa Nova was used in the Austin Powers movies to his crowning glories with Miles Davis last release “Live at the Monteux Jazz Festival”, his work with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the charity song “We Are The World”. He continues to produce, conduct, arrange and compose.
Freddy Johnson was born on March 12, 1904 in New York City. He eventually gained fame and popularity in the 1930s as a swing pianist. He began playing professionally as accompanist to Florence Mills and then formed his own band in 1924. In 1925 he worked with Elmer Snowden and in 1926 he worked with Billy Fowler, then briefly with Henri Saparo and Noble Sissle before joining Sam Wooding’s band on a European tour in 1928.
Wooding and Johnson parted ways a year later and Johnson returned to Paris to do solo work. While in Paris, Freddy along with trumpeter Arthur Briggs and put together a band. Between late 1933 and 1934 Johnson worked with Freddy Taylor’s band, then left for work in Belgium and The Netherlands. In the mid 30′s he made some recordings with the Quintette du Hot Club de France.
While living in Amsterdam he co-lead a band with Lex Van Spall, and they played regularly at the Negro Palace in a trio with Coleman Hawkins. He later worked at the Negro Palace, then with Max Woiski at La Cubana, in Amsterdam where he was arrested by the Nazis and was remanded to a prison camp in Bavaria from 1942-44.
After returning to the States he worked with George James and Gavin Bushell in New York City but by the late 40s and early 50s he worked mostly as a piano and voice coach and also did some solo residencies at Well’s New York. Soon after a touring stint in Europe he became very ill with cancer, infirmed at a Copenhagen hospital in 1960, returned to New York and stayed in St. Barnabas Hospital until his death on March 24, 1961.
More Posts: piano