Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


August 22, 2013

GARY'S WORLD: Gems come and go once in a blue moon

CROSSVILLE — It's surely poetic that she passed away on the night of a Blue Moon.

I learned Wednesday morning that one of my all-time favorite interviewers and musicians, Marian McPartland, passed away.

A post on her Facebook page Wednesday morning said, "Marian peacefully passed away at the age of 95 in her home in Port Washington, NY. She died in her sleep at 11:58 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 20 (The Night of the Blue Moon), smiling, knowing that she was surrounded by family and friends."

I'm sure many of you reading this are wondering, "Who's Marian McPartland?"

She certainly wasn't out in the mainstream entertainment world, but she combined the art of jazz music, jazz piano, interviewing and radio broadcasting with such an effortless flair.

McPartland was a jazz pianist and radio host for National Public Radio (NPR) and was the host of a radio show for more than 40 years.

She hosted Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. NPR described her program as, "The NPR program pairing conversation and duet performances that reached an audience of millions, connecting with jazz fans and the curious alike. She interviewed practically every major jazz musician of the post-WWII era."

Her voice, with that subtle English accent and soft rasp were simply captivating. I discovered her program one night by mistake many years ago and I couldn't stop listening. Her questions, stories, memories, conversation, music and voice just made the program magical.

She was a legend. She's interviewed such greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Chick Corea, Dave Brubeck and even current Jazz artists such as Norah Jones, Lyle Mays and so many more.

Marian was from England, during World War II she often played piano and entertained soldiers where she met and married a U.S. soldier/musician, Jimmy McPartland, and came to the U.S.

Not only was she an incredibly skilled interviewer later in life, Marian was an accomplished jazz pianist who made a name for herself in New York City after playing in a steak house in the center of New York's jazz scene. That wasn't easy for a woman in the 1950s.

While performing there, many of the jazz greats of the day came by and she met them all, according to McPartland's biographer, Paul de Barros said during an interview with NPR.

She continued to play, perform and record throughout the '50s and '60s. In the late '60s, she started playing jazz records on a New York radio station and other jazz musicians would show up at the studio, unannounced, and they would chat. That lead to her radio program.

McPartland told NPR in 2005 that her interest in music started when she was a young girl, after she heard her mother play piano.

"From that moment on, I don't remember ever not playing piano, day and night, wherever I was," she said. "At my aunt's house, at kindergarten — wherever they had a piano, I played it."

Her interview style was so relaxed and casual. She said that her radio interviews, or conversations, were like jazz music in the sense that they were spontaneous and she would let the conversation roam wherever it would roam. She never wanted it to seem like an interview, but rather more like a conversation.

I truly admired her for the musician she was, the music she made and the interview skills she demonstrated. She interviewed so many jazz legends over the years, but every interview was the same in the sense that it was like a conversation with a friend.

Listeners like me couldn't help but feel like they were listening in on a candid conversation between two friends.

The warmth of her gentle, kind personality always came through no matter who she was interviewing.

She shared her love of jazz music improvisation and interview skills with the world, effortlessly, for so many years. Her piano playing was as smooth and effortless and was a joy to hear.

I know I will truly miss her program and interview style. I, like millions of listeners, looked forward to it each week.

I sure wish there were more Marian McPartlands in this world, instead of the shock-jock, psycho, obnoxious, in your face, super-star wannabe broadcasters that there are now on radio. It seems each one is trying to outdo the other with their "look at me" philosophy and stunts, rather than creating a name for themselves by using a talent.

I guess that's just one of the many reasons I like to listen to so many NPR radio shows.

• • •

Gary Nelson is a Crossville Chronicle staffwriter. His column is published each Friday. He may be reached at

Text Only
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014