Guitarist Pat Metheny is one of the brightest stars in the jazz firmament. The only person to win a Grammy in ten different categories, the ever-evolving artist is constantly experimenting with new technology and honing his improvisational skills and unique style. On this 2006 Piano Jazz, The Pat Metheny Trio, which includes bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez, performs an exclusive version of "Go Get It" and "Bright Size Life.
Long acknowledged as one of the world's leading sopranos, Eileen Farrell (1920 – 2002) was comfortable in the spotlight of opera, jazz, and the blues. She began her career as a classical and operatic singer, and in the 1980s began performing pop. Of the change, Farrell said, "In opera there is a certain person you have to be. Doing pop, I can be whoever I want to be."
Grammy Award-winning pianist, composer, and bandleader Michel Camilo is one of the most fascinating jazz artists working today. A prodigy from the Dominican Republic, he began his professional career at sixteen, the youngest member of the National Symphony Orchestra. In his twenties he moved to New York City, where he took the jazz scene by storm with his whirlwind approach to music, technical brilliance, and post-bop Latin rhythms. In this 1989 Piano Jazz session, Camilo plays his own composition "Nostalgia."
Pianist Gene Harris (1933 – 2000) was an integral part of the well-known group The Three Sounds trio, with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy. After a brief hiatus in the 1970s, he teamed up with bassist Ray Brown to form a new group and also made his way as a solo act. An accomplished leader and sideman, Harris played with such greats as Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, and B.B. King. On this 1988 Piano Jazz, Harris opens with a slow and easy "Black and Blue," then McPartland joins him on "Bag's Groove."
This week, Piano Jazz remembers Marlene VerPlanck (1933 – January 14, 2018), who died from cancer this year at age 84. One of the finest interpreters of American Popular Song, VerPlanck's artistic sensitivity made her a favorite of songwriters and listeners alike. As a studio singer, she was sought out by everyone from Frank Sinatra to KISS, and she also had a dynamic career as a solo performer. She was McPartland's guest in 1999. In this session, VerPlanck joins McPartland to sing "Skylark" and "Our Love is Here to Stay."
Vibraphonist Stefon Harris is one of the most innovative and impressive artists in jazz, blazing new trails on vibraphone and marimba. While much of his music is on the cutting edge, he has a strong sense of tradition and his technical facility knows no bounds. On this 2002 Piano Jazz, Harris shows off his fresh, clear sound on a number of duets with McPartland, including "Whisper Not," "Blue Monk," and "Bemsha Swing." McPartland solos on her own "Twilight World."
This week's Piano Jazz presents an episode from the early years of the program with guest Jess Stacy (1904 – 1995), who came out of retirement to appear on the show in 1982. One of the leading pianists of the swing era, Stacy was best known for his work with the Benny Goodman Orchestra and had a prolific career before stepping back from the music world in the 1950s. In this classic session from the archives, Stacy needs no introduction as he starts the show with a solo performance of "Dancing Fool." McPartland joins to end the hour with "St. Louis Blues."
Pianist and composer Rachel Z grew up in Manhattan in a musical family. Her mother taught her classical voice and opera from a young age, but she found her own sound in the jazz and rock worlds. On the keys, she is lightning-quick and her percussive yet lyrical approach enhances her technique. In 2010, she formed a group called The Trio of Oz with her husband, Omar Hakim. On this 1999 Piano Jazz, Rachel Z performs her original "Gently Sleeps the Pear Tree." She and McPartland switch gears with "All the Things You Are."
Ever-popular song stylist Tony Bennett was McPartland's guest for the first time in 1990. Bennett vocalizes American popular songs like nobody else can. When he was starting out, a voice teacher, Miriam Spier, famously told him: "Don't imitate singers, imitate musicians." So, Bennett decided to emulate Art Tatum. He also credits his relaxed delivery to the inspiration of Mildred Bailey. On this edition of Piano Jazz, Bennett sings "Stay as Sweet as You Are" and "Imagination." There's no need to guess who's playing the accompaniment.
Upon moving to New York from Vancouver, Canada, pianist and composer Renee Rosnes established a reputation as one of the premier jazz musicians on the scene. Over her 30-year career, Rosnes has collaborated with a diverse range of artists, from established masters such as Jack DeJohnette to younger giants such as Christian McBride and Melissa Aldana. On this 1990 episode of Piano Jazz, she plays Monk's "Four in One" then improvises with McPartland on her own tune "Fleur De Lis."
Pulitzer Prize finalist and 2007 Guggenheim Fellow Don Byron is a prodigious multi-instrumentalist and composer. One of the most inventive and compelling musicians of his generation, he is credited for reviving interest in the jazz clarinet, his primary instrument. He has presented projects at major music festivals around the world and is known for playing in a wide variety of genres. In this 1999 Piano Jazz session, Byron demonstrates his flexibility and duets with McPartland on "Perdido," "Moon Indigo," and a creative free piece.
Pianist and vocalist Barbara Carroll (1925 – 2017) was described as a joyous and swinging jazz stylist. A dear friend of McPartland's, Carroll had a monumental career. When she was a guest on the program in 1979, she had just started her engagement at Bemelmans Bar in Manhattan, where she would perform for a remarkable 25 years. On this episode from the first season of Piano Jazz, she plays an original, "Barbara's Carol," and duets with McPartland on a timely rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely."
Pianist Andrew Hill (1931 – 2007) began playing jazz as a teenager in Chicago, where he was encouraged by Earl Hines. As he came of age, Hill played with jazz legends Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. He may be known best for his classic Blue Note recordings in the 1960s, which extended the possibilities of bop and hard bop through complex tunes. On this 2005 Piano Jazz, Hill demonstrates his mastery of melody, rhythm and technique on his own "Nicodemus" before joining host McPartland for "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square."
Pianist, vocalist, and songwriter Marcia Ball brings together Texas blues with Louisiana flavors, melding boogie-woogie, zydeco, and Swamp Rock. Influenced by artists of the region, such as Janis Joplin, Ball first came to the blues as a child by listening to Etta James and learned the piano through a mix of formal and informal lessons. On this 1997 Piano Jazz, Ball demonstrates her unique sound with "Crawfishin'" and her original "That's Enough of That." McPartland joins for a dual-piano rendition of "Woke Up Screaming."
One year ago this month, the music world lost Geri Allen, a highly regarded and influential pianist, composer, and educator. Allen (June 12, 1957 – June 27, 2017) died of cancer at age 60. A vital contributor to contemporary jazz, she was known for uniting disparate styles of jazz, and her style found its roots everywhere from Motown and James Brown to the music of Fats Waller and Thelonious Monk. In 2008, on her third appearance on Piano Jazz, Allen and McPartland perform a spontaneous composition. Allen solos on originals, including "Brilliant Veracity."
Roy Haynes is one of the greatest living jazz drummers of a generation, with a career spanning seven decades. In 2016 he joined Jon Batiste and Stay Human on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, performing at age 91. He was McPartland's guest for this 1996 Piano Jazz session. He reminisces with McPartland about the 1940s Chicago jazz scene and the 1950s Boston scene. Bassist Christian McBride joins them for Miles Davis' "So What," and Haynes solos on "Shades of Senegal."
Ben Sidran is not only a nationally respected jazz composer, pianist, and song stylist, he is also a scholar, radio/TV producer, and jazz writer. When he was a guest on Piano Jazz in 1989, NPR listeners often heard his insightful commentary on All Things Considered as well as his own program Sidran on Record, which began in 1981. In this session Sidran duets with McPartland on "What Is This Thing Called Love?" and sings originals, including "Get to the Point" and "Mitsubishi Boy."
This week Piano Jazz remembers Barbara Cook (1927 – August 8, 2017), the Tony and Grammy Award-winning lyric soprano who was a favorite of audiences around the world. She was a star on Broadway as an ingénue and became a staple of the New York cabaret scene in the later years of her prolific career. She was McPartland's guest in 1998. Joined by her longtime musical collaborator and accompanist Wally Harper, Cook delights host McPartland with her rendition of "It Might as Well Be Spring." McPartland returns the favor with her solo of "Plain and Fancy."
Harry "Sweets" Edison (1915 – 1999) was a legendary stylist of jazz trumpet. From his days as a soloist in the Count Basie Band to his time as a studio musician for the likes of Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald, he was known for the sweet, muted tones that were his namesake. On this Piano Jazz, originally broadcast just months before he passed away in 1999, Edison joins McPartland and bassist Andy Simpkins for "Dejection Blues" and "No Greater Love," along with one of his originals, "Centerpiece."
Saxophonist, composer, and bandleader Virginia Mayhew has appeared in major New York jazz venues, from the Blue Note to Carnegie Hall, toured internationally, and twice represented the US as a Jazz Ambassador. She is also an active jazz educator and founded the Greenwich House Music School Jazz Workshop. On this 1998 Piano Jazz, Mayhew and McPartland join forces to perform "All the Things You Are" and "Body and Soul." They close the hour with a free piece, improvised live in the studio.
In honor of the birthday of Don Friedman (May 4, 1935 – June 30, 2016), Piano Jazz presents this broadcast from 1996. Although Friedman first studied classical piano, he fell in love with the voice of jazz and performed with jazz greats such as Chet Baker and Buddy DeFranco. In this session, Friedman demonstrates his unique sound on a solo of his "Waltz for Marilyn." He and McPartland duet in "Stella by Starlight," and bassist Gary Mazzaroppi joins for "How Deep is the Ocean."
Brazilian pianist, composer, and vocalist Eliane Elias grew up with an affinity for both the music of her home country as well as American jazz. She got her start performing with two renowned Brazilian artists, singer-songwriter Toquinho and poet Vinicius de Moraes, before moving to New York in the 1980s, where she took the American jazz scene by storm. She was McPartland's guest for the first time in this 1988 Piano Jazz session. Elias plays a beautiful arrangement of "Darn that Dream" and teams up with McPartland for "Falling in Love with Love."
Piano Jazz remembers Willie Pickens (April 18, 1931 – December 12, 2017), who passed away at the age of 86. A master of digital speed and harmonic sophistication, the Chicago pianist was McPartland's guest for this 1997 program. Recorded live at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in Pittsburgh, the set kicks off with an improvised boogie-woogie that shows why Pickens' contemporaries revered him as "one of the foremost piano players in jazz." He and McPartland bring down the house with a joint performance of "Just One of Those Things."
Pianist and vocalist Cleo Brown (1909 – 1995) was one of the early innovators of the boogie-woogie style and the first female instrumentalist to be named an NEA Jazz Master. She retired from performing in the 1950s and focused her attention on religious music, bringing her gifted voice and strong left hand to gospel tunes. On this 1985 Piano Jazz, Brown makes a rare appearance to perform her greatest hit, "Pinetop's Boogie-Woogie," and to recall the style's heyday in the 1930s. She delights McPartland with a duet version of "A Closer Walk with Thee."