[Third post about the forthcoming Ethan Iverson Residency in London]
Marian McPartland was a pal of my teacher Sophia Rosoff. They were relatively close in age (Marian was born 1918, Sophia 1924) and had known a lot of the same people over the years. Thanks to Sophia, I was featured on Marian’s legendary radio show “Piano Jazz.” Wow, was Marian a pro! Just a wonderful radio personality. At the studio she made me feel really comfortable and even learned one of my tunes. In high school I had listened to “Piano Jazz” whenever I could — I particularly remember the Eubie Blake episode — and it was a bit surreal to be in that situation as a participant.
(Sophia would always tell her students about Marian’s daily question to everybody in her peer group, including Sophia: “Are you getting laid?” Sophia would then respond, “Marian, you are so very English.” Marian was around 90 and Sophia 84 at that time.)
The best McPartland album I know is a lovely recital of Alec Wilder themes. There’s a new interest in Don Shirley due to the movie Green Book, and in a way one can see Shirley and McPartland as part of a midcentury continuum of lush piano that intersects with jazz and song. Wilder and Cy Walter would be one end of the spectrum, Erroll Garner and Ahmad Jamal on the other, George Shearing and André Previn dead in the middle. If you dared you could put Ramsey Lewis and Roger Williams in there. Certainly both Liberace and Nat King Cole have a place.
I wanted to include a McPartland selection for the night of jazz composers partly because a solo ballad would give the full quintet a break. After listening to all the McPartland ballads I could find (Thad and Mel played “Ambience,” which might be the best known to McPartland piece to jazz buffs) I settled on “Afterglow,” which has a splendid live recording on YouTube.
I left this until the last minute to work out, and finally transcribed it last night. My rhythmic notation involves a lot of guesswork. It’s also just for me, so I cut a few corners that I wouldn’t if I was handing the chart around for rehearsal with a band.
Fooling around with it just now I felt it was too high in range for my usual ballad approach. At first I was transposing to lower keys but then I realized I could just drop the octave for the first half. A voice memo recording from ten minutes ago shows potential.
I still have a couple of days to sleep on it, and then in concert, who knows, perhaps lightning will strike. One of the great things about jazz is how at the last moment, one can decide to do something completely different….