Eastman School of Music will present “Marian McPartland Centennial Celebration” at 8 p.m. on March 23 in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, 26 Gibbs St., to celebrate the legacy and music of McParland, who would have celebrated her 100th birthday in 2018.
The night will include musical and video tributes to Marian, and audiences will also be treated to a full lineup of jazz, including guest artists such as The Monty Alexander Trio, piano duo Renee Rosnes and Bill Charlap and Eastman Jazz Studies professors, including Harold Danko, Bill Dobbins, Jeff Campbell, Gary Versace, Rich Thompson and Tony Caramia. The emcee for the event will be Jack Garner, film and arts editor, formerly of the Democrat and Chronicle.
Considered a pioneer, not only for women in jazz, but in the genre itself, McPartland was an accomplished jazz pianist beloved for her presence on National Public Radio as the host of Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz for over three decades. Piano Jazz offered listeners an intimate, insider’s perspective on the elusive world of jazz improvisation. On her weekly broadcast, McPartland interviewed and performed various jazz musicians. She is also revered for her live performances, symphonic work and compositions. McPartland was awarded a Grammy for lifetime achievement in 2004 and received the Order of the British Empire in 2010.
“Marian McPartland will forever be celebrated as one of the all-time great jazz musicians. She must have known over a thousand tunes, and had the confidence to play a song off the top of her head, in any key, and she loved challenging herself and her guests with extemporaneous freeform playing. Hers was a truly open musical mind, fueled by the desire to learn something new, always willing to explore a fresh musical concept. Marian was an irreplaceable spirit, an international star, a singular artist, and an elegant human being,” said Rosnes and Charlap in a joint statement.
Over the course of her career as a performer, educator and writer, McPartland came to Eastman numerous times, spanning several decades, to guest teach, lead master classes and hear her work performed by the students. Jeff Campbell, professor of jazz studies at Eastman, was not only a guest on Marian’s NPR show, but he performed in a trio with her throughout upstate New York and also developed a relationship with her over the years.
“Marian was a modest, humble, woman who placed supporting others ahead of anything. She wanted to find young talent and help promote their careers. The legacy of what Marian did for our community and the opportunity to pay tribute to that kind of humanity here at Eastman is so important,” said Campbell.
This is the only performance of its kind nationally that celebrates McPartland’s music and impact on the jazz world. Her relationship with Eastman led to many of her archives being donated, as well as her personal piano, which will be played onstage during the centennial celebration. She sponsored a piano concert series at Eastman for several years aimed to help young pianists as they forged their careers. Eastman retains recordings of her work here and compositions written in her own hand.
“Marian was a juxtaposition of complexity and simplicity at the same time,” said Campbell. “She could be avant-garde and forward-thinking, and then play or create a four-bar tune that had you bewildered by its simplicity and perfection.”
“As both a guest on Marian’s show, and in my personal interactions with her, it’s such a pleasure to celebrate her life and legacy here at Eastman and with the Rochester community in this unique event. What I admired about Marian was her musicianship, to be sure, but also her warmth and candor,” said Versace.
“She was a great friend to me, but also a truly wonderful friend to the Eastman School of Music,” said Harold Danko, professor emeritus.
Tickets for the centennial celebration are $26-$71, with $10 student tickets available to purchase. Tickets can be purchased at the Eastman Theatre Box Office, 433 East Main St.; at eastmantheatre.org; or by phone, (585) 274-3000.