Marian McPartland: Cool





Plays Music of Leonard Bernstein (out-of-print LP: Time S/2013)


Marian McPartland (piano), Ben Tucker (bass), Jake Hanna (drums).

Composed by Leonard Bernstein


Recorded: August 8-12, 1960


Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

Long after she'd recorded them, Marian McPartland was confronted with several of her 10" Savoy albums to be autographed. "Where did you get these?" she cried in mock or maybe real embarrassment. "Burn them! Please! I was just learning to play then."

Ms. McPartland, the doyenne of NPR and jazz piano too, is nowadays known for her elegant shadings and voicings, the rearrangements and spontaneous inventions in her performances; and she's proved she can swing, too. But she hasn't always had a swinging touch; and her interpretations of several West Side Story tunes date from that still-learning time. (More curio than necessity, McPartland's Bernstein album has, at this writing, never been reissued on CD.) The original LP liner notes point out that she was unfamiliar with the musical, so her versions were truly "improvised." But that turns out to mean brief, staid and somewhat bland.

Her take on "Cool" may be the best of the lot, thanks to the solid rhythm team of Ben Tucker and Jake Hanna. Taken at a pace slower than the musical's chosen tempo, this "Cool" staggers more than swaggers: Tucker bops and walks; Hanna keeps busy with traps and snares, drum rolls and dropped bombs; and the lady sticks to the percussive melody, her short solo sounding rather Brubeck-like, using block chords instead of her own softer linear style in, out, and over.

Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher

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