Longtime bandleader for NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman, Paul Shaffer’s early training was in the classics. But thanks to rock-n-roll, he grew up to lead what David Letterman has called “the world’s most dangerous band.” Also a composer, performer, and director, the versatile Shaffer is indeed a force to be reckoned with. On this 1988 Piano Jazz, he plays the standard “All the Things You Are” and teams up with McPartland for Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.”
Cyrus Chestnut is a conservatory-trained pianist who is firmly grounded in jazz history, all the way back to Jelly Roll Morton. He’s also played with many of today’s best interpreters—Wynton Marsalis, Jon Hendricks, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Terence Blanchard, and Betty Carter, to name a few. On this 2003 Piano Jazz, he joins McPartland for a swinging hour of jazz bursting with spirit.
Five-time Grammy Award-winner Gary Burton taught himself to play the vibraphone as a young person and began his recording career at age seventeen. He backed jazz greats, including George Shearing and Stan Getz, and went on to form his own quartet, combining jazz, rock, and other influences into what would become Fusion. On this Piano Jazz from 2005, Burton and McPartland perform tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Duke Ellington, Rodgers & Hart, and many more.
Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez worked with Dizzy Gillespie and his United Nations Orchestra, where he absorbed bebop and prebop styles. But Dizzy also impressed upon him the importance of getting to the roots of his own heritage, and Perez began creating music that seeks connection and defies boundaries. In this Piano Jazz session from 1994, he demonstrates his fresh ideas of music with his original composition “Reminiscing.”
Pianist and composer Joe Sample (Feb. 1, 1939 – Sept. 12, 2014) began studying piano at age five and was exposed to a variety of musical traditions as a child. While still in high school in the late 1950s, he formed The Crusaders, with whom he played for much of his professional life. On this episode of Piano Jazz from 2005, Sample and McPartland team up for “I’ve Got Rhythm,” and Sample solos on his original tune “Carmel.”
The late Eartha Kitt (1927 – 2008) was nothing less than an institution. Her enduring career spanned theater, cabaret, recording work, film, and television, including the infamous Catwoman of Batman fame. Orson Welles dubbed her “the most exciting woman in the world.” An international star, she brought new meaning to the word “versatility.” On this 1993 Piano Jazz, she performs “God Bless the Child” and “Lush Life” as only Kitt can.
Vocalist Jackie Cain (May 22, 1928 – Sept. 15, 2014) was half of one of the best-known duos in jazz history, Jackie & Roy. She was an icon in the cabaret world, with a smooth, feathery voice. Her ability to express a full range of emotions as a performer allowed her to traverse the broad landscape of American popular song. On this 1999 edition of Piano Jazz, McPartland and bassist Dean Johnson join Cain for performances of “Wait ‘Til You See Her” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is.”
Marilyn & Alan Bergman
Renowned lyricists and songwriters Marilyn and Alan Bergman have been the recipients of Oscars, Grammy, Emmys, and many additional awards. Their works include “The Windmills of Your Mind,” the score for Yentl, and music for In the Heat of the Night. On this 2005 episode, they collaborate with McPartland as she accompanies Alan singing some of their trademark songs, “The Way We Were” and “Nice and Easy.”
Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is one of Cuba’s best-known musical exports. On this Piano Jazz from 2002, Sandoval showcases his talent as a pianist and composer. His inspiration for turning to the piano came from his mentor, Dizzy Gillespie, who prompted him to take it up. He joins McPartland for a duet of his composition “Blues in F,” and Sandoval solos on “Surena” and “Romantio.”
Copyist, arranger, and musician Mercer Ellington (1919 –1996) worked for his father, Duke Ellington, as a horn player in Duke’s band before becoming manager of the group. He took on additional duties, such as composing for the group, resulting in his original tune, “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be.” On this 1994 Piano Jazz, he reprises some of his father’s gems, such as “In My Solitude.”
Remembering Marian: A Celebration of the Music and Life of Marian McPartland was held on March 20, 2014. On what would have been her ninety-sixth birthday, the Piano Jazz family gathered at 92Y in New York to say goodbye. Hosted by Jon Weber, friends and family celebrated McPartland’s remarkable life in music. Guests featured on the broadcast of this memorial concert include Tony Bennett, Barbara Carroll, Bill Charlap, Michael Feinstein, Chris Brubeck, Jon Faddis, and many more.
Jazz vocalist and pianist Dardanelle Hadley (1917 – 1997) was born Marcia Marie Mullen, the daughter of vocalist/pianist Marcius Mosely “Buck” Mullen. In the 1940s, she formed a trio that played regularly at the Copacabana Club in New York, and she went on to work with jazz greats such as Bucky Pizaarelli and Grady Tate. In this Piano Jazz session from 1984, Hadley shows off her chops on “All the Things You Are” and duets with McPartland on “It’s Delovely.”