In Good Time – The Piano Jazz of Marian McPartland (2011-12)
Featuring: Marian McPartland, Dr. Billy Taylor, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Dave Brubeck, Bill Frisell, Dick Hyman, others
Studio: Films by Huey [www.filmsbyhuey.com]
Video: 16:9 color & B&W
Audio: English PCM stereo
Extras: Three videos of tunes composed and performed by Marian: Twilight World, Echos of Yesterday, Threnody (16:9)
Length: 85 minutes
This is the latest documentary by the filmmaker who goes only by the name Huey. Filmed over a four-year period, it brings together talking heads of some of the top jazz artists today, plus commentary, performances by Marian, stills, and clips from a 90th birthday tribute to Marian at Tanglewood in 2008 and the presentation of The Order of the British Empire to Marian at the British Consulate.
We start with Marian’s first tinkerings on the piano at age 3 in England, it takes her thru her twice-marriage to the late trad jazz trumpeter Jimmy McPartland, and her hosting of the Piano Jazz series which she has done on NPR for over 30 years (although she has now turned things over to a guest host). Some of the areas the extensive documentary covers include Marian’s comments about being a woman in the man’s world of jazz, her involvement in jazz education for the young, her environmental concerns (illustrated with clips from her piano-orchestra portrait of Rachel Carson), and her skills at improvising, plus her wicked sense of humor. Her story about pushing Dizzy Gillespie off the piano bench to play something for him is hilarious.
The scenes with her good friend Elvis Costello are especially satisfying, as are the many clips of informal verbal and musical duets with various famous jazz lights she has had on Piano Jazz—and not only pianists. The three complete videos of three of her composition performances are an especially good thought for the extras, since the film has to necessarily cut away from her performances therein. Why Amazon doesn’t offer this fine DVD I don’t understand, but they do have Marian’s earlier autobiography book with a similar title.
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.