Friday, February 10, 2017

Marian McPartland - A Delicate Balance

Marian McPartland was an adventurous conservative, if that makes any sense. She liked to push the boundaries of her mainstream/early modern jazz piano style. The results were sometimes awkward, but often enjoyable, even exciting. On this early-70s album, McPartland plays some stirring blues and the kind of pastel original compositions she was known for, but she also plays an adventurous modal version of "Freedom Jazz Dance." The other highlight, for me, is the first recording of "Jazz Waltz for a Friend," written for McPartland by Alec Wilder, who is one of my favorite composers. "Jazz Waltz" is unusual in harmony and structure, but McPartland handles the challenge well.

Less enchanting are the two cracks at then-recent pop songs, "El Condor Pasa" (popularized by Simon and Garfunkel) and the Beatles' "Something." Those two are pretty corny, but the rest of the album is so worthwhile that I can overlook the lesser tracks.

A Delicate Balance is on the Halcyon label, of which McPartland was a co-founder. Like several of the Halcyon issues, this one has never appeared on CD, although downloads now seem to be available.

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