“Marian was of course the brilliant artist and beloved icon of public radio,” said Shari Hutchinson, executive producer of “Piano Jazz.”
“I was able to work closely with one of the strongest, most successful, vital, creative women of her time, someone who overcame every obstacle and who pushed through every glass ceiling. I am deeply saddened at her passing, and at the same time profoundly joyful she let me into her life,” Hutchinson said.
Charming, energetic, and always ready for a musical adventure, McPartland was well-suited to the role of live radio host. She told the AP in a 2000 interview that she wasn’t thrown off when a guest changed keys in the middle of a show.
“I’m not afraid, for the most part, of anything,” she said. “Somebody said, ‘You’re like someone who rides a bucking bronco. You’ll ride anything that comes along.’”
In 2007, she performed in South Carolina the premiere of her own symphonic work, “A Portrait of Rachel Carson,” inspired by the author’s 1962 environmental book “Silent Spring.”
“I can’t walk. I’m in miserable pain. But at the piano, I don’t feel a thing,” she said during an appearance at a University of South Carolina master class before the performance.
McPartland continued to tour and perform into her 80s, retaining “her fetching and feathery sense of swing, sage economy and deep appreciation for essential melodic purity,” according to a Daily Variety review of a Lincoln Center performance in January 2001.
“McPartland sure knows how to illuminate a line with lean poetic phrasing,” reviewer Robert L. Daniels wrote. “There is wisdom in her fingers.”
NPR Music and South Carolina ETV Radio, which produces “Piano Jazz,” were paying tribute to McPartland on air and online Wednesday, the station said.
“Every week for 34 years, Marian seduced her guests and her audience with her tremendous wit, compassion and musicianship,” said Anya Grundmann, executive producer and editorial director of NPR Music.
In 2007, the Kennedy Center named McPartland a Living Jazz Legend. Among her many recognitions, she was named an NEA Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2000.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.