First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2008, Volume 15, #4
Written by John Metzger
Sun April 20, 2008, 06:00 PM CDT
On her latest effort Twilight World, Marian McPartland hardly sounds like an 89-year-old pianist. Although she runs through a repertoire that long has been familiar to her — placing a few reworked renditions of her own compositions alongside interpretations of songs she adores — there’s a level of engagement burning deep inside her performance that truly is remarkable. Some might think, perhaps, that Twilight World contains a few too many ballads. However, her choice of material not only fits divinely with the aesthetics that are evoked by the album’s title, but also, if the tunes are heard with receptive ears, they inevitably bring McPartland’s vision for the project into focus.
To put it simply, McPartland made Twilight World as much for herself as she did for her fans. Although it’s true that the same statement could be applied to almost any artist’s work, there’s a casual air to McPartland’s latest endeavor that indicates that she knows she has nothing whatsoever to prove to anyone. She’s confident but not blustery; mature but not lackadaisical. The ballads — such as the title track, which hints however faintly at a bossa nova groove — are relaxed and easy-going, and McPartland patiently allows them to develop at their own pace. She has worked with bass player Gary Mazzaroppi and drummer Glenn Davis so frequently over the years that their communication seemingly occurs without any effort. The trio’s unhurried performance suitably enhances the quiet, wistful elegance of Johnny Mandel’s Close Enough for Love as well as the pensive reflection of In the Days of Our Love.
Lest anyone should become too comfortable with Twilight World’s dusky dreaminess, however, McPartland also tackles a pair of tracks by Ornette Coleman: Turn Around and Lonely Woman. Quite appropriately, she revels in the adventurousness of the compositions. On the former tune in particular, she and her accompanists twist the melody around and around before they allow it to disintegrate and reform anew. The ensemble also delivers John Lewis’ Afternoon in Paris with a lively spring in its step, and the results are playful and joyous. Dripping with emotion, Twilight World provides proof not only that artists become instinctually sharper as they age, but also that the act of pushing them aside to make room for youth isn’t necessarily the best strategy for the music industry to take because sometimes elder stateswomen like McPartland still have a lot more to offer. ˝
Twilight World is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box