Marian McPartland & Judy Roberts | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Marian McPartland & Judy Roberts


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That this concert won't air on McPartland's long-running NPR program, Piano Jazz, means that it will include little (if any) of the delightful and informative banter in which McPartland engages her radio guests. But this rare event will feature the Grande Dame of American Jazz and a rather swell dame of Chicago piano performing together on two Baldwins, in the evening's third and final act (after each has played unaccompanied for about half an hour). McPartland and Roberts make an especially good pair: both have a light touch but strong hands, and both remain keenly aware of the instrument's varied sonorities in different registers, opting to voice their solos with little clutter. McPartland's open-eared style, born in the swing era, has proved especially adaptable to music of the 40s and even the 60s; and like her ageless contemporary Hank Jones, she plays with such a glassy attack and such tasteful accents that it's easy to overlook the steel-trap rhythms underneath. Roberts, a full generation younger, has similarly adapted her early lessons to later idioms, drawing on the techniques of Horace Silver and Herbie Hancock to create a fluid, sometimes impish style that lent itself to fusion in the 70s and easily returned to the classic repertoire in the 80s. Roberts played on Piano Jazz years ago, and McPartland was singing her praises even before that. Their mutual admiration society should ensure an evening of good humor as well as sparkling music. Thursday, December 4, 7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photos.

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