Jimmy McPartland - cornet; Art Hodes - piano; Herbie Hall - clarinet; Vic Dickenson - trombone;
Al Hall - bass; Al Harewood - drums
Jimmy McPartland, a Bix Beiderbecke-inspired cornet player from Chicago, kicks off "A Jazz Salute to the American Song" at Philharmonic Hall with a sextet of jazz veterans in this all-Irving Berlin program. With McPartland on the front line alongside trombonist Vic Dickenson and New Orleans clarinetist Herbie Hall (brother of the more famous New Orleans clarinetist Edmund Hall), they open with a Dixieland take on Berlin's "Always," a 1925 ditty that the quintessentially American composer wrote as a wedding gift for his wife Ellin McKay. Next up is a spirited Irving Berlin medley that begins with "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody," a sublime ballad vehicle for clarinetist Hall. Dickenson is featured playing some relaxed, lyrical trombone, affecting a vocal quality with the mute, on a plaintive lament before pianist Hodes takes over with a bluesy piano interlude. And cornetist McPartland closes out this Berlin medley with an expressive take on "How Deep Is The Ocean." They conclude in swinging fashion with an exuberant Chicago-styled interpretation of Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band."
Born on March 15, 1907, Jimmy McPartland and his older, banjo-playing brother Dick became members of the Austin High Gang in the '20s along with fellow teenaged hot jazz enthusiasts Bud Freeman, Frank Teschemacher, Jim Lanigan, Joe Sullivan, Benny Goodman and Dave Tough. Together they would study and try to duplicate what they heard on recordings by The New Orleans Rhythm Kings and others while also following Louis Armstrong and King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band at Lincoln Gardens on Chicago's South Side. Their experiments led to a rough-hewn brand of New Orleans hot jazz that came to be known as Chicago Jazz.
In 1924, at age 17, McPartland was called to New York to take Bix Beiderbecke's place in the Wolverine Orchestra. In 1927, he recorded with McKenzie-Condon's Chicagoans and closed out the decade working with Ben Pollack, Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden. McPartland led his own bands in Chicago and New York through the '30s before joining Teagarden's big band in 1941. He was drafted into the Army in 1942 and, after participating in the Invasion of Normandy in 1944, met his future wife, the English pianist Margaret Marian Turner. They married in Aachen, Germany and settled in Chicago after the war. In 1954, the McPartland's moved to New York. Jimmy joined Willie 'The Lion' Smith's band, which also included Pee Wee Russell, George 'Pops' Foster, and George Wettling while Marian began a longstanding residency at the Hickory House on 52nd Street with her trio (featuring the great drummer Joe Morello). During the '60s and '70s, the cornetist participated in several Chicago jazz and Dixieland reunions at festivals in the United States and throughout Europe.
McPartland died of lung cancer on March 13, 1991, two days before his 84th birthday. (Coincidentally, long-time friend, collaborator and Austin High Gang member Bud Freeman died the next day.)
-Written by Bill Milkowski