As I walked into the studio, I recalled the famous photograph taken in 1958 “Great Day in Harlem”. The first time I saw that photo I was amazed at all of the legendary people that were there that day, but what really struck me was the image of Marion McPartland and Mary Lou Williams side by side talking. What were they talking about? I thought, now is my chance to ask her, maybe she might remember. Well, I never got the chance because, from the moment I entered the room, I felt transported to another world. I couldn’t believe that for the next hour or so I would be sitting here talking to her just like I talk with everyone else and I would be playing music with a legendary artist. I thought about the stories she could tell, all of her experiences during those days. I also felt intimidated. But that didn’t last long, because as soon as I met her, I felt as if I had known her all of my life. Better yet, I felt like I was with one of the band. That feeling where everyone is completely themselves.
We all sat around 2 grand pianos as we talked. Marion asking questions with her humor and sharp inquisitiveness, then the time came for us to play. Travis and I did our thing, then Marion and I played a song together. Even though that was incredible, the highlight for me was when I sang and Marion and Travis played. I have never sung with two pianos accompanying me at the same time. It was amazing.
It was very difficult for me to write this blog because there was so much for me to say about my experience, yet the more I thought about what to write the harder it became to sum up what I really felt. Sometimes it’s not the words, but just the melody. And being a singer, I forget that. I am truly grateful for the experience of a lifetime and that Marion shared her amazing life and talent with Travis and me for that brief moment in time.
Before I knew it, 2 hours had passed. As the saying goes. “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
Listen to the show – Marion McPartland with Veronica Nunn and Travis Shook.