Personnel: Marian McPartland, Geri Allen, Dave Brubeck, Tommy Flanagan, Gene Harris, Renee Rosnes, George Shearing (piano).
Recorded at Avatar Studios and Sound On Sound, New York, New York between September 4, 1997 and January 26, 1998. Includes liner notes by Terry Teachout.
Marian McPartland can be many different pianists, as evidenced by her empathetic playing with the many pianists whom she has duetted on her NPR show, Piano Jazz. The piano duets on this album aren't from the show; instead McPartland invited some of her favorite duet partners to celebrate her 80th birthday by taking part in this recording. When she plays with Tommy Flanagan she adopts his subtle, swinging touch and wit. With Renee Rosnes there is a harder edge, both women going for the full, physical use of the keyboard. "Just Friends" with George Shearing is a trip to a swank bistro, with an elegant stride style alternately employed by both pianists.
Shearing/McPartland's version of the latter's own "Twilight World" shows her progressive side, as does her free improvisation "Chrysalis," with Geri Allen. These two women's shared language includes plucked and strummed piano strings, modern harmonies, and a dramatic use of silence and mysterious textures. Dave Brubeck's "Marian McPartland", which he and the song's inspiration perform, begins with a tender, reflective intro before swinging into an inspired exchange of solo ideas over a distinctly Brubeck-esque set of changes.