This week, Riverwalk Jazz pays tribute to the Chicago jazz cornetist Jimmy McPartland, husband of public radio's Marian McPartland. The couple met in Britain while Jimmy was serving in the armed forces during WWII.
, and the Wolverine Orchestra with Bix Beiderbecke. Inspired to get up their own group, Jimmy became the leader of the Austin High Gang," as they later became known, and which, at one time or another, included the future jazz stars saxophonist Bud Freeman, pianist Joe Sullivan
In 1924, Jazz Age cornet star Bix Beiderbecke recommended the 17-year-old Jimmy McPartland as his replacement when he left the Wolverines. Arriving at the Cinderella Ballroom in New York to audition for the break of a lifetime, Jimmy recalled, We finished the rehearsal and I said, 'when am I gonna meet Bix?..'.He came walking toward me and we met in the middle of the dance floor...he said, 'I like you, kid. You sound like me but you don't copy me.'" Before he left town to join the Goldkette Orchestra, Bix bought Jimmy a cornet which he played and treasured for the rest of his life.
McPartland made his first recording with the Wolverines in 1925. Leaving the group a year later, he worked with bandleader Art Kassel before achieving great acclaim with Ben Pollack's Orchestra in the late 1920s in a group with Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden
recalls her husband Jimmy as a gracious and gregarious man, much loved by everyone around him. He was a sportsman, an amateur boxer, a strong swimmer and an expert fly fisherman. Marian has often reminisced of summer days spent fly casting on Pike Lake in Wisconsin at his friend Squirrel Ashcraft's cottage. She says Jimmy took a child-like pleasure in the simple things of life, and notes that his favorite saying was, Do it gracefully."
Though Marian and Jimmy divorced, the couple remarried in 1991, just two weeks before Jimmy's death.