Strong melodic content, harmonic sophistication, rhythmic adventure and impressionism all played parts in pianist Marian McPartland's opening set at Charlie's last night.
For such an assessment to fit, one might expect her to have chosen the compositions of fellow pianists of widely divergent styles. But instead, she paraded before her attentive audience one perennial standard after another from the American songbook. It says something about both McPartland and her materials that these classic tunes, in her hands, easily lent themselves to her protean approach.
Sympathetically accompanied by bassist Steve LaSpina, the English-born and -bred McPartland started out a little cold on Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here to Stay" but warmed up for the second number, a happy "I'm All Smiles" that had bluesy tremolos and abrupt, chopped-up phrases that gave it a playful character. She got reflective, even a little pensive, on her own "Time and Time Again" and was swinging hard on Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love?"
On "I Hear a Rhapsody," LaSpina and McPartland got into an extended exchange that displayed the bassist's skills, delicate touch and ingenuity. He succeeded in gingerly skipping through each two-bar hurdle of the obstacle course his partner constructed until she wryly conceded by reaching into her instrument for a quick strum.
The duo stays through Sunday.