One gorgeous but little-known Ellington ballad became the title song of McPartland's new record, The Single Petal of a Rose. Everything on the album was composed by Ellington, with two exceptions: Strayhorn's opening "Take the 'A' Train," and McPartland's own "Cerulescence," her hymn-like, improvised solo piano tribute to Ellington. "I loved Duke Ellington for so long and had not done a whole album of his tunes," McPartland says, adding with a laugh, "I would be the one who would do it after the Ellington Centennial. But to me Duke is forever. You can play him at any time and it's the right time." The desire to make the recording her personal statement on the Duke carries over to the album's cover art, a rose that McPartland painted in art class when she was 15. "I've got a lot of paintings I did in school, and some time ago someone persuaded me to get them out and hang them up. Concord liked this one."
The Single Petal of a Rose brings out the most intimate and personal side of McPartland, working that musical tightrope in front of a live audience as she reinterprets Ellington tunes alone, or with bassist Bill Douglass. It may be an Ellington tribute, but it is really a portrait of the artist -- McPartland -- who, as she grows older, takes far more chances with her music, resulting in wisdom that speaks with youthful freshness.