N.Y. TIMES Music Review
Saluting a Radio Man
Who’s One of a Kind
By Stephen Holden
- Jonathan Schwartz
“He put us all on the map. Without his support, you’d be looking at an empty stage.”
Variations of those words, voiced by the guitar whiz, singer, wit and raconteur John Pizzarelli were echoed again and again on Wednesday evening at Rockefeller Park where he and his wife, the singer Jessica Molaskey, hosted “All in Good Time: a Celebration for Jonathan Schwartz,” as part of the River to River Festival.
Mr. Pizzarelli’s gratitude to Mr. Schwartz, the New York radio personality whose shows are the premier local outlets for the classic American songbook as interpreted by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett, was accompanied by some good-natured ribbing. An uncanny mimic, Mr. Pizzarelli delivered dead-on impersonations of the honoree’s intimate, seductive purr, which settles in your ear like a moist breath.
Within his benign cultural fief, Mr. Schwartz is a star maker, whose passion for the most arcane details of popular musical history is boundless. As he transports you into his world, events of 60 years ago assume the urgency of breaking news. At the same time he is an ardent, outspoken champion of younger pop and jazz performers who continue the tradition.
The two-and-a-half hour show was an outdoor gathering of his flock, both onstage and off, as Mr. Pizzarelli led the audience in humorous call-and-response renditions of standards to which everyone seemed to know the words. Although that flock was briefly scattered by a sudden shower sweeping across the Hudson, once the rain passed, it quickly regrouped.
A sub-theme of the evening was the music of Jonathan’s father, the composer Arthur Schwartz, whose melodies (“Dancing in the Dark,” “You and the Night and the Music,” “I See Your Face Before Me”) dominated the repertory. As Mr. Pizzarelli and Ms. Molaskey tossed off a playful duet of Irving Berlin’s “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” and Bobby Troup and Jerome Leshay’s “Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast,” that ended with Ms. Molaskey cracking, “Pass me the jam,” it was abundantly clear why they are the supreme nightclub duo of our time. Amid the dancing in one song that led to the romancing in the other, Ms. Molaskey slyly inserted another Berlin fragment, “there may be trouble ahead,” signaling that nice might turn into deliciously nasty.
Other high points included Ms. Molaskey’s rendition of Arthur Schwartz and Dorothy Fields’s smart, perky “Happy Habit;” and the Sinatra acolyte Tony DeSare’s hard-swinging “All I Need Is the Girl” (from “Gypsy”). The Oregon jazz singer Rebecca Kilgore’s “Penthouse Serenade” rippled with sunshine, and Tierney Sutton’s “Beautiful Love” became a tender exercise in expressive tonal coloration that she seemed to model with her hands.
The bassist Jay Leonhart’s original songs “Bass Aboard a Plane” and “Louie Bellson,” both funny, excruciating true stories about the unpredictable hazards facing a working musician, produced roars of laughter. Mr. Pizzarelli’s duet with the hot young jazz violinist Aaron Weinstein infused the Joe Venuti instrumental “Stringing the Blues” with a frantic, maniacal verve. The guest pianists Bill Charlap, Lee Musiker and Tony Monte — all had to cope with amplification that made the acoustic grand piano sound metallic and dynamically inert. Of the three Mr. Charlap made the most headway. But the musicality itself was impeccable.
Mr. Schwartz, now 73, used to host a satellite radio program called “High Standards.” That title not only describes his musical taste, it evokes the many reasons he is an irreplaceable New York institution; he is sui generis.
photo added by WNEW1130.com editors
Jonathan Schwartz Honored
At River To River Festival
Radio Legend Jonathan Schwartz Sticks To Songbook
Of Popular Classics on Sirius
BY David Hinckley
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Tuesday, July 12th 2011
Jonathan Schwartz plays popular classics on his radio shows on Sirius XM and WNYC.
A dozen renowned American Songbook artists will gather Wednesday night at the River to River Festivall to thank Jonathan Schwartz for his lifelong work in keeping popular classics alive on the radio.
Schwartz, who just turned 73, has been waging that long and often frustrating battle over five decades. As a Red Sox fan, however, he knows about extended struggles, and he says he’s “absolutely” optimistic that great American popular songs will be as victorious in the end as the 2004 Sox.
Schwartz, heard daily at noon onSirius XM satellite and weekends at noon on WNYC (93.9 FM), says he feels honored. “But the evening really is about the music,” he says, “and bringing the American Songbook into the 21st century.”
The free event, “All in Good Time: A Celebration for Jonathan Schwartz,” begins at 7 p.m. at Rockefeller Park at the north of Battery Park City.
Hosts will be Schwartz’s good friends John Pizzarelli and his wife Jessica Molaskey, who will also perform. The artists include Bill Charlap, Meredith D’Ambrosio, Ton DeSare, Rebecca Kilgore, Hillary Kole, Jay Leonhart, Tony Monte, Bucky Pizzarelli and Tierney Sutton.
Schwartz points out that except for Pizzarelli, few of the artists were born when many golden age tunes were written. He likes that, because his radio mission has always been to treat these songs, even the ones written decades ago by the likes of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Lerner and Loewe, Dorothy Fields, Sammy Cahn or Jonathan’s father, Arthur Schwartz, as musically fresh.
That’s the reason the American Songbook remains vibrant, he says, despite its near-complete absence from broadcast radio. New York hasn’t had a full-time standards station since WQEW stopped in 1998.
Schwartz, a mainstay of WQEW until the end, says satellite has enabled him to play the Songbook the way he wants to, rather than having to wedge Ella Fitzgerald between two soft-rock tunes.
His Sirius/XM shows, while never neglecting Ella and Sinatra, showcase younger singers, like the ones who will be performing at River to River.
“I’m absolutely optimistic about the future of this music,” he says. “It is played everywhere. It’s played around the world. Companies of “South Pacific”‘ and Rodgers and Hammerstein shows are performing around the world as we speak.
“Most of the music of the streets today is spoken obscenities and drums. There is no melody. So our music really has no competition. You can’t find music like this anywhere else.”