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.”