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A Success for the Great American Songbook: Sunday in New York with Jonathan Schwartz

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Backstage at BAM (Michael Shobe)

The Harvey Theater in Brooklyn sprang to life last Sunday with the sounds of the great American songbook. More than 700 people were ushered into the theater at BAM for Sunday in New York with Jonathan Schwartz. On the bill were songbook veterans John Pizzarelli, Jessica Molaskey and Tierney Sutton as well as up-and-comers Tony DeSare and Cyrille Aimee. And there was the man everyone in the theater was eager to see, Jonathan Schwartz.

Waiting for the for the show to begin, I struck up a conversation with the man next to me. He had dressed up for the occasion; blue blazer and nice slacks. He admitted that he had been a regular listener to the Jonathan Schwartz radio program for the past 30 years, referring to Jonathan as "something like an old friend." This would be his first time seeing Jonathan Schwartz in person. He was excited. We were excited. 

The stage was transformed into a bright and sunny Sheep Meadow in Central Park. A giant, high-def video filled with picnickers and dog-walkers was the backdrop. The John Pizzarelli Quartet opened the show and would serve as the house band for the afternoon. They took the stage, warming up the crowd with “Will You Still Be Mine” by the songwriting duo Thomas Adair and Matt Dennis. As the song ended, Pizzarelli introduced Jonathan and the band began playing the theme song to his radio program. Jonathan casually strolled onto to the stage, taking his seat at a concrete chess table adorned with a Red Sox cap, a pair of headphones and a few books. He introduced vocalist Jessica Molaskey, who gave a cheery performance of "Traffic Jam" with her husband, John Pizzarelli. After the number Jessica, speaking of Jonathan’s long-running show, said, “The fabric of our life in New York CityWelcome to Sunday.”

The band again launched into Jonathan’s theme song, and Pizzarelli encouraged the audience to sing along – which they did. It was an extremely tender start to the show; the crowd serenading Schwartz with his own theme song.

Next up, vocalist Tierney Sutton performed works from her latest Grammy-nominated project, After Blue. She sang the Joni Mitchell song, "Big Yellow Taxi" and stopped the show with her delicate rendition of "April in Paris/Free Man in Paris.” The afternoon's mood was light and easy, the show moved quickly with top-rate performances and a quick wit. Throughout the show, John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey casually chatted with Jonathan. The trio told stories and cracked jokes, it was clear that these three have known each other for many years. The audience was always in on the joke and Jonathan eventually sent Pizzarelli into the crowd for an impromptu Q&A session. A woman screamed her question from the balcony, "Jonathan, will you ever come back to Brooklyn?" Jonathan replied, “Right now as I’m speaking to you, I’m making plans to come here, again, and again, and again.” The show was going well. 

The second-half of the afternoon showcased two rising stars, both often heard on The Jonathan Channel. First, pianist and vocalist Tony DeSare kept the audience tapping their feet with his swinging rendition of the Cy Coleman tune "Baby Dream Your Dream.” He then stepped away from the piano to sing “Angel Eyes,” accompanied only by the guitarist Eddie Decker.

The final performer of the afternoon was the French vocalist, Cyrille Aimee. Jonathan introduced her, explaining that when he began playing Cyrille's music on his radio show the audience reaction was "Sinatra-like.” As promised, her performance was stunning. For her second number, all the musicians cleared the stage, leaving only Aimee and her looping machine on stage. The audience watched silently as she recorded what she referred to as "layers" into her machine, one vocal track at a time, creating an ethereal cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's, "Fortunate Son.”

Ending the afternoon, John and Jessica brought all the singers back out for a group performance of Paul Simon’s “Gone At Last” featuring dueling scat solos by Tierney Sutton and Cyrille and a virtuosic guitar solo by Pizzarelli. Musically, the afternoon was of the highest standard. The Great American songbook was celebrated. It was exactly what we had hoped for. 

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Comments [6]

Sal and Donna from Bellmore, NY

Thank you Jonathan. For the wealth of musical enjoyment you've supplied across these many years. For the exhilrating breath of fresh air that was Sunday in New York with Jonathan Schwartz at BAM! Aside from your Red Sox cap, we had the sort of day song lyrics are made of.
Sal had his hand up during your Q&A but John didn't get to him. What he would have said is: In the face of the barren lanscape that is terrestrial radio with regard to The Great American Songbook and the sort of wonderful jazz pieces on display at BAM, thank you, thank you, thank you for The Jonathan Channel!

Jun. 12 2014 01:03 PM
Carmen & John from New Jersey

What a fabulous show! It was so wonderful to see Jonathan in person and to hear these awesome performers. We were there with our daughter Audra Mariel who Jonathan has so graciously played on his program. It was thrilling for all of us! Jonathan's promotion of the appreciation of the Great American Songbook is inspiring. THIS is the music of our lives. Thank you Jonathan!

Jun. 11 2014 08:25 PM
Beth & Gary from Vancouver, British

Our hearts ache that we couldn't be there! Jonathan Schwartz has been our mentor in learning about and appreciating the Great American Songbook - Jessica and John are our favourite performers of this wonderful music. We're in Vancouver, Canada, but if this concert is put on again, we will fly out just to be in the audience.

Jun. 11 2014 01:29 PM
Herb Stark from Mooresville, NC

Great Review! Wish I was there. Hurricane Sandy thought otherwise. From Massapequa to Mooresville, NC...Quite a change. But the music we love is still attainable & available! Good luck Jonathan$ Co.!

Herb Stark
Mooresville, NC

Jun. 11 2014 11:29 AM
Jim from manhattan

It was a wonderful show...the only thing better than listening to Jonathan on the radio in my living room. The only disappointment was the revelation that there is no available recording of the greatest song ever written.

Jun. 10 2014 09:38 PM
Roberta from Atlanta

Reading the review made me miss New York even more than I already do. Thank you Jonathan for all the years of wonderful music and now the glorious "The Jonathan Channel".

Jun. 10 2014 07:35 PM

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The sounds of Frank Sinatra, Nelson Riddle, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday and other masters of the American songbook can be heard 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, anywhere in the world.

“The Jonathan Channel” provides an unparalleled showcase for this timeless music, presented by its strongest advocate, Jonathan Schwartz, in his intimate, insightful, and utterly original approach that combines impeccable taste with countless personal tales, colorful anecdotes and encyclopedic knowledge

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