Did you know that our charming Mayor Mark Smith does a wicked tarantella? Whenever I’m lucky enough to see him, I generally look forward to one of his thoroughly embracing bear-hugs. However, last month when the Bayonne Senior Orchestra was playing up a storm at the 56th Street Senior Center, he walked in with Council President Terrence Ruane. The mayor was immediately partnered by several of the ladies. The tune was “That’s Amore” and it took him seconds to get into the celebratory Italian spirit in spite of the fact that the party was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. The Center was packed with over 100 smiling faces. Thanks to the Mayor and that wonderful dancer Tony Morello, the ladies did a lot of Irish jigs, rhumbas, and polkas, among other dances. I was inspired to leave the keyboard and join the crowd doing a gay Charleston. I was glad to see Supervisor of Recreation Pete Amadeo, who is now a happy daddy but still looks so young in spite of nighttime feedings. A member of the audience, Domenica Ciraco, sang an impressive “Danny Boy” and the responsive audience loved it. Thanks go to Ralph Savo, who manages all the festivities at the Center so beautifully, including feeding the crowd with pizza, coffee and cake. At this gala, Third Ward Councilman Ray Greaves supplied the pizza. The Bayonne Senior Orchestra says “yes” to entertaining at his parties whenever Ralph calls. It’s too bad the intrepid reporter from the “Bayonne Community News,” Al Sullivan, couldn’t get to the party to photograph the joyous afternoon. The prolific writer has the whole town to cover and does it so well. It amazes me.
Here’s a confession I would never say out loud to my adult children: I was never a big fan of the Beatles! However, I’ve altered my musical feelings as a result of hearing a new CD, “Kisses on the Bottom.” It came as a surprise to me to learn that the album is by Paul McCartney. If you’re thinking, “Who’s he?” – and I’m sure most of you aren’t – the musician is half of the singing and song-writing duo out of four of the Beatles. McCartney stands among the most influential figures in 20th century music. I guess most of you know that pop and its unkempt cousin, rock, came along in the 1960s and swept away all that had come before. The Beatles were responsible for much of this melodic overhaul. McCartney has met me more than half-way, since “Kisses on the Bottom” are all the songs that I learned as the daughter of a female jazz dentist (McCartney is the son of a jazz band-leader). Then I learned that Sir Paul grew up listening to the same collection of standards. It gives me great pleasure to listen to this Beatle singing the pre-rock classics. I felt as if I was hearing the sound of a musician joyfully tapping into his roots. Who would believe it? Sir Paul McCartney croons his way through the Great American Songbook, at times singing in a sugared half-whisper. His new album features the wonderful Diana Krall orchestra and even a harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder. Eric Clapton on guitar makes the album indeed a winner. If you’re wondering about the title, it comes from a song the Bayonne Senior Orchestra plays and the song my son, Jim, reacted to by saying, “Hey, mom, those are grandma’s songs.” “Kisses on the Bottom” includes two new McCartney compositions: “My Valentine” and “Only Our Hearts.” I expect that many fans of the Beatles might be hearing the older standards for the first time. Well, they won’t need sonic filters in their ears to enjoy them.
“A rose is a rose is a rose.” Many folks would not need to go to Bartlett’s Quotations to learn who said that. In addition, if you saw “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen’s wonderful film centered on the Parisian demi-monde of the 1920s, you would recall that it was Gertrude Stein, one of America’s greatest writers. Key scenes in the Oscar-winning screenplay took place in Stein’s art-packed studio. Her Saturday evening salons are art-world legends. Now that famous home of the arts is the focus of an exhibit I saw in San Francisco titled “The Steins Collect -- Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde.” Happily the wonderful exhibit has traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 82nd Street and Fifth Avenue in New York. It takes the viewer on his own time-travel journey into the lives of not only Gertrude Stein, but also her brothers. First the family collected artists like Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, and Bonnard. When these paintings became too expensive, the Steins turned to canvasses by Matisse, which cost only about $100, and those by the even younger Picasso which could be had for a mere $50 (I’ll take four - ha!). For art lovers, Woody Allen’s movie provides only tantalizing glimpses of paintings stacked high on the wall of Gertrude Stein’s and her partner Alice B. Toklas’ salon. One that stands out prominently is Picasso’s 1806 portrait of the portly Stein. The exhibition at the Met displays 200 works plus period photographs of the room. Like a fascinating slide show, it shows how the collection evolved from 1904 to 1934. It’s a beautiful exhibit, suffused with the excitement of those years. “The Stein Collect” is scheduled to remain at the Met through June 3. Even though I enjoyed seeing it in San Francisco, I plan to get to it “one mo’ time” in New York. Seeing that show makes a trip to the city worthwhile, especially if you go at an hour that is not crowded. On the other hand, who knows when that is?
If you’re free on Sunday afternoons, I can recommend a fun place that’s easy to get to. Take the Holland Tunnel and find 107 Sullivan Street (between Spring and Prince Streets). Frankly, the Red Bench Bar is so small that unless you’re looking for it, you would never know it was there. However, if its door is open, what might attract you is the sound of music, singing, and laughter. That active jazz clarinetist Rick Bogart (no relation to Humphrey) and his trio are playing up a storm inside. I’ve been a fan of Rick’s for many years. His mellow unique vocals and his embracing personality is a great attraction. I’m not the only one who follows this talented musician. He enjoys a core of singers, wanna-be singers, and friends – and I’m happy to be in that group. We can follow Rick without his blowing in our ears. He manages to massage ours with his music and his charm. He encourages anyone with a lot or even a little talent to join in the fun. The Rick Bogart Trio plays on Sundays from 12 to 3 p.m. at the Red Bench Bar. The brunch menu offerings are small (what, no bagels?), but the festivities are large. There’s on-street parking, and it’s easy to get there and back to Bayonne in no time.
You can e-mail June Sturz at email@example.com.