In Tune With June!
Mar 07, 2014 | 1795 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Just in case you are one of the few television viewers who, like me, never watched “American Idol,” it’s a reality-singing competition series. The program began airing on Fox on June 11, 2002, and has since become one of the most successful shows in the history of American television. So what awakened me to this phenomenon? As usual I learned about it from my family who not only watch “American Idol” but phone each other to critique the contestants’ performances. Finally, and admittedly, I started to watch attracted by one of the newest on the judging panel. This thirteenth season panel of judges consists of country singer Keith Urban, singer and beautiful actress Jennifer Lopez and, here’s the kicker, jazz singer, musician, and actor Harry Connick, Jr. Well, I’m just wild about Harry! Gifted as an interpreter of The Great American Songbook, I followed his big band, saw him on Broadway, and enjoyed his recurrent role on the sitcom, “Will and Grace.” Personally, it’s a treat to see him every week on “American Idol” where he is funny, charming, and self-deprecating. The talented star from New Orleans knows a ton about music, and isn’t afraid to disagree or to hurt someone’s feelings. Connick has a very sharp wit bringing out the best in his fellow judges, Keith Urban and JLo. In addition to all that, my Harry (ha!) has helped to rebuild New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. As long as he remains on the judging panel, I will probably continue to watch “American Idol.”

I was fortunate and realizing a dream to be singing with eleven of the best musicians in New York City, I noticed the smiling face of a gentleman in the audience. This happened at the Iguana on 54th Street in New York City. After my performance I found my table close to his and so we started to chat about the music of the twenties, thirties, forties, and beyond that Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks were playing. The two of us were well-versed and great fans of that genre. What I did not know at the time was that I was chatting with Robert Kimball, a noted theater historian who had written many books on the music we both appreciated. Well, a couple of weeks ago I attended “Lyrics and Lyricists,” a concert series at the 92nd Street Y in New York and guess who the artistic director and host was on stage, that same smiling gentleman, Robert Kimball! His program was called “Sweepin’ the Clouds Away: Boom, Bust and High Spirits.” It was packed full of classics by the Gershwins, Porter, and Ellington. The songs were uplifting and toe-tapping. It was hard for me to sit quietly. And, in addition, the music was provided by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks. How I would have loved to be on stage instead of jiggling in my seat! Frankly, it was a program that seemed custom-made for me and, as an aside; I learned that it pays to chat up smiling men. Thank you, Robert Kimball, and thank you, Vince Giordano.

If you're interested in jazzy fun on Broadway (oh, not Bayonne's Broadway!); if you'd enjoy an exhilarating joyride then try to get tickets to a most memorable show "After Midnight." It's Broadway’s tribute to the music of Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen, and others -- an unmitigated pleasure and one for the record books. There's a superabundance of talented performers in this jubilant, rollicking, traveling back to the heyday of the Cotton Club. At that Harlem night club Ellington was the band leader. Many of the black jazz greats of the 1920s and 1930s performed, before a whites-only audience, alas. The focus in "After Midnight" is on music and its interpretation -- not on Cotton Club history. In this memorable show outstanding performers sing, slide, scat, do cartwheels, and generally raise a ruckus in front of a sixteen piece hand-picked all-stars orchestra -- hand-picked by Wynton Marsalis who has played with every one of the musicians. Called the Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars, they are a main attraction up front throughout the show making hot, sweet, and altogether glorious music. You'd probably recognize many of the twenty-five songs from the height of the Jazz Era: "Sunny Side of the Street," "Stormy Weather," "I've Got the World on a String" (many songs the Bayonne Senior Orchestra plays -- we are right in tune!). The joint is jumping. It's the Jazz Era in all its syncopated glory. "After Midnight" is a gift that brings sass, spirit, and astounding musicianship to Duke Ellington's songs and arrangements. It achieves an apotheosis of pure joy. That music never gets old. If possible I plan to see it -- one mo' time!

Last month the much-loved Shirley Temple died at age 85. Even my adult son, Andy, felt sad. Shirley Temple rose to fame as one of the most well-known and well-loved actresses in Hollywood history. The dimpled darling, with her head full of curls, began singing, dancing, and acting at age three and quickly became the symbol of wholesome family entertainment. She possessed an amazing ability to frequently portray a lovable parentless waif whose charm and sweetness mellowed gruff older men. The tiny actress generated hope and optimism. President F.D.R. said, "It is a splendid thing that just for fifteen cents (you can tell that was a long time ago!) an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles." Little Ms Temple was presented with a miniature Juvenile Oscar for her 1934 film accomplishment. Most surprisingly, when the charming sweet child grew up she got involved in diplomatic posts. From 1967 to 1990 she was U.S. ambassador to several countries including Ghana and Czechoslovakia. In 1972 the amazing lady became the first prominent woman to speak openly about breast cancer. And here's a personal confession: I recall being given a Shirley Temple doll, and I must admit that one day when I was unhappy I cut off those curls and threw them under my mother's baby grand piano. Fast forward many years later. . . I gave that same doll to my grand-twins and happily they didn't mind the short hair.

You can e-mail June Sturz at March marks 30 years of “In Tune with June!” Read about her this spring in the debut issue of “Bayonne: Life on the Peninsula.”

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