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The fight to keep ‘America’s classical music’ alive

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Jonathan Schwartz, a big-time supporter of music from the Golden Age, is leaving SiriusXM, citing his age.

The quiet but terribly important battle to keep popular standards playing in our contemporary culture has just suffered a couple of setbacks.

This past Friday, Jonathan Schwartz left SiriusXM satellite radio after more than a decade as its most prominent popular standards host playing the music and songs of the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.

“SiriusXM, which has been very good to me, asked me to stay,” he said. “But I’m 75. I’ve been working very hard for a long time and it’s time not to do that.”

On W. 46th St. in midtown Manhattan, meanwhile, Sofia’s restaurant at the Hotel Edison is closing on Aug. 13, ending a 37-year run. The owners will be renovating the space with an eye toward a more lucrative use.

Among other things, Sofia’s was the place where Vince Giordano’s band played every Monday and Tuesday.

The mighty Duke Ellington is just one of the artists radio hosts like Jonathan Schwartz play.

Bill Quinn

The mighty Duke Ellington is just one of the artists radio hosts like Jonathan Schwartz play.

If Giordano’s name sounds familiar, it might be because his band provides much of the music for HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” That’s what he mostly plays at Sofia’s, too — big-band jazz in the style of the ’20s and ’30s.

These events don’t shut down Golden Age popular standards in the city. Schwartz will continue on WNYC (93.9 FM) on Saturdays, 8 p.m.-midnight, and Sundays, noon-4 p.m.

Giordano is looking for a new club, though he says it’s a challenge.

“You need a place with a stage that can accommodate an 11-piece band,” he says. “And with a piano, you need storage. Sofia’s was perfect.”

Indeed. Giordano’s audience there has included the likes of Liza Minnelli, Mel Brooks, Tommy Tune, Dave Koz, Leon Redbone and Elvis Costello.

Vince Giordano and his band specialize in big-band arrangements of songs from the 1920s and '30s.

Frank Stewart

Vince Giordano and his band specialize in big-band arrangements of songs from the 1920s and ’30s.

“We filled the place,” says Giordano. “In the old days, that would have meant other clubs would try to get you. Not anymore.”

In the old days, of course, music from the Golden Age was the pop music of its day.

And a splendid day it was. Popular songs then were written by the likes of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Rodgers and Hammerstein and the Gershwin brothers.

It was played and sung by the likes of Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.

Tony Bennett calls it “America’s classical music,” and he won’t get a lot of arguments.

Singer Tony Bennett is still at it, at 87, keeping the music alive.

Jo Hale/Getty Images

Singer Tony Bennett is still at it, at 87, keeping the music alive.

Bennett still sings it. He also turned 87 Saturday, which underscores the simple truth that popular music, like a shark, must always stay in motion. Each generation wants its own, which leaves a little less for what came before.


Music & Arts – NY Daily News

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