Sunday, February 26, 2006

Jonathan Schwartz, a fixture of the weekend

It may have once been described to me as "like being stuck at an old relative's house on a rainy afternoon," but I have to admit to loving Jonathan Schwartz's pair of weekend afternoon radio shows ("The Saturday Show" and "The Sunday Show"). The veteran radio personality spins American songbook fare, old pop standards, new and old jazz charts, as well as contemporary Broadway tunes, not to mention a whole hour of Sinatra at 1 pm. (Sometimes I'm in the mood, but sometimes I skip that hour.) If I've got nothing else going on from 12 to 4 either afternoon, I'm usually content to putter around the apartment and listen to WNYC (and learn of great new or new-to-me recordings).

Since it's simulcast on XM Satellite Radio, he always makes it a point of saying, "It's noon in the East, 9 am in the West," then announces whatever kind of day it is, weatherwise: "It's a beautiful, clear, cold, wintery day in New York." He can get a bit precious at times, like when he manages to refer to five different songs in the same afternoon as "the absolute greatest" this or "the absolute greatest" that. But these mannerisms are easily forgotten by the time he hits play, and listeners get to enjoy the music.

I'd have to rank his show up there as one of the things I really love about living in the city (although I guess if you have an XM receiver, you don't have to be here to appreciate it). You could think of it as the soundtrack to all those old movies that treat New York and the love that's associated with it as a third lead, as a dream, an ideal, a talisman, a place of the imagination.

One other tidbit: The wordless vocal and guitar intro that he uses to open each show is such a distinctive little riff, I wish I could get a copy of it. It's in the same vein as the theme to that '60s French film "A Man and a Woman," but slightly slower. A quick search (via Google, which Schwartz was actually just musing about last hour) turns up this page from the 'NYC site and this info:

"The identity of the opening theme, which has been employed for this purpose for over 30 years, has never been revealed either on or off the air," says Jonathan Schwartz [in typically dramatic fashion, yet no doubt also uttered with his trademark laid-back intimacy and perpetual breathy amazement at the world]. "I can say, however, that is from a private tape and has never been commercially issued."

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that Jonathan Schwartz's theme features the voices of Carly Simon (his longtime friend) and her sister.

Anonymous said...

I always assumed it was the Simon Sisters, or else Carly's voice overdubbed.

This would be appropriate because Carly also has a never-to-be-revealed secret--the identity of the man who is "so vain."

More interesting is the identity of the closing theme, a haunting waltz. My guess is that the piece is by Jonathan's father Arthur.

Anonymous said...

Opening is absolutely Carly Simon. Closing is something entitled Katherine's Waltz (KCS being the mother of JS). Arthur, is a possible composer, though half-brother Paul is also a musician (but has no relation to KCS).

Anonymous said...

If there's any way to transcribe the opening, see how it may correspond to both Chopin's Prelude 4 in E Minor (the old WNEW opening piece), and to Jobim's musically similar How Insensitive.
Also, given more thought, the closing just might--MIGHT--have been written by Richard Rodgers. His waltzes have haunted JS his whole life (Carousel has been mentioned as his favorite piece of music), and RR was a family friend.

Anonymous said...

I've been hearing it for years and last week realized that it is indeed Carly Simon. There's a part at the end that's so "her" that it couldn't possibly be anyone else, and if you add her lifelong relationship with Jonathan, I think we have the answer.

Steve Regan said...

Carly without a doubt.

James Douglas said...

The Roaches, my vote

Anonymous said...

Mcgarrigal Sisters

Anonymous said...

McGarrigle Sisters, anonymous is Scott Shore

JoeC. said...

Does anyone know what the "closing theme" is?? I love it and can't find an answer to that anywhere!

Anonymous said...

I think it Astrud Gilberto

Anonymous said...

The closing them is The Carosel Waltz. From the Broadway show of the same name. It's do lovely, I was ecstatic to identify it.

euphoria0504 said...

It is NOT "The Carousel Waltz." I've just listened to that piece to confirm, and it doesn't contain the passage used by Jonathan Schwartz to close his show.

Anonymous said...

JS mistakenly played his theme & named it "Lady Be Good Now".