In Tune With June!

While enjoying a Sunday brunch at the beautiful new home of my grandson, Zach, and his darling bride, Lindsay, the conversation came around to the name of a writer, producer, and actress they all admired. They knew her from the Comedy Central series “Inside Amy Schumer” and seemed to agree that Schumer is one of the smartest and funniest people on the planet. Confession: I had never heard of her but everyone at the table, who were all younger than I am, were planning to see Schumer as she stars and appears in a new movie. They were surprised to hear that I had seen “Trainwreck” just the day before and was not sure how I felt about it. It is robust and plain-speaking – I’m being polite. In “Trainwreck,” Schumer plays Amy Townsend who feels that when it comes to guys and dolls, a doll can be just like a guy and be none the worse for it. That is her right and it brooks no contradiction. Schumer says, “I want to, like, experience all I can and make as many memories as I can.” I certainly agree with that. On the other hand, “Trainwreck’s” Schumer is a serial boozer who lives alone, swilling goblets of wine, smoking pot, cracking wise about everyone and everything in her past. She makes out whenever she pleases and declares of her conquests, “Never, ever, let them sleep over.” The lady – not really! – plays a writer who is assigned by her editor to profile Aaron, a surgeon who specializes in sports injuries. His best friend is basketball megastar LeBron James. Aaron is not just a sweetheart but a do-gooder. “Trainwreck” is over-stuffed with supporting characters that include an almost unrecognizable and fantastic Tilda Swinton as her editor. Swinton is encased in a sweeping wig and a fortress of makeup. Your response to Schumer’s movie depends upon your feeling about its creator. It requires a tolerance for dirty minds and jokes. The comparatively young folks at Zach’s and Lindsay’s table feel that Schumer is the best thing since popcorn! As for me, it sticks in my teeth.
I know it’s August but I want to talk about last month. It all started thirty-one years ago when I was writing a monthly column for “Jersey Jazz” magazine. The month of July brings visions – not of sugar plums — but of unparalleled jazz to my mind. That’s when New York’s 92nd Street Y started a summer festival called “Jazz in July” and that’s when I became a charter member of the series and was able to enjoy two weeks of brilliant music. Each July, six concerts celebrated legends like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Stephen Sondheim, Louis Armstrong, and more. Last month at “Jazz in July” I was treated to the “American Songbook Classics and the Swinging Legacy of Count Basie and Benny Goodman.” It made me very happy to see two of my long-time, favorite musicians, Bucky Pizzarelli and Dick Hyman, on hand to showcase the continuance of jazz. Lovable and talented Pizzarelli has participated in every “Jazz in July” festival for the past 21 years. He’s a master of the seven-string jazz guitar and has traveled the world with many jazz legends spreading joy and happiness – always with a beautiful smile showing that he loves doing just that. To play jazz, one has to have a level of technical ability, creativity, and improvisational skills. Pizzarelli, now close to 90 years old, continues to have it all. Hyman, known for his versatility with jazz piano styles was artistic director for “Jazz in July” for twenty years. The gentleman – and he is a real gentleman – has enjoyed a prolific career including providing scores for dozens of Woody Allen films. Hyman and I graduated from the same school, and some months ago our college magazine, “Columbia,” included a very detailed story about the talented graduate who helped prove that jazz is America’s art form. He turned the baton over to Bill Charlap, his successor. Hyman has been his mentor and friend for many years. My hope is that the 92nd Street Y will continue “Jazz in July” for another thirty-one years, and also that I’ll be here to applaud. Thirty-one years? Just kidding!
If the name Garrison Keillor doesn’t mean anything to you, that tells me that you don’t look to the radio for entertainment. Keillor is author, storyteller, humorist, and a radio personality who has hosted the Minnesota radio show “The Prairie Home Companion.” He graduated from the University of Minnesota and lived in St. Paul. Most recently he authored “The Keillor Reader.” The versatile man intended his radio show to last for a year, but “just as we were about to quit the show started to draw an audience” and that show has lasted for some 40 years. It has a simple formula: a variety of music that appeals, radio actors that can do noir, horror, or soap, songwriting, a Midwestern ethos, and the thrill of live radio. “People have grown up listening to it and now they are middle-age and still like it.” This month to celebrate Keillor’s popular radio show they are doing a 30-cities-in-30-days, sea-to-shining-sea bus tour. It celebrates 41 years of radio history with his cast of singers, sound effects man, and all-purpose roots quartet covering blues, jug band, primitive jazz, good times, rhythm and blues, swing, and hillbilly. So you can understand why, in addition to the piano (thank you, Irving Berlin), I love the radio. There’s one in almost every room in my house and, of course, in the car, too. Do you know that there are 63 radio stations within close listening range of Bayonne. Unfortunately, many are full of static. But the ones I listen to mostly are WBGO (jazz), WNYC (New York City), WQXR (classical), and WOR (news/talk). There’s plenty for sports enthusiasts, too. However, I leave that up to my granddaughter, Rachel. She works at ESPN and is expert in that field.
You can e-mail June Sturz at

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