The Great American Songbook still sails Cape’s airwaves

Written by Anne Ierardi

Shirley Horn, a portrait by Anne Ierardi

On WOMR, Julian Jackson and Richard Rubino keep the music playing

“When they say nothing is forever, it’s not true. Music is forever.” – Annie Ross 

Community radio is alive and well on Cape Cod. WOMR in Provincetown, through its dedicated volunteers, offers a wealth of opportunities to hear music of every genre. I had the pleasure this week to meet with two men who bring the music of the Great American Songbook alive every week: Julian Jackson of PM Jazz on the first and last Friday afternoons of the month (1 to 4 p.m.) and Richard Rubino of Sounds of America on Thursdays 5 to 8 pm. In love with music all his life, Julian Jackson began his avocation of playing jazz on the air through WICN in Worcester. When he retired to Cape Cod he was able to make a full life of music: listening, playing guitar, singing and hosting his show.

“It’s a journey,” reflected Julian. “The music I play is heavily rooted in the Great American Songbook. I seek a balance between vocals and instrumentals, between male and female musicians, even music featuring piano or horn. If you tune in at 1 you will probably hear more upbeat music; as the afternoon goes on the music becomes softer, and more mellow.”

Over the years that I have listened to Julian’s show, I always learn something new about an artist, discover a new vocalist or instrumentalist, and find myself bewitched (not bothered and bewildered) by his choice renditions of the Great American Songbook.

Another enjoyable aspect of Julian Jackson’s show is his birthday features. He confided to me that he loves to bring artists to mind on their birthdays. “I like to honor their memory,” he said. Sort of like the “saints” of music, I thought. The month of May includes many greats: Shirley Horn, Peggy Lee, Benny Goodman, Rosemary Clooney, and Artie Shaw.

Fortunately there are three ways to access the station: 92.1, 91.3 or the Internet. “I was surprised,” said Julian, “to find that one day three listeners identified themselves from Jamaica; Glasgow, Scotland; and California!” While Jackson’s listeners are usually middle to older adults, his openness to new and local talent attracts some younger listeners.

Richard Rubino, born in Pittsburgh and a graduate of Berklee School of Music, has dedicated his life to playing and teaching music. His last teaching job was at Harwich High, where he taught all the symphonic and band instruments. He has also played sax, clarinet, and flute at the Melody Tent with many local musicians. He began his Sounds of America show at WFCC, programming and workin with Lou Dumont and Jack Bradley. They featured jazz and the Great American Songbook. When the new owner changed the format to all-classical, Richard found a new home with WOMR. As a good friend of Dick Golden whose show Nightlights captured our hearts, Richard was inspired by Dick to keep this music alive. Living on Cape Cod is richer because WOMR has a commitment to this gem of American music that needs to be shared and passed on to a new generation of listeners.

I spoke with Richard about the amazing performance I witnessed last week in New York. Richard remembers fondly the legendary Annie Ross; he was amazed she is still performing, with horn player Warren Vache. While having suffered from ill health, she is doing a weekly gig at the Metropolitan Room in NYC. She had me and the audience mesmerized. Her last number was her composition “Music is Forever.”

Richard’s Sounds of America features a Sinatra segment at 7 p.m. and one spotlighting pianist Dave McKenna at 6 p.m., in addition to classics by Great American Songbook composers with some contemporary jazz performers including Diana Krall, Steve Tyrell, and John Pizzarelli. Richard draws from his extensive personal collection of 6,000 albums and CDs.

I thought it would be fun to listen to a few of the artists/songs on YouTube that Julian turned me on to… Mary Cleere Haran “But Beautiful,” arresting and beautiful, and my favorite Jobim piece, “Waters of March.” Vince Jones, an Australian jazz singer and trumpet/flugelhorn player, “You Go to My Head.” Cal Collins, jazz guitarist – a live performance from Louisville of “Autumn Leaves.” There’s an upbeat video of Cal playing with Benny Goodman in Warsaw in 1976. Dr. John from the CD Duke Elegant playing sax and singing “Satin Doll.” Peter Cincotti on piano, singing outdoors in NYC “I Love Paris.”

Boy this is fun… one more for the road: Shirley Horn’s “Here’s to Life,” by Artie Butler and Phyllis Molinary.

Here’s to life and every joy it brings. Here’s to life for dreamers and their dreams.

May all your storms be weathered. May all that’s good get better.

Here’s to life, here’s to love, here’s to you.

Reprinted with permission from The Barnstable Patriot.

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