Warmish at 60 degrees; cloudy, but sun arrived later in the day; strong westerly wind blew my hat off by the beach. Young women walking with no coats. Little dogs on leashes hold their ground — no pit bulls in sight. Babies in strollers — all bundled up like Eskimos. Man standing on a bench staring at the ocean. Taxi slows and stops briefly while passengers look at the sky. Flags by the beach rattle and flap with the gusts. Sun appears then vanishes behind the clouds then reappears — have to constantly adjust my camera — but no auto mode for me. Get back in the car; warm up and head west: need ice cream. — Paul Goldfinger
By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger (Reposted from September, 2011 on Blogfinger) I like this post, so here it is again; the third time around since 2011. Read the comments.
It was 1991, and we were visiting Paris with our son Michael, who had just turned 21. We had been there before and we liked the Left Bank the best, especially the area near the oldest church in town (St. Germaine des Pres) located on the Boulevard St. Germaine. You can walk that neighborhood and find bookstalls along the River Seine, Musee D’Orsay—home of the Impressionists, funky neighborhoods near the Sorbonne, antique shops, bistros where you can’t get a bad meal, small hotels with floor to ceiling windows and no elevators, and wonderful food markets.
Behind the old church, where the Blvd. St. Germaine meets Rue de Rennes, is a tiny park where you can relax, called the Rue de l’Abbaye—a respite from the bustle all around it. But also at that intersection is the famous Café Les Deux Magots where Hemingway, Picasso and other artists and intellectuals used to hang out. It’s so much fun to sip an espresso there and people-watch.
One evening Michael and I took a walk. At the corner, in front of the church and across from the café, we heard a street band playing. They were called “The Lost Wandering Blues and Jazz Band”, composed mostly of American musicians. But we were most intriqued by their vocalist, a seventeen year old young woman from New York and California who sounded like Billie Holiday. She had been living in Paris since she moved there at age 16 with her mom. Madeleine Peyroux is now a jazz star who performs around the world, but we think of her standing on the sidewalk with a floppy hat on, charming the crowd.
As you can imagine, I took a lot of photographs there. Below is the Cafe Deux Magots which dates back to 1875—just a few years younger than Ocean Grove.
And below that is Madeleine Peyroux singing in French. The song is “J’ai Deux Amours” (I have two loves). It is from her album “Careless Love.” That’s a good song for an album with that name.
There were two historic (over 100 years old) hotels in Asbury Park which were adjacent to each other on Asbury Avenue—-The Belmont and the Atlantic. The Belmont had 50 rooms, but it was vacant in 2006. The entire block was scheduled for demolition, but it burned down during a 5 alarm fire, along with the Atlantic, in December of that year. The balloon construction made for a deluge with quick destruction up and down the buildings.
An AP historian said, in an APP article that the buildings were considered historically significant to Asbury Park and Monmouth County.
“This site is one of the small remaining number of turn-of-the-century hotels that once flourished,” he said.
“The local historical society wanted to save the Atlantic and Belmont Hotels and have them refurbished to be used for residential purposes, but the society’s efforts were thwarted several years ago by the City Council and redevelopers,” he said.
“And, now that the fire has destroyed the hotels, there is nothing left to do but start from the ground up. They could have been adapted to modern uses, but now they are gone,” he said.
Residents said they were upset to see history disappear so quickly. “I hate to see it go,” Robert Razminas, 48, an Asbury Park resident for 25 years, said as the buildings burned. “These old places are Asbury Park history. They should be restored and kept up.”
George Tice* is one of America’s most famous photographers. He is especially known for his work in his native New Jersey. His specialty is documenting historic old buildings and neighborhoods, as in his photographs of Paterson, an old immigrant based blue collar city. The Tice photograph above of the Belmont is a poor reproduction, coming from an ad by a gallery. Tice has published about 20 photographic books including one about the Amish in Pennsylvania and another in Ireland and England called “Stone Walls, Grey Skies.” One of his most famous books is “Paterson.”
Here is a link to a BF piece in 2013 which shows some of his images:
PHILLIP SMITH ( of Ocean Grove and the NY Philharmonic) on trumpet along with JOSEPH TURIN on piano play Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” Note: I spotted Phil—Phil Smith and the NY Phil–on TV for the Live From Lincoln Center New Years Eve show on PBS. The camera caught him having a string of rests and gazing ahead as Yo Yo Ma played a tango.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article rings true as we think about historic preservation in Ocean Grove. These two Asburian hotels could have been re-purposed into residences while maintaing their historic “bones.” As noted before by Blogfinger, Asbury has an advantage for preservation because of the available land for parking, but that didn’t save these two structures—they were destined to be replaced by condominiums. Evidently the idea of remodeling them into residences was not considered because AP has turned over that entire oceanfront area to trash-and -build -new developers without any worry about history. They don’t seem to care about AP’s history and they don’t mind turning much of their reclaimed property into condominiums. I recall when the beautiful old Metropolitan Hotel, a nostalgic place which I visited, with much history, was allowed to rot and then be demolished.
However there is a huge difference between the two towns: Ocean Grove is on the National and State Historic Register, so we have an obligation to try and save historic buildings and not mow them down like dead ducks. But turning old hotels into condo’s here is contrary to our Master Plan which has a vision that is totally different than Asbury’s, and we really shouldn’t allow more space-clogging condo conversions of old hotels to occur, especially in defiance of RSIS parking standards.
Our old hotels need to be dealt with in ways that meet the special needs of our town, with the interests of the people and the history placed ahead of the developers and the politicians who want more money from the Cash-Cow-By-The-Sea.
Phil Smith’s solo above reminds us to protect our town’s historic treasures.
What instrument has stood the test of time as the most romantic musical instrument? No, it’s not the organ. And no, Mr. Wiseguy, it’s not the bass drum or the electrified flute. Now I suppose, if you want to stretch the definition of a musical instrument, you might say the human voice. Frank Sinatra comes to mind.
But Stradivarius knew the answer — it is the violin. So here we have the sine qua non of romantic music: Frank Sinatra singing “Close to You” with a lovely violin solo.
Am I right about this? Any other ideas? But please, no exotic instruments from Asia and forget about the ocarina and the French horn. If you tried to get romantic with a French horn, you could hurt yourself. —Paul Goldfinger (re-posted from 2012 on Blogfinger)
New Orleans beignets, fresh made, at the Lakes Park Farmers Market in Fort Myers, Florida. by Paul Goldfinger. Originally posted in August, 2012.
SOUNDTRACK: It is difficult to try to find music to compliment this photograph of a beautiful and expressive child. What words would convey the right description of the moment? In the end, I thought of how her parents and family must think about her.
So I chose the lovely song “You’re My Everything” by Harry Warren, but I wanted it performed by a jazz musician with the words aside, because a jazz performance allows us to give the music its own meaning if we want to.
Yet the poetic words of this song do fit the theme and the music. It’s your option as to how to experience this song:
“You’re my everything underneath the sun
You’re my everything rolled up into one
You’re my only dream, my only real reality
You’re my idea of a perfect personality.”
“ You’re my everything, everything I need,
You’re the song I sing and the book I read.
You’re a way beyond belief and just to make it brief .
You’re my winter, summer, spring, my everything .”
Here’s The Miles Davis Quintet from the “‘Round Midnight” album.
(This piece is re-posted. It was first presented on Blogfinger in July, 2014.)
It was Saturday night, July 18, 1925, at 8:15 p.m., when vocalist Paul Robeson and his accompanist Lawrence Brown strode onto the stage of the Great Auditorium to present a concert of “Soul Stirring Negro Spirituals” (1) to an integrated audience of three thousand people. Mr. Robeson, an imposing black man, was twenty seven years old. He was already famous as a screen and stage actor as well as a singer. He was a true Renaissance man who would become one of the most popular performing artists of the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Robeson, who was born (1898) and raised in New Jersey, was an All-American football player and Phi Beta Kappa at Rutgers University and an honors graduate of the Columbia University Law School. As a college student, Robeson was friends with the Day family who owned Day’s Ice Cream “Gardens” in Asbury Park and Ocean Grove. He had a summer job as a singing waiter at Day’s. (3) When he came to Ocean Grove for his 1925 concert, he had just completed a triumphant run at The Provincetown Theatre in New York, where he performed the lead role in Eugene O’Neill’s “All God’s Children Got Wings.”
He had friends at the Algonquin Round Table in New York City, and it was there, with the encouragement of his colleagues, that he decided to do a concert tour with an entire program of “Negro” spirituals and secular songs also known as “slave or plantation music.” This would be the first time that this music would be performed in concert, and he would appear with his close friend Lawrence Brown, also an African-American, who was a gifted composer, pianist and singer. The two would work together for thirty years. The first stop on the tour was The Greenwich Village Theatre in New York City, and then, three months later, he appeared in Ocean Grove.
The concert was reviewed by the Asbury Park Press, which said, “Robeson showed an intelligent appreciation of his task and a splendid voice.” They called him “a talented son of this state” and they described “great applause” in the Auditorium. Among the songs which he and Lawrence Brown sang were “Go Down Moses,” “Weepin’ Mary” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.”
The following month he performed his concert in Spring Lake. They would tour for five years, all over the world, with this program. Later, Robeson would become the third most popular radio artist in the USA in the 20’s and 30’s. In the 1940’s he was the highest paid concert performer in the country and he was also successful as a recording artist. He would sing in the first production of “Showboat” and he would play Othello on Broadway and in England. He would star in eleven movies.
But his visit to OG that night was not only about music; it was also about recognition of African American culture and the elevation of that folk music to high art. In addition, Robeson always was about hope for African Americans, and performing that music was his way to offer pride and encouragement to his people. In 2004, when Barack Obama gave his “Audacity of Hope” speech at the Democratic convention, the first example he cited was, “…the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs.”
Robeson would accomplish much in his life, but his greatest contribution would be his tireless and life-long advocacy for civil rights. In 1925, Martin Luther King wasn’t born yet, and the “civil rights movement” would not begin until the 1950’s. Imagine how much courage was required for a black man to step forward publicly on behalf of racial justice at a time when lynchings were still occurring in this country. In 1921 a race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma resulted in the deaths of 20 whites and 60 blacks. In 1922, an anti-lynching bill was defeated by filibuster in the US Senate. In 1925, the year of the concert, there were 17 reported lynchings in the US. Jim Crow laws could be found in many states, but Paul Robeson pressed for racial justice wherever he went and for his entire life.
Robeson had been “eagerly” (1) looking forward to his concert in The Great Auditorium. It is likely that he was aware that many “extraordinary African Americans” (2) had appeared there in the past, including the famous Marian Anderson (1921), Booker T Washington (1908), the singing evangelist Amanda Berry Smith (late 1800’s) and many renowned black preachers. The Ocean Grove Historical Society has documented the African American History Trail in our town. (2)
In 1998, the Ocean Grove Historical Society celebrated the 100th anniversary of Robeson’s birth by a day-long commemoration featuring lectures, dance, a book signing and an exhibition. The centerpiece of the program was a re-creation of the 1925 concert in the Auditorium. They brought the noted African American bass Kevin Maynor, who used the original program and reproduced the concert from 73 years earlier. This remarkable event was made possible by a committee of Ocean Grovers led by Rhoda Newman (chairman), Kevin Chambers, Phillip May, Jr., and others.
Paul Robeson’s contributions have been recognized many times in the form of tributes at Carnegie Hall and NJPAC, plus many articles, books, exhibits and documentaries. He is a part of Ocean Grove’s musical heritage which includes Enrico Caruso, Duke Ellington, John Phillip Sousa, and Pearl Bailey (2). Paul Robeson died in 1976 at age 77. Five thousand people attended the funeral in Harlem.
Paul Robeson sings “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” from The Complete EMI Sessions 1928-1939, remastered 2008.
1. Asbury Park Press Archives (Asbury Park Library)
2. Ocean Grove Historical Society Archives (Ms. Rhoda Newman)
3. Mr. Kevin Chambers, Ocean Grove Historian
4. Ocean Grove Times Archives (Neptune Township Library: Mrs. Marian R.Bauman, Director)
By Paul Goldfinger (reposted from Blogfinger September 2011)
Bill Frisell (b. 1951) is a jazz guitarist who has today released his new album, a tribute to John Lennon, called “All We Are Saying.” Frisell has been called the most “innovative and influential guitarist of the last 25 years.” His music is derived from many influences including classical, country and progressive folk. Among his many albums are tributes to Aaron Copeland, Bob Dylan and Madonna. Reviewers describe his work as being “understated” and focused on the “inner beauty” of the compositions.
The new album contains 16 songs, all written by John Lennon. This song, “Across the Universe,” is from a 2007 movie of the same name which featured 34 original Beatles compositions and received an Academy Award nomination.
“Across the Universe” is the first song on the CD. Please listen to it carefully. Then, if you love music—any kind of music—go to the link below and play the video (it is from a web site called lineout.thestranger.com). It provides an unusual opportunity to hear the artists discuss the soul of the music, touching on aspects of the creative process including psychology, trust, love, teamwork, and inspiration. I was impressed that the musicians had the lyrics in front of them while they played the pieces.
“Across the Universe” from Bill Frisell’s new album “All We Are Saying:”
This song, “All My Life” released in 2007, was Billy Joel’s first new song since 1993. It was written in honor of the second anniversary of Billy and Katie Lee. Phil Ramone was the producer. It is a lovely ballad, reminiscent of tunes from years ago including “For Once in my Life” made famous as a slow tune by Tony Bennett.
Billy Joel’s first hit song was “Piano Man” from 1973. He continues to perform, especially in concert in New York City. He is always sold out and he covers his music and others from multiple eras.
This song reminds me of “All My Life” a 1936 ballad by Sam Stept which was sung by Julia Roberts for the movie “Everyone Says I Love You.” What do you think of the similarity.?