The Village Vanguard celebrated its 80th anniversary last week.
The occasion made me recall what Lorraine Gordon told me a decade ago, when the Vanguard was turning 70. She’s been running the jazz club since 1989, after Max Gordon, the Vanguard’s founder, died.
“I like the coziness of the room when it’s full, when the people seem happy and they’re at one with the artist,” she said. “There’s just a certain feeling you get because it’s small enough to reach out and back and forth between the audience and the artists. So, that’s a palpable feeling. I feel it myself when I sit in the corner and I see everybody’s face is absolutely glued to the stage. It’s like a painting but it’s real life, every night.”
The real life of jazz, as it plays out—set after set, night after night—and the picture it paints for those who care to listen would be unimaginable in New York (and based on the many iconic recordings made at the club, anywhere) without the Vanguard as incubator and home.
Lorraine was sitting there, in her customary spot in the corner, on the way to the kitchen (which stopped being a kitchen long ago, and serves as both green room and office). Beside her most of time was her daughter, Deborah, who runs the club with her and, hovering nearby, Jed Eisenman, the club’s longtime manager.
To celebrate turning 80, the Vanguard turned to Jason Moran, a pianist and bandleader half the club’s age. Moran is a musician who has demonstrated, both on and off the bandstand and in various ways, that he has a singular and secure grasp of the connection between what has preceded him and where he (and we) are headed—and on the intellectual and artistic streams that have always informed and been fed by the scene at the Vanguard and the jazz scene in general. Continue reading “80 Years On, Still in the Vanguard: Reflections on a Celebration, and Comments from Jason Moran”