Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Village Vanguard

The Village Vanguard
178 7th Avenue South

This windowless, wedge shaped basement room, also known for its perilously steep, red stairwell, formerly housed the Golden Triangle, a speakeasy busted during Prohibition. When it opened as the Vanguard on February 22, 1935, owner Max Gordon (1901-91) booked beat poets, cabaret artists and comedians. Judy Holliday, Betty Comden and Adolph Green were all on stage there. Since the switch to an all-jazz policy in 1957, the club has hosted a veritable who's who of jazz: Thelonious Monk, of whom Lorraine was an early champion, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Max Roach, Dinah Washington, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, just to name a few. The great Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra made its residence there on Monday nights beginning in 1966; the current Vanguard Jazz Orchestra is its present-day incarnation. There is no argument that the Village Vanguard is a veritable jazz institution famous throughout the world - a sort of holy ground of jazz culture.

Numerous live recordings have kept close account of the musical dialogue within its walls and brought the venue to the forefront of jazz consciousness. Among the most famous are: Sonny Rollins' A Night at the Village Vanguard, John Coltrane's Live at the Village Vanguard, Bill Evans' Sunday at the Village Vanguard, and Dexter Gordon's Homecoming Live. The room has more recently been a recording studio to Tommy Flanagan, Joe Lovano, Brad Mehldau, and Wynton Marsalis. Many musicians say that the wedge shape of the room gives the sound a special focus, and that is what makes so many jazz musicians want to record live albums here.

No credit cards, no food, no distractions (the proprietress, Lorraine Gordon [widow of Max Gordon] will shush you if your party gets too loud).

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