The Village Vanguard in NYC is a national treasure

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by action pact, May 17, 2018 at 7:59 AM.

  1. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl" Thread Starter

    My wife and I just spent a few days in NYC, and on Monday night we went to the Village Vanguard to see the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. I rarely get to stay overnight in NYC, and I've long wanted to experience the Vanguard, so I was very excited to finally go there!

    For those who are unfamiliar with the Vanguard, it's literally the most important jazz venue in the world, and has been there since 1935, and currently owned by the founder's wife, who purposely did not change anything after her husband's passing because "it's the way people like it." A veritable who's who of jazz musicians have performed there, from Lester Young to John Coltrane and beyond.

    The club is located below ground, and walking down the steps I immediately sensed the weight of its history. I'm not ordinarily a spiritual person, but it felt like I was entering a "sacred space." The room itself is small, dark, and crowded. The chairs were not especially comfortable, everyone was crammed in tightly, and the air was warm and stuffy; it must have been hard to breathe down there back when smoking was allowed. Nevertheless, it just felt wonderful being in there; there was the buzz of anticipation among the audience, knowing that they were going to get a good show. The wait staff deftly navigated their way around the room, and everyone got their drinks before the set started. I ordered a dirty martini, which was quite good.

    At 8PM, the lights dimmed further and an announcement was made to turn off and put away phones, and to please keep the conversation level down out of respect for the listeners and musicians. It was refreshing to observe that during the show, everyone did shut up and just listened. The band assembled on stage, and what can I say, they we all amazingly good players, and the arrangements were beautifully written, with dense chord clusters during the ensemble sections. Every soloist dug in and wailed, no BS coasting or showboating, just real JAZZ playing.

    [Side note: Walking to the funky men's room, I couldn't help but think that I was peeing where John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, etc. etc. had also peed. :D ]

    Much has been said and written about the acoustics of the room, and it's all true. I could hear every note from every horn quite clearly even during the dense ensemble sections, not at all mushy. The room, when filled with people, is rather dead-sounding in a good way, warm yet clear, just like how I have my hifi tuned. Indeed, being in a performance room like that provided a terrific opportunity for comparing and evaluating the reproduction I'm getting at home.

    As we were filing out, I said to one of the waitresses, a 20-something woman, "This must be a hard room to work in" (because it was so tightly packed). She replied, "Yes, but it's worth it because the music."

    I encourage anyone with even a minimal interest in jazz to make the scene at the Vanguard, become immersed in its history, and dig some top sounds. I can't wait to go back there again (possibly later this summer)!

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    The coolest basement you'll ever be in:
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    Last edited: May 17, 2018 at 8:14 AM
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  2. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl" Thread Starter

    I just noticed from looking at the Coltrane photo that the neon sign has since been flipped around the other way!
     
  3. Jeff Kent

    Jeff Kent Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mt. Kisco, NY
    110% agreed. I just hope it manages to stay open forever. I don't know what the ownership is for their building. The way things have been going in NYC is that the owner raises the rent 3000x and/or sells the two story building to put up a 50 story condo. Look what happened to CBGBs.

    I always urge Jazz fans to visit the Vanguard when in NYC because I'm afraid it might be their last chance to hear music there.

    When I was working in the city I was lucky enough to go many times. Sitting at the bar getting free drinks from Tom the bartender and watching Lorraine yell at loud tourists.

    To name a few of the artists I saw...McCoy Tyner, Cecil Taylor, Pat Metheny, Branford Marsalis, Roy Haynes, Fred Hersch, Bill Frisell and Brad Mehldau for the recording of his first Live at the Vanguard album
     
  4. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl" Thread Starter

    My understanding is Lorraine owns the building, which probably has a lot to do with why it's still open for business. Hopefully there is another generation waiting to preserve its glory after Lorraine goes to the big bandstand in the sky.
     
  5. Jeff Kent

    Jeff Kent Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mt. Kisco, NY
    I can't imagine that the Jazz community would let anything happen to the Vanguard. Even if it has to be taken over by someone like Jazz at Lincoln Center I say it's worth it to keep it open and unchanged.
     
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  6. SteveFff

    SteveFff Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kalamazoo, MI
    I lived just a few blocks away at 6th Ave and 11th Street for a number years. I was able to see so many incredible artists there. Reading your post brings back a flood of memories of those great shows and makes me want to reach for somebody anybody "Live at the Village Vanguard". And, I think I know which one: Oddly, one show that stands out (along with some great David Murray shows), as it made me change my appreciation of this particular artist, was seeing Wynton there, around the time his "Live at the Village Vanguard" boxed set came out (with the septet). He was never really an artist I listened to. And it was a tough ticket for those shows. But he and his band were so incredibly great that night. I love that set and still have that live album on rotation. And your post has certainly inspired a playing of it today.
     
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  7. Rfreeman

    Rfreeman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lawrenceville, NJ
    Also famous for shows by The Weavers. Did their first gigs there, where they were discovered and signed by Gordon Jenkins.

    Caught a real nice Pharaoh Sanders set there once.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2018 at 8:43 AM
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  8. Jeff Kent

    Jeff Kent Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mt. Kisco, NY
    One afternoon in 1997 they had an album release concert for the Coltrane Complete Vanguard box set (which is now $38 at Amazon Prime and you should get it if you don't already have it) and the list of artists present was long. The basic group was McCoy Tyner's quartet (which was also recorded later that week and released as https://www.amazon.com/Plays-John-C...ums-bar-strip-0&keywords=mccoy+tyner+vanguard). One favorite moment was when Reggie Workman was having trouble getting through the crowd with his bass. Christian McBride came up behind him, took it from him, lifted it over his head and yelled COMING THROUGH.

    One by one new artists joined the stage until it was nearly full...I recall Pat Metheny's performance as blistering.
     
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  9. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl" Thread Starter

    That's right, until the mid '50s the Vanguard featured folk music and poetry, as well as jazz.
     
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  10. Mook

    Mook Forum Resident

    I've been to New York twice & really wanted to go to The Vanguard the second time (early 2015), I was a little afraid of what the protocol might be like plus my wife doesn't like jazz so I didn't end up going.

    I'm really kicking myself for that now as I can't see me getting back for a good 10 to 15 years. The OP is making me kick myself even more.
     
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  11. Pickering33

    Pickering33 Forum Resident

    Location:
    London, UK
    I’m planning a visit to NYC in October to celebrate my 60 birthday. I’m also hoping to visit the Village Vanguard on Monday night whilst I’m there. The place resonates with jazz history and though I’m a regular visitor to Ronnie Scott’s in London I’m getting excited about my visit to the Village Vanguard.
     
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  12. ATR

    ATR Forum Resident

    Location:
    Baystate
    The last time I was there may have been in the '70's. Keith Jarrett's American Quartet. Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke were at the next table. There are a lot of basement clubs quite similar, but none where so much live musical history has been made. I tried to start a thread once to compare favorite 'Live at the Village Vanguard' recordings but no one responded.
     
  13. Dylancat

    Dylancat Forum Resident

    Location:
    Cincinnati, OH
    Historic, Great venue.
     
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  14. Jeff Kent

    Jeff Kent Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mt. Kisco, NY
    Go, regardless of who is playing.
     
  15. 131east23

    131east23 Person of Interest

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Put this on your list: Ess-a-bagel

    If you show up early there is usually a line out the door and the bagel you get was just made, right there. They are the best!
     
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  16. Pickering33

    Pickering33 Forum Resident

    Location:
    London, UK
    I will. The first visit I made to NYC I saw On The Town. I also visited Miles’ and Duke’s graves at Woodlawn Cemetery. I went and stood outside Miles’ house on West 77 Street. The second time I went to Lincoln Centre and saw the NYPO. This time I will go to the Village Vanguard.
     
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  17. saturdayboy

    saturdayboy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago
    Great venue, living part of history
     
  18. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl" Thread Starter

    Good knowledge! My typical go-to place for a bagel in NYC is the Brooklyn Bagel Company on 8th Ave., around the corner from the Chelsea Hotel... but I'm always open to broadening my horizons!
     
  19. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    My favorite place to see live music, period. NYC has a lot of good venues. Carnegie Hall is a great place for classical music (it was especially great before the 1980s renovation). Although they've crammed a lot of seats in there tightly, the Metropolitan Opera House is a great place to see opera. But the Vanguard is just something else -- how close you can be to the performers; the energy that passes back and forth between the audience and the musicians. As a lifelong NYer, I'm lucky enough to have spent a lot of time in that room over the last 35+ years of my going there, and for me it never gets old. I've heard people complain about the drinks, the service, all kinds of things, on this board and elsewhere. I dunno, I think the place is magical.
     
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  20. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Speaking of next generation, I think Lorraine's daughter runs the club now.
     
  21. villanova

    villanova Active Member

    Location:
    NYC
    As a lifelong New Yorker, I'm embarrassed to admit I've never been. Time to go.

    I used to hang out at the nearby Fat Cat some years ago. The Don Han Quintet would play every Thursday night (along with live music nearly every night). I hope that's still an ongoing thing.
     
  22. Rob C

    Rob C Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, USA
    Such a special place. I've only been a couple of times. And I had the exact same thought in the men's room as the OP! :)
     
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  23. KipB

    KipB Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bethel, CT, USA
    I saw Donnie McCaslin’s band the week after Bowie died (they were DB’s band on Blackstar). They did a great set and covered a couple Bowie songs. When Donnie told a story about working on the album and then announced that they were going to play Warsawa next a gasp went up across the audience. It was a stunner and a great moment at the great club.
     
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  24. Jeff Kent

    Jeff Kent Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mt. Kisco, NY
    My wife grew up around the corner from Miles' house on 78th and Riverside. We were married at the church on 77th and West End.
     
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  25. Jeff Kent

    Jeff Kent Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mt. Kisco, NY
    A friend of mine recounted a story of being in that men's room while Mingus was in there. He went into great detail about his boisterous moaning...
     
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