All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource


Vince Giordano: Hot Jazz for The Aviator

By Published: January 11, 2005
AAJ: When you started the Nighthawks in the 1970s it was the era of R. Crumb, Woody Allen, Leon Redbone, and The Sting. Was it considered cool then, kind of counter cultural, to listen to this older music?

VG: No. It was cool for me but my contemporaries—they couldn't understand what the hell I was doing. You know, I'm going through the Navy [Giordano was a member of the United States Navy Show Band 1970-72] and having records there on tape and trying to transcribe some stuff and I had guys that were in the band that had been through Berklee and North Texas and they just shook their heads. They saw no point in what I was doing. They saw no point in going back that far. There was just such a resistance to that. Of course, those guys have gotten a little older, a little mellower, and I think it's much easier now doing that old stuff than it was. I caught Redbone when he first came out [Giordano has since worked many times with Leon Redbone] and I caught the R. Crumb comics with him talking about 78s, but it was almost like being in the closet liking this stuff. You could not readily admit this to most musicians. Thirty years ago, playing vintage jazz was really tough. You just had people questioning you. But, I think, over the years... fellows like Wynton Marsalis, who's had wonderful success with his jazz orchestra, him getting up there and saying, "Look, we like lots of kinds of jazz, but it's okay to like early Louis Armstrong and early Duke Ellington. This is good stuff." My musicians are not fighting me like they used to. He's kind of made my life a little bit easier. It's okay to dig Jelly Roll Morton. It's just as valid as playing something by Coltrane.

AAJ: What is the state of the classic jazz world these days? There is so much more music available on CD that should be reaching a new audience, and yet when I go see classic jazz, it's definitely an older crowd. Is the audience disappearing?

VG: I've noticed some classic jazz festivals have been severely hurt. The audience has been down. There are some young people coming up. What worries me is when this crop of older people go because their touch with this older form of jazz, this is going to be pretty much the last generation. I think the next few years will really tell if this particular form of music will survive.

AAJ: Is there a younger generation of musicians that have the same vision that you do?

VG: There are some wonderful, talented musicians out there. What I fear is—there's not that worry in their minds about the business of the music and the music business. Yeah it's great to play this music and it's great to play your horn, but where are you going to play it and for whom? We hear Mozart and Brahms—all those great composers—because somebody put that machinery together back in the 1800s, guys like Carnegie and whoever put together the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony and so on. They realized that this music must be played and they had the halls and set up the corporations. I don't see that. The jazz clubs in New York are getting smaller and smaller. I hate to say this, but you go to New Orleans and you basically can't hear any traditional jazz anymore. And there are a lot of cities where you would think you could hear some jazz around the country and you can't. There's no place there, there's no business. And we need that to keep the musicians working and to keep the sound so people can come in and discover it, otherwise it's just going to dry up and roll away. One of my speeches at the club at the end of the night is "Please support live music." Whether it's cabaret, whether it's jazz, whether it's country—support live music because you're going to have more fun with live music than with a DJ. There's just something about it.

AAJ: You have mentioned a fantasy of setting up a non-profit space in New York for older jazz.

VG: My plan is to do a non-profit club in New York to bring young kids in during the day and show them films and instruments and, for lack of a better word, kind of Sesame Street it, with some very talented educators that could expose kids to this kind of music so it's not so foreign to them. Then at night have this turn into a real authentic period nightclub. And the fear of losing this place would be taken away because this non-profit corporation would buy the place. That's been the big downfall in clubs. Somebody gets the idea of putting a club with some music in it. Everything's rolling, it's great, the people are coming in and then the landlord comes in, sees what's going on and doubles or quadruples the rent on this guy. This has happened so many times in my lifetime. So all this work, all this publicity, it's all gone, it's right out the window. They don't do that to Carnegie Hall.

A lot of young people really can't get with the fidelity of the old 78-rpm records. It doesn't sound like music of today, because it was recorded different. And I think playing some of this music live for these kids—it kind of opens it up for them. They can touch a trombone and see the reed of a clarinet and then watch some classic footage of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong and see what they were when they were young and in action.

comments powered by Disqus