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Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks at Club Cache, NYC

Daniel Kassell By

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I just love the energy of the early jazz —Vince Giordano
Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks
Club Cache at Sofia's Restaurant, Edison Hotel (downstairs)
New York City
May 5, 2008

Sofia's Restaurant, Club Cache at 221 W. 46th Street, NYC last saw music of this ilk—improvised jazz instrumentalists favoring the swing-jazz rhythms of the 1920s and 1930s—so many years ago in this room downstairs under the Edison Hotel hardly anyone remembers. Vince Giordano and his Nighthawks Orchestra will attempt to revive a midtown New York City tradition by catering to summer tourists and conventioneers. "I just love the energy of the early jazz,"says Giordano. "I want to recapture some of that."

The Nighthawks Orchestra of 11 continues to popularize the infectious rhythmic jazz of the generation of kids who grew up riding in cars with a rumple seat and dancing to a quick-step named by Harlemites just after flyer Charles Lindbergh had soloed across the Atlantic to Paris. If you're not a dancer, expect to watch a dozen couples Lindy, foxtrot, Peabody, rhumba, or dance to an occasional upbeat waltz culled from Giordano's collection of 30,000 Tin Pan Alley original scores plus many arranged by the well-known musicians playing in his band.

Opening night May 5th brought out a capacity crowd to dine on the Northern Italian fare, listen enthusiastically to the Nighthawks and traverse the real wooden dance floor. I counted 26 different instruments in front of the 11 Nighthawks because the orchestrations call for each member to play many parts originally written for a 16-piece band.

Dressed smartly in a traditional tuxedo, Giordano led the Nighthawks while playing a string bass, bass sax, sousaphone and delivering vocals using an antique Kellogg radio microphone. In the frontline were Andy Farber—baritone, tenor, soprano, alto sax and clarinet; Chuck Wilson—baritone, soprano, alto sax and clarinet; Mark Lopeman—tenor, soprano, alto sax and clarinet; Andy Stein—baritone, violin; Ken Salvo— acoustic guitar and tenor banjo. Directly behind were Jordan Sandke—trumpet; Mike Ponella—trumpet; Harvey Tibbs—trombone; and Rob Garcia—drum kit, percussion, gong and chimes; plus Peter Yarin— upright piano.

The old chestnuts like Kid Ory's "Muskrat Ramble," with Harvey Tibbs solo; "St. Louis Shuffle," featuring Mark Lopeman as Coleman Hawkins; a Peabody "Lonely Melody," arranged by Bill Challis for cornetist Bix Beiderbecke and featuring Jordan Sandke; and a vocal "My Baby Just Cares for Me" by Vince Giordano kept the diners entertained, giving this writer a chance to join the dancers with a single gal named Lorelei, who had come with her cousin because she heard about the Nighthawks while listening to Rich Conaty's The Big Broadcast on WFUV 90.7 FM, a Fordham University public radio station. When asked how he felt about the performance, the veteran DJ responded: "Terrific, now the band has a regular Monday night. I have a good feeling—it's a big first night crowd and they stayed past the first set to listen."

Set three at 10 p.m. included Duke Ellington's first theme song "East St. Louis Toodle-oo" with the tuba of Giordano, an authentic sax section, a Jordan Sandke trumpet solo, and on baritone sax, the two Andys— Farber and Stein. Another Bix-associated number, Rodgers and Hart's "Thou Swell," and a Fletcher Henderson Orchestra rare gem, "What-cha Call-'em Blues." The muted trumpet of Sandke established the melody while the sax-section riffs answered, punctuated by Rob Garcia's cymbal breaks that made it a perfect period piece.

Guest artist Sol Yaged, best known for reviving Benny Goodman's clarinet style and teaching Steve Allen to perform in the movie "The Benny Goodman Story," chose "Exactly Like You" and heated up the band by inspiring each section to respond in unison without a note of written music.
As the killer-diller "Jazzocracy" closed the night, there were still more than 75 smiling patrons paying their checks.

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