If you go to Iguana on 54th St. and sit down on a Monday or Tuesday evening to dine on some sensible Mexican food you can also do some time traveling. When the Nighthawks hit at 8:00pm you won't have any trouble imagining that it is 1925 and you are in a speakeasy at the musical height of the Jazz Age. Hot tune after hot tune (some titles you won't recognize even if you're a maven) are performed so flawlessly that your "original" recordings at home have to now take a back seat. Jelly Roll Morton's "Black Bottom Stomp" performed by Vince Giordano's virtuosi is better than your collector's item.
Not only does Giordano lead the Nighthawks atop a perch between his tuba and bass saxophone, but he lectures to the audience providing an inexhaustible supply of data, often humorously delivered. On Tuesday last (May 12) I sat intrigued at the depth of his knowledge. He introduced "I'll Get Someone" a wild romp from the Missouriansa group which he noted evolved in to the Cab Calloway band. Irving Berlin"s esoteric "I'll see you in C-U-B-A" was performed with dazzling authenticity as was the legendary Coleman Hawkins version of "Body and Soul." Giordano's scholarly reminiscence of the great Chick Webb was followed by the playing of "Blue Minor" a number immortalized by the talented drummer as he led his great swing band through its paces at Roseland. Sophie Tucker the "last of the red hot Mamas" captured hearts in 1927 with "Some of these Days" composed by Shelton Brooks. The Nighthawks stylings recollected the atmosphere of Texas Guinan's notorious speakeasy where Tucker often performed. Guinan charged patrons $25 for a bottle of bootlegged scotch and $2 for a pitcher of water. "Never give a sucker an even break" uttered Guinan who ran New York by night when Jimmy Walker ran it by day.
So much of the musical-sociopolitical-cultural environment of the 1920's-30's is present during a Nighthawks' set that keeping one's focus on the present is a challenge. Giordano has been so successful at creating authentic musical environments that movie producers constantly beckon. Among the dozens of film projects Giordano has worked on are Gus Van Sant's Finding Forester, Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, and Sam Mendes' Revolutionary Road. The ubiquitous leader and the Nighthawks were awarded a Grammy for their work on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire and have appeared as actors as well as performing their music.
Giordano is a veritable museum as he owns over 60,000 musical scores and any night that the Nighthawks perform a seminar in some of America's most interesting jazz and pop is the regular order of business.
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