On Monday I went to see Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks play the finest in early jazz, and as I was describing it to Jon yesterday I was reminded that one day, while working on this crazy little thing we like to call the “New York Music Index and Archive” (or NYMIA for short), he and I (well, Jon really) came up with a bunch of deejay names for 1920s and 1930s artists. “MC Oh You, Kid!” and “DJ Hot Cha Cha” are a couple of examples. So I ask Jon, I ask him, what he thought Vince Giordano’s 1920s DJ name would be. His reply?
If you think you’ve never seen Vince or heard his music, you’re probably wrong. He’s played big band leaders in Scorsese’s The Aviator, Woody Allen’s The Curse of the Jade Scorpion and in Gus Van Sant’s You’re the Man Now Dog Finding Forrester. Oh, and he was a bass player in Woody’s Sweet and Lowdown. And did music for the Mighty Aphrodite, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Zelig. He ALSO worked with Coppola on the Cotton Club. AND his music was on the soundtrack both for Robert DeNiro’s The Good Shepherd and Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World. Quite a list!
Sure, it’s nice to see him in a movie or hear him on record but you have no idea just how amazing his band or the music it plays is until you’ve experienced them both live. Un. Believable . Besides a passionate player of the music, he’s a collector and historian as well. The man’s got 32,000 original band arrangements (virtually all collected from musicians active in the 1920s and 1930s) to play from. Think about that for a second. That’s thirty-two thousand band arrangments. 32,000 78 rpm records would be a gigantic record collection for most, but having that much sheet music–and keeping it fresh by playing it–is a whole other level of commitment and musical expertise.
It’s this kind of commitment that brings those in the know to see the group perform. For example, it’s probably no surprise that Rich Conaty of WFUV’s The Big Broadcast was there on Monday. That era of music is his “thing” and he’s local. But then there was Jean Bach. Bach directed that most amazing of jazz documentaries, A Great Day in Harlem. He had a 85-going-on-20 year old clarinet player come up named “Saul” (didn’t catch his last name) who played beautifully for a couple of numbers. Speaking of musicians, seated at the table just to my right was John Heneghan and Eden Brower of the delightful East River String Band. Yeah, and THEY happened to be there with R. Crumb, who, when pointed out, was suitably suppliant to the band. And to think–my wife and I thought we were special because we were with Earle Hitchner (music critic for the Wall Street Journal and Irish Echo newspapers) and Mick Moloney (winner of a 1999 National Heritage Fellowship and Irish banjo leg-end).
Giordano and the Nighthawks currently play every Monday night at Sofia’s Restaurant in New York’s Hotel Edison, which is on 46th st, right around the theaters in Times Square. If you live in the City, go see them. If you’re coming in from out of town on business or as a tourist, will be in the Times Square area and want a sure bet for some great live music, go see them. Tha Syncopaytah will not disappoint.