[Dixielandjazz] The Nighthawks Residency at Sofia's
Stephen G Barbone
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue May 25 07:32:45 PDT 2010
Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks are now at Sophia's Club Cache in
NYC on a regular basis, Monday and Tuesday nights. That's the Basement
nightclub in the hotel Edison, under Sophia's Restaurant there .The
address is 221 West 46th Street, NYC. 212-719-5799. $15 cover charge
and $10 food and drink minimum. The music goes from 8 to 11 PM.
That's a rare bargain these days. I used to pay that 50 years ago at
some of the clubs in NYC when I wanted to impress a date, for a show
that was nowhere near as good as Vince's. And that was when a dollar
was worth a dollar. <grin>
Do not miss this great orchestra if you are in or around NYC. OKOM
lives in NYC.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Nighthawks, see the below NY
Times article about them six months ago.
November 28, 2009 _ NY TIMES - By Corey Kilgannon
Bringing Big Band Jazz Back to the Theater District
There you are, texting away as you walk down West 46th Street in
Midtown, and you nearly bump right into the big, bright gramophone on
the sidewalk outside the Hotel Edison.
The antique prop is put out on Mondays to mark the entrance to Club
Cache in the hotel’s basement. There, the clock is turned back to the
Jazz Age, courtesy of Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, a time
machine powered by 11 rhythmically inclined men in tuxedos.
For decades, the group has been playing the dance band music of the
’20s and ’30s, really the last regularly working big band of its kind
in New York. He and the Nighthawks started in this space, under
Sofia’s Restaurant at the hotel, a year and a half ago.
It is a throwback to the types of ensembles seen in old movies and
photographs of handsome musicians with slicked-back hair in dinner
clubs. And when they take the bandbox on Mondays, the scene seems to
melt back into that bygone era, as the lights dim and the man with the
fedora and radioland voice steps up to the old-fashioned microphone to
They launch into some hot number, and dancers spring from their tables
to fling each other around the floor, dodged by waiters with food and
The Nighthawks attract a clientele of aficionados, nostalgiacs and
young swing-dance revivalists. Celebrities often stop by; Mr. Giordano
and his music have been included in films by Woody Allen, Martin
Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and others. The quirky cartoonist R.
Crumb is an occasional attendee. Really, the darndest crowd.
The other night, Frank Driggs, the Jazz Age historian and photo
collector, was there with the writer Joan Peyser. The Irish musician
Mick Moloney dined at a table, while the pianist Peter Mintun, once a
staple at the Carlyle Hotel, dined at the bar. At a side table, the
swing clarinetist Sol Yaged, 85, a walking screwball comedy skit,
offered candy to pretty women.
The band punched out zany numbers: the frantic, cartoon-like
“Powerhouse,” then a blazing fast version of “White Heat.” They slowed
down at times to ballad speed, serving up dollops of rich harmonic
confection from the Jazz Age, or calling up a guest from the audience
Onstage, Mr. Giordano, 57, drives the band, leaping from tuba to bass
saxophone to his distinctive aluminum upright bass, which he plays
like a madman in the old-school slap style. Then, debonair as a silver-
screen bandleader, he steps out front with the baton or croons into a
big round silver microphone.
His men, steeped in hot jazz idiom, never stray in their solos. The
cornet players know their Bix Beiderbecke, and the saxophonists know
their Frankie Trumbauer. They rely upon an array of mutes and plungers
to create gimmicky sounds.
The drummer, Arnie Kinsella, uses an antique set with a hand-painted
bass drum, a kettle drum, a small vibraphone, a hanging choke-cymbal
and a set of wooden Chinese blocks.
“All the drum heads are made of calf skin — Vince insists upon calf
skin — because it has a softer sound,” Mr. Kinsella said.
Andy Stein switched between baritone sax and a strange-looking “phono-
fiddle” with a gramophone horn attached for amplification. Ken Salvo
played a four-stringed plectrum guitar.
“I’ve gone through many, many musicians to find a group who really
interprets the stuff the correct way — it’s almost like trying to find
someone who’s speaking a certain language,” said Mr. Giordano, who
takes requests and spontaneously calls obscure tunes, midset. He
brings roughly 3,000 selections to each gig and regularly passes out
fresh sheet music.
And this is a mere sliver of the Nighthawks’ repertory, which is
culled from Mr. Giordano’s archive of roughly 60,000 pieces of music,
stored at his home in Midwood, Brooklyn: 30,000 big-band arrangements,
20,000 lead sheets and 10,000 silent-movie cues. It is one of the
world’s largest private collections, packed mostly into 100 tall metal
filing cabinets in the basement.
While touring, Mr. Giordano scours antique stores and old theaters. He
searches trade publications and local newspapers for sheet music sales
and looks up retired bandleaders and contacts relatives of recently
deceased musicians. His home is packed with old instruments and
memorabilia and thousands of rolls for his player piano. The other
day, he dropped a Victrola needle onto a scratchy 78 r.p.m. record of
“Yes, We Have No Bananas” in Yiddish.
“Bet you haven’t heard that one in a while,” he said.
Mr. Giordano was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Long Island, and got
hooked on this music after hearing his grandmother’s wind-up
phonograph at age 5. As a multi-instrumentalist adolescent, he played
with old-timers and studied with the renowned Jazz Age arranger Bill
Challis, then started the Nighthawks in the mid-1970s, specializing in
widely accepted classics linked to Fletcher Henderson, Louis
Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton — but also the
overlooked, sweet music of society bands, like those led by Paul
Whiteman and Jean Goldkette.
Mr. Giordano often made arrangements from his transcriptions from old
recordings, right down to the solos, with all their subtle inflections
“These were the creators of jazz,” he said. “Why not preserve and
present their music the way we do for Bach and Beethoven?”
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