Magazine article IAJRC Journal

Get Rhythm in Your Feet . . . A Profile of Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks

Magazine article IAJRC Journal

Get Rhythm in Your Feet . . . A Profile of Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks

Article excerpt

It was an unusually warm and sunny Saturday morning in mid-October in New York City: it felt more like midsummer than early autumn. I sat back and enjoyed the noontime train ride from the Manhattan theater district to Brooklyn. I had arrived in New York the day before to visit my two adult children who live there, and to take care of a little jazz business. I was headed to the home of bandleader Vince Giordano, to visit him, and gather information for an article I was going to write about him. We were to meet at 1:00 p.m.

I have known Vince for many years, having met him in the 1990s at one of the late Joe Boughton's jazz weekends in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he performed with his band known as the Nighthawks. I saw Vince perform later at the Chautauqua jazz fest, also hosted by Joe Boughton, and then later still at a restaurant called The Cajun in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. I had also seen and/or heard Vince in a number of Woody Allen films, and in Martin Scorsese's film based on the life of Howard Hughes called The Aviator. Now he has plunged into the murky waters of television, providing the music for the HBO hit series Boardwalk Empire, which is now in its second season, and has recently been renewed for another season. As a result of the pervasive influence of television in our society, Vince is suddenly, after more than thirty years of leading bands that play music from the 1920s and 1930s, finding more work for the Nighthawks, and more interest in him by mainstream journalists.

My children, a daughter aged 23 who works and lives in Manhattan, and a son, aged 21, who is in college in New York City and also lives in Manhattan, are well aware of my "hobby," that is my ongoing love affair with jazz and American Popular Song. They grew up hearing the sounds of the great bands, singers, and jazz groups of the last century emanating from all sorts of stereo systems and boom boxes around our home. They grew accustomed to living in a house where there were hundreds of books, and thousands of records and CDs. Indeed, they have been taken by me to any number of musical performances over the years, so music is sort of a given in our relationship, albeit a sometimes pervasive one. My daughter once said to one of my friends who was asking her about her father's interest in music: "Some people call it a hobby. Some call it a passion. I call it an obsession!" Perhaps she is right.

When I told my children I would be visiting Vince, they both enthusiastically asked if they could go along. Knowing their father and having met many of his musical friends, they have come to expect the unusual and the interesting. They were certainly not disappointed by Vince Giordano.

As we exited the train, we walked a short distance to Vince's house and I rang the doorbell. It was exactly 1:00. A smiling Vince answered the door and admitted us into his living room. He is a solidly built man who is about six feet tall. He plays string bass, tuba, and bass saxophone, and has large, powerful hands, in common with many other bass players I have known. He was delighted to see that my children had accompanied me. I explained to him that they were interested in him and his music, and that they wanted to see some of the things he had in his house. He eagerly began to point out and explain a number of the intriguing and often odd musical instruments and devices he had acquired over the years.

The living room appeared comfortably large, but was packed with musical instruments, sheet music, audio and computer equipment, photos, (including one of Ross Gorman, who played the famous clarinet glissando in Gershwin's debut performance with Paul Whiteman's band of "Rhapsody in Blue," standing behind a forest of woodwind instruments), a large rack built into a wall which held literally hundreds of player piano rolls, and much other music related miscellanea. I consider myself rather well-informed about the instruments on which jazz has been played over the last century, but I saw a number of instruments in Vince's living room that I had never seen before, including a straight baritone sax, which stands almost six feet tall, which he acquired from the widow of bandleader Benny Meroff; a goofus, which looks like a tiny saxophone with accordion keys on it (proper name couesnophone); a hot fountain pen, and a slide whistle. …

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