Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Musical Trip Back to the Roaring '20S

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Musical Trip Back to the Roaring '20S

Article excerpt

Three quick knocks -- and the password is "swordfish."

OK, not really. But when you see Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks tonight at William Paterson University, you'll swear you were in a 1920s speakeasy after hours.

The 11-piece band does pitch-perfect renditions of the kinds of jazz that makes the flappers flap and the bootleg hooch go down easily: the arrangements that bandleaders like Paul Whiteman, Ben Pollack and Jean Goldkette used to play back in the days before jazz was a respectable academic subject (William Paterson, as a matter of fact, has one of the most renowned jazz programs in the country; a student combo will open the show).

"I'm yesterday's flavor," Giordano says. "Jazz music of the Twenties is not for everybody."

Such self-effacement belies the fact that Giordano has won a Grammy -- and his band is the go-to outfit for any Hollywood production ("The Cotton Club," "The Aviator," "Sweet and Lowdown") or TV show ("Boardwalk Empire") in need of a 1920s-style band or a 1920s soundtrack.

But the kind of jazz he plays still has an image problem. "We do all this great stuff, but it's still a struggle," he says.

The charts that Giordano and his combo play date back to an era when jazz was more loosely defined than it is now. Anything that was fun, bubbly, dancy and syncopated fit the bill.

Nor did it help that many (not all) of these Roaring '20s pop- jazz bands were manned by white players. As formal jazz history came to be written, and the key role of African-Americans as originators of the music came to be appreciated, many scholars understandably sought to compensate for previous slights by airbrushing such once- popular names as Paul Whiteman and Red Nichols out of the picture.

Today, they're half-forgotten.

But not by Giordano. Those who come to see him at William Paterson (the performance is part of the university's "Jazz Room Series") can expect the Nighthawks to touch on some canonical jazz: Fletcher Henderson, Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton and early Duke Ellington, for instance. But he may also throw in some other things. "The Kiss Waltz," an old Al Dubin number. The "Little Rascals" soundtrack music by Leroy Shield. …

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