Monday, January 09, 2017

Vince Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past

Fortunately, Vince Giordano’s music goes equally well with Italian and Mexican food—maybe because its hot.  In 2013, the closure of Sophia’s forced Giordano and his Nighthawks Orchestra to move their regular Monday and Tuesday night residency to Iguana’s. The 2012-2013 season was quite busy for them, including Newport, Lincoln Center, and Town Hall gigs, but musicians like to be busy. Giordano and the Nighthawks keep the flame of “Trad” Hot Jazz alive in Dave Davison & Amber Edwards’ Vince Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Giordano is an ambassador and evangelist for jazz, much like Wynton Marsalis and the late Dr. Billy Taylor, but specifically for the old school hot style (think Kansas City and Chicago). He might not be as well known, but it is not for a lack of high profile work. As the go-to guy for 1920s and 1930s big band music, Giordano has graced the soundtracks and screens of projects like The Aviator, Café Society, Everybody Says I Love You, and Carol. Probably his biggest hit from a CD-selling perspective has been Boardwalk Empire. In fact, we will see him laying down a track for the HBO show with Buster Poindexter, who needs a bit of time to acclimate to the syncopated beat.

There are no voiceovers or visible interviewers present in Future, but they really aren’t needed. Giordano’s running commentary is sufficiently informative. Giordano is indeed a likable (and likably eccentric) showman, who fills the screen nicely. Davison and Edwards also give the Nighthawks time to play through a number of tunes in their entirety, trusting the musicians’ talents will hold the audience’s interest (as well it should). Of course, the sight of Giordano wailing on the uncommon bass saxophone is worth seeing. It is a big axe to lug, but Giordano also has a tube and a metal upright bass to schlep. Just the load-in process is an adventure for the Nighthawks, but that is the price of authenticity.

It is great to see Giordano get some time in the spotlight, because he is an institution. He keeps a lot of musicians regularly gigging—a feat in itself that deserves cheers. He has also single-handedly saved scores of vintage scores from oblivion as a mad collector-archivist (it takes one to know one). For many of the younger Trad Revival musicians, he is also a godfather figure, while for many New Yorkers, he is the cat who made Mondays fun again.

All those aspects of his career come through quite agreeably. This was a rather dramatic period for the Nighthawks, but the documentary record is a lot of fun to watch. Anyone who appreciates American music should make the scene when Vince Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past opens this Friday (1/13) in New York, at the Cinema Village.