Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks @ Iguana - New York City Article

Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks @ Iguana

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Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks @ Iguana

Published Aug 12, 2019
Updated Aug 13, 2019

Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks
240 West 54th Street, (212) 765-5454
Mondays & Tuesdays (ongoing)

A 40-plus year institution in Manhattan, Vince Giordano has been playing the music of the 1920s and ‘30s - jazz and the Great American Songbook - now for twice as long as those decades actually lasted. Since 2013, he and his eleven-piece band, the Nighthawks, have been playing twice weekly upstairs at this midtown Mexican restaurante. (And yes, in deference to their host, they occasionally essay a Pan American-style number, like Benny Moten’s “Rhumba Negro,”  Ben Selvin's "Mama Inez" or "The Peanut Vendor" by Don Azpiazú.)  But Wherever the Nighthawks play, it’s invariably the greatest hang in town: for three hours, you get to listen (or dance, if you dare) to the music of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Fletcher Henderson, Bix Beiderbecke - as well as Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, and George Gershwin (their foxtrot arrangement of the “Rhapsody in Blue” is a solid sender) - played with dynamic energy and unflagging inspiration. The band’s key soloists - trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, trombonist Jim Fryer, clarinetist and saxophonist Dan Levinson, hot violinist Andy Stein - all capture the spirit of the era while subjugating it to their own personalities, taking their cue from the relentless drive of their indefatigable leader, who often seems to be playing all three of his bass instruments (bass saxophone, tuba, and acoustic string bass) at once while simultaneously singing and spieling about the music’s history. You can see and hear the Nighthawks in over a dozen movies, including all the recent period-set films of Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen, as well as all five seasons of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire (which yielded a Grammy-winning soundtrack album for Mr. Giordano) and Amber Edwards’s sparkling new documentary, Vince Giordano: There's a Future in the Past. But the real experience is to catch them in person on a Monday or Tuesday evening, where you never know who (from Elvis Costello & Diana Krall to Michael Feinstein to Mel Brooks) will drop in, apart from the ghosts of Gershwin and Ellington, who are already in regular attendance.

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Author: Will Friedwald
Photography by: STEPHEN SOROKOFF

Author: Will Friedwald

Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.

New Books:

THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP VOCAL ALBUMS (Pantheon Books / Random House, November 2017)