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Description - Live at the Village Vanguard by Max Gordon

Since 1934, the Village Vanguard in New York's Greenwich Village has hosted the foremost in live jazz, folk music, and comedy. Its owner, Max Gordon, has now written a personal history of his club and the hundreds of entertainment legends who have played there. Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, Woodie Guthrie, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Josh White, Pete Seeger,Max has stories about all of them. And what stories! As Nat Hentoff says in his introduction, "A good many so-called professional writers have not done nearly so well."

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780306801600
ISBN-10: 0306801604
Format: Paperback
(210mm x 140mm x 13mm)
Pages: 192
Imprint: Da Capo Press Inc
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 1-Mar-1982
Country of Publication: United States

Book Reviews - Live at the Village Vanguard by Max Gordon

US Kirkus Review » Once the celebrity performers of the Village Vanguard (earthy downtown) and the Blue Angel (ritzy uptown) come on the scene here, these memoir jottings by incorrigibly unpretentious nightclub-owner Gordon become a bit too sketchily anecdotal and oblique - but the first few chapters, with young Max setting up shop, are jauntily splendid. A college grad from Oregon who didn't want to go to law school (his immigrant parents' dream), Max hung around the late-Prohibition Greenwich Village joints with waitress Ann - who knew everybody and disapproved of every place they frequented. Why don't we open a "no bullshit kind of place?" she said - on a borrowed $100; but though the "Village Fair" thrived, Ann disappeared, and the cops shut Max down on a phony liquor-selling charge. So Max, now possessor of a bohemian following (he'd really have preferred a Dr. Johnson set), had to open another place - which he did with help from "Harry the Plumber," rat-killer (with empty ginger-ate bottles) and stove-mover (on his back); they borrowed barrels for chairs, got a mural painted on the wall, and opened with no cabaret license. (Hauled into court, Max argued that poetry-reading by such as M. Bodenheim was "no entertainment" - and the judge had to agree.) Max's composite picture of a typical night at the Vanguard in 1935 is great fun too (drunks, hecklers, poets, demeaning M.C. Eli Siegel), and the youthful dash carries over into the story of Max's first big discoveries: the Revuers (Judy Holliday, Comden & Green, et al.), and then - thanks to Nicholas Ray - Josh White and Leadbelly (who were ready to open only after a week or so of nonstop rye-drinking). Then, however, with success, the addition of the Upper East Side's Blue Angel, and the Vanguard's switch to jazz, Gordon's short chapters slip into lists of auspicious performers, or into oddly angled, virtually all-dialogue closeups that don't quite work: reminiscing with Richard Dyer-Bennett; negotiating with Charlie Mingus' drummer after Mingus' death. Plus: recollections of auditions by Wally Cox and Harry Belafonte (a Gordon non-favorite), a tribute to elusive Sonny Rollins, and an account of a trip to Russia with the Thad Jones-Mci Lewis band. Despite Gordon's humor and no-nonsense zing - "Jazz owes me nothing. Jazz did more for me than I ever did for jazz" - these later sketches are primarily for aficionados. But those early days (and Nat Hentoff's jazzy, tender introduction) will please all those with any feel whatever for the bygone Village scene. (Kirkus Reviews)

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