For iconic jazz club Village Vanguard, music rather than food is its main gig
Gary M. SternMar 8, 2018, 2:40pm
Village Vanguard sign
Unlike almost every jazz club in New York City, the Village Vanguard doesn’t sell any food. Food is where most of these clubs spark additional revenue but not the Vanguard.
The Vanguard also discourages loud talking, taking videos or photos and cell phone use of any kind.
“There’s a musician playing. Pipe down,” owner Ellen Gordon has said to customers, sounding like a third-grade teacher who won’t take no for an answer.
Max Gordon, who died in 1978, opened the iconic venue in the West Village in 1935. It’s still run by the Gordon family, including Ellen, his 91-year-old widow, and, increasingly, their 65-year-old daughter, Deborah Gordon.
Located in a basement at 7th Ave. South near 11th Street, the Vanguard has presented most of the greats in jazz, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins, as well as present day stars such as saxophonist Joshua Redman and singer Cecile McLorin Savant.
When the Vanguard opened, it started as a place for poets to come and read.
“My dad Max wanted to be a writer himself and decided to surround himself with writers,” Deborah Gordon noted. “Greenwich Village was chock-filled with writers back then.”
Gradually the Vanguard evolved into a venue for entertainers, when the Revuers — including Judy Holliday, Adolph Green, and Betty Comden, sometimes assisted by a composer named Leonard Bernstein — began performing there. When they started, the poets protested and accused management of displacing them from their space.
“But there was another way not to make money and that was jazz,” Gordon said In a self-deprecating way, suggesting that her father was more interested in art than greed.
As part of that, not serving food is part of the Vanguard’s identity.
“We’re not a restaurant,” Gordon said. “Food is a whole thing unto itself. We want the focus to be on the music.”
Her father always warned her: “Never get involved with food.”
Village Vanguard sign
The Village Vanguard seats 123 people and features performances 365 days a year, taking no rest unless there’s a hurricane or major snowstorm.
When Mel Lewis and Thad Jones in 1966 told Max Gordon they wanted to launch a regular Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Max replied, “Good idea. Let’s give it a try. We’ll keep it going until it peters out.”
Fifty-two years later, the 16-piece orchestra performs every Monday night and for a week long stint in February (and for the same $35-plus-one-drink price as seeing a quartet).
The jazz that the Vanguard specializes in is wide ranging, eclectic and doesn’t conform to any particular style. Gordon said that Peter Bernstein, the guitarist, who led a group last week plays “straight ahead jazz,” but saxophonist Ben Wendle is more avant-garde and experimental.
“We run the gamut,” Gordon said. “Sometimes I warn people about what they’re going to hear, because you don’t want people to be unhappy.”
Nokie Edwards, Whose Guitar Drove the Ventures, Is Dead at 82
By RICHARD SANDOMIRMARCH 16, 2018
The Ventures early in their career. From left, Howie Johnson, Don Wilson, Nokie Edwards and Bob Bogle. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Nokie Edwards, whose virtuosic electric guitar playing helped define the surf-rock style of the Ventures, the immensely popular instrumental band that rose to prominence in the 1960s, died on Monday in Yuma, Ariz. He was 82.
His death, in a hospital, was confirmed by his wife, Judy, who said he had a recurring infection after surgery for a broken hip in December.
Mr. Edwards’s seemingly effortless picking produced a palpitating sound that captured the vibe of the ocean a few years before the Beach Boys began singing about California girls. The Ventures were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.
“Although musicologists might argue that Edwards’s country-fueled and steel-guitar-influenced licks owe more to country than pop or rock,” the guitar designer Jol Dantzig wrote in an appreciation of Mr. Edwards on the Premier Guitar website, “there is no denying that Edwards’s twangy tone, wang-bar glides and staccato riffing paved the way for the California surf bands of the 1960s.”
Mr. Edwards was playing lead guitar in the country star Buck Owens’s band when he was spotted by Don Wilson and Bob Bogle in a club in Spokane, Wash., in the late 1950s. Mr. Wilson and Mr. Bogle were construction workers with meager musical experience when they formed the band that became the Ventures. In Mr. Edwards, they recognized a larger talent with a broader musical pedigree who would improve their band.
With Mr. Edwards playing bass and Mr. Bogle on lead guitar, the Ventures recorded “Walk — Don’t Run,” which rose to No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Inspired by a slower, jazzier recording several years earlier by the country star Chet Atkins (the original recording was by the song’s composer, the guitarist Johnny Smith), the Ventures’ version had a propulsive power, driven by heavily amplified guitars and the drumming of Skip Moore.
Although Mr. Bogle’s playing was a key to the single’s success, Mr. Edwards soon replaced him as the band’s lead guitarist; Mr. Bogle’s switch to bass was an acknowledgment of Mr. Edwards’s greater skill. Peter Blecha, the author of “Sonic Boom! The History of Northwest Rock: From ‘Louie Louie’ to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ ” (2009), said the strength of Mr. Edwards’s playing rested on the “fluidity of his picking” and the way he added “melodic flourishes in surprising places.”
The Ventures "Walk Don't Run"
The Ventures "Walk Don't Run" Video by NRRArchives
The band followed “Walk — Don’t Run” with other hits, like “Perfidia,” a much-recorded song that reached No. 15 on the Billboard chart, and “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” which peaked at No. 35. “Wipe Out,” a hit for the Surfaris in 1963, became a signature song for the Ventures.
In 1964, the band rerecorded “Walk — Don’t Run” with Mr. Edwards on lead and a new arrangement. The song reached the Top 10 again.
Nearly 50 years later, Mr. Edwards said he had at least two more arrangements of the song. “I may put it out and who knows, I may get another hit out of it again,” he told the website Ultimate Guitar in 2011.
The Ventures’ second-biggest hit was their version of the theme song from the long-running CBS television show “Hawaii Five-O,” which went to No. 4 in 1969. It became a concert staple both for the group and for Mr. Edwards as a solo performer.
Nole Floyd Edwards was born on May 9, 1935, in Lahoma, Okla. His father, Elbert, and his mother, the former Nannie Mae Quinton, were migrant fruit workers. In a family of guitarists, fiddlers, pianists and banjo players, young Nokie was playing guitar by age 5.
About that time, the Edwardses — who by then had 11 children — left their land, then owned by his mother and her Cherokee family, after violent disputes with merchants who wanted them to sell it, Judy Edwards said. They fled in a horse-drawn wagon, crossed the Great Plains, stopped for a time in Idaho and settled in Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle.
Mr. Edwards stayed with the Ventures until 1968, returned in 1972 and stayed until 1984.
“He left the group a few times,” Mr. Wilson said in a telephone interview. “He said, ‘I’m tired of playing the same songs over and over again.’ ”
After that, he occasionally recorded and toured with the Ventures, sometimes in Japan, where they have been popular for decades. The band, which is still active, has gone through various permutations. Mr. Wilson retired in 2015 but still occasionally records; Mr. Bogle died in 2009.
Mr. Edwards played with various artists in his career, including the country star Lefty Frizzell. In recent years he formed a company, HitchHiker, to make custom guitars, and toured with his own group, the HitchHiker Band. Among other honors, he was inducted into the Native American Music Awards & Association’s Hall of Fame in 2011. His composition “Surf Rider” — which another surf-rock instrumental band, the Lively Ones, recorded in 1963 — was on the soundtrack of the 1994 movie “Pulp Fiction.”
In addition to his wife, the former Judy Bean, Mr. Edwards’s survivors include a daughter, Tina Edwards Nickerson; two stepsons, Patrick Fetters and Seth Chappell; 25 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; four great-great-grandchildren; and a sister, Louise Jensen. A daughter, Kim, died in 1988. His marriages to Zelda Wade and Jean Bauers ended in divorce.
Mr. Edwards, left, performed with the Ventures in New York when they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. Kevin Mazur
Mr. Edwards played his last show in January 2017, with the HitchHiker Band in Medford, Ore. Despite poor health, he refused to cancel the show and was brought onstage in a wheelchair before shifting to a stool to perform.
“He was in a lot of distress, but he got onstage and played very well,” Dan Estremado, who played guitar with Mr. Edwards that night, said in a telephone interview. “He did the best he could but kind of gave out at the end.”
He went to a hospital afterward, where, his wife said, the doctor remarked that he could have “fallen off the stool and died onstage from internal bleeding.”
In his final days, she said, she played YouTube videos of songs for Mr. Edwards in his hospital room — including Thom Bresh and him playing “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”