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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