THE VILLAGE VANGUARD Of New York's great jazz rooms, the Village Vanguard has the edge in terms of historical pedigree, sound, unique physical space, and ever-broadening booking policy, representing jazz across many generations and aesthetic viewpoints. The calendar is something: radical offerings from Henry Threadgill and John Zorn alongside great and underrated pianists George Cables, Kirk Lightsey, and Harold Mabern; young bandleaders of note such as Fabian Almazan and Rudy Royston next to established masters Fred Hersch, Tom Harrell, Joe Lovano, and Dave Douglas.
The Vanguard Opened in 1935 under Max Gordon, who ran it until his death in 1989. (The 80th anniversary is soon upon us, with 91-year old Lorraine Gordon, Max's Widow, still at the helm.) Classic Live at the Village Vanguard albums abound - suffice it to say that examples by John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Bill Evans leap to mind. Now bands play for six nights straight, which means they're allowed to grow and evolve. There's a beauty in seeing saxophonist Ravi Coltrane invent and push ahead with his exraordinary quartet on the same bandstand where his father brought enduring glory to the Vanguard name back in '61.
This place is historic and typically brings in world class jazz artists. Everyone who loves jazz should go at some point in their lives. But the Jazz Standard brings in the same quality of artists (many play both venues), and provides infinitely better drinks and service in a much more comfortable (i.e. less packed) environment. Hard to see myself returning here except when there is an artist I simply have to see.
Fantastic and intimate hole-in-the-wall jazz venue with great acoustics. It's literally underground, and the music is hopping. The cover is $20 cash (look for student discounts for late shows), and you'll have an unlimited pass for a night's worth of live music here and the more mellow Mezzrows (nearby). With drinks, a night here might get a little pricey, but there are way more expensive jazz options in the city, and the musical experience was superb. Tip: come a little early to ensure you get a seat, as the venue gets packed! I'd assume that you'll avoid those weekend lines on weekdays. Perfect spot for an after-work date or a social event with a small group of friends who appreciate good music.
A Definitive Jazz Dive: This place is just about the music and steeped in the history of jazz. It's a dank basement crowded with hard seats, tiny tables, a weird shaped bandstand with a partially obstructing support, and a funky ripped drape as a backdrop. Walls covered with pictures of the most accomplished jazz musicians since 1935 when the place opened. But the great one's still play there and most feel more than lucky to have seen and heard them there.
j spain Greene
On a whirlwind 36 hour trip to NYC, we made the decision to go the Village Vanguard to hear Kenny Barron. My 17 year old daughter has always been a casual jazz fan, but this visit strengthened her interest and she "got" the live experience...that thrill of jazz in action. The weight of the history of the Vanguard is palpable. You go down to the basement and feel the buzz of the place immediately. The wait staff is pretty friendly and there's a 2 drink minimum..but you don't have to have booze. The crowd is amazing. You know you're with serious jazzoids in here. A table of French jazz aficionados sat behind us - several tables of Japanese fans were across from us, and that impressed my daughter as well. To enjoy Kenny Barron's trio live was sublime...and watching my daughter's world expand is priceless.
Caught the Tom Harrell quintet. The set combined with the history of the venue made for a rarefied experience. Set was sold out the morning, but managed to sneak in due to some timely cancelations. Try and reserve a week in advance if possible, or gamble on seats, if you want the earlier set.