Village Vanguard, New York's Most Cherished Jazz Club, Turns a Mighty 80 Years Old

By Ian Holubiak | Feb 23, 2015 04:34 PM EST

In a nation full of monuments, of which President Barack Obama has been on a crusade to protect, there may be no city in the U.S. more historically rooted in Americana than New York City. But on a smaller scale, through a more narrow scope, it is the city's underground and word-of-mouth venues, the clubs like the Village Vanguard, that have yet to close -- or, for that matter, change. The jazz club has turned 80 years old.

Dubbed many a-moniker like the "Camelot of Jazz Rooms" and the "Carnegie Hall of Cool," the Vanguard is analogous to New York jazz. A hallowed staple of the underground, thus the venue is a major detail of the city's musical history.

Having turned 80 Sunday, Feb. 22, pianist Jason Moran is presenting a weeklong concert series from March 10 to 15 that will honor the club's devotion to real and rich jazz. Along with solo performances, poetry and comedy, there will also be an evening devoted to the works of Thelonius Monk.

Loren Schoenberg, artistic director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, said of the venue, "There's no other place on the planet where so many greats played for so many years, and that's one of those statements that seems like hyperbole, but it's not."

He continued, "It's really the only quote-unquote holy place left in jazz -- period."

It has maintained the zeal of a cornerstone nightclub since it opened its doors in 1935 by Max Gordon, a Lithuanian immigrant who originally kept a tradition of poetry and Viennese cabaret. The club featured Maxwell Bodenheim and Joe Gould, who are known for their bohemianism.

Later, the club would bring in some of the most fundamentally American folk and blues musicians like Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly and in 1957 would feature the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and so on.

Gordon's wife Lorraine now runs the club with her daughter Deborah at the helm as manager. A historic venue, it still remains un-landmarked, which means it could close soon.

Until you make it, though, check out a preview of the club below and check out Moran's upcoming concerts here.

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