Lorraine Gordon's Alive at the Village Vanguard
Lorraine Gordon, proprietor of the Village Vanguard and one of the first ladies of jazz for more than 60 years, has just released her memoirs, Alive at the Village Vanguard: My Life In and Out of Jazz Time.
Since the 1940s, Lorraine has personally known, worked with and booked at her club all the greats of the jazz world, and the story of her life is truly fascinating. Alive at the Village Vanguard includes Eartha Kitt, Lenny Bruce, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong, Henry Kissinger, Nina Simone, Oscar Peterson, Allen Ginsburg, Andy Warhol, Harry Belafonte, Nichols and May, Barbra Streisand, Carol Burnett, Pete Seeger, Adolph Green, Betty Comden, Leonard Bernstein, Woody Allen, Maya Angelou, Jonathan Winters, and many, many more.
Lorraine Gordon: 1937: Jazz aficionado from the age of fourteen. "I collected jazz records like a maniac. It was serious stuff and we treated it seriously—we read all the books, we listened to every recording ever made, we knew who the soloists were by their sound."
1942: Married Blue Note Records founder Alfred Lion. "I learned to type. I did all the bookkeeping. And though I didn't know what public relations meant, I did that too. We were little people in a little business. But we were selling something fabulous."
1947: Discovered and championed Thelonious Monk. "We all sat down on Monk's narrow bed―our legs straight out in front of us like children. The door closed. And Monk played, with his back to us. Thelonious Monk became my personal mission. Did his records sell at first? No. I went up to Harlem and those record stores didn't want Monk or me."
1950: Married Village Vanguard and Blue Angel proprietor Max Gordon. "The Village Vanguard had started out as Max Gordon's living room. Max was a writer, a poet, a thinker. Max Gordon truly was a Bohemian."
1961: Women Strike for Peace. "I wound up handling all the New York press relations, as well as marching, and I hosted evenings galore. We were forever demonstrating in Washington. We lobbied our senators. We attended disarmament conferences all over the world."
1965: Traveled secretly to North Vietnam from the Soviet Union. "You couldn't eat, sleep or drink without reading about the Vietnam War. Half of America was against it. You can't just sit there. There was a group of North Vietnamese women we had made contact with who were looking to end the war. Let's see, we said, if Lorraine can get to North Vietnam…"
1989: Assumed the helm at The Village Vanguard upon Max Gordon's death. "I certainly had no fear. I just got into the swim as fast as I could; just held my nose and jumped in. I didn't arrive at The Village Vanguard out of the blue. I stuck to what I loved. That was my art. Throughout my life I followed the course of the music that I loved. I loved jazz. And what I loved was terrific."
2006: Now 84 years young and as impresario of The Village Vanguard, Lorraine Gordon remains a force of pure inspiration: "Life is so beautiful when you're passionate about something, when you're committed."
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