The Village Vanguard opens

Date: 
Fri, 1935-02-22

*On this date in 1935, the Village Vanguard opened. This was a pivotal cultural music location for the 20th century African American Jazz scene and remains open.

It is a jazz club, located at 178 Seventh Avenue South (just below West 11th St.) in New York City. It was founded by Max Gordon and is now run by his wife, Lorraine Gordon. At first it also featured other forms of music such as folk music and beat poetry, but it has been known as the home of live jazz since it switched to an all-jazz policy in 1957.

The Vanguard is in a dark basement in Greenwich Village. After walking through the red double doors and down a steep flight of steps (and paying a cover charge), one enters a surprisingly small, wedge-shaped room with a low ceiling, decorated with various jazz posters and antique instruments on the walls. The bandstand is at the point of the wedge, with tables spreading outward. At the back of the club is a small bar and along the wall stage left is a raised banquette, the "cheap seats." At the rear on the right is a passageway to the back rooms of the club, including a tiny "kitchen" (where the musicians hang out — no food is served at the Vanguard) and, if you follow a painted red line through a warren of twists and turns, the men's room.

Over a hundred jazz albums have been recorded at the venue since the (originally single) album under Sonny Rollins name in 1957. The two most famous engagements in the club's history are probably those of Bill Evans and John Coltrane, both of which took place in 1961. Wynton Marsalis regularly recorded at the club in the early 1990s; the results were issued in a multi-disc set. A typical engagement at the Vanguard lasts six nights with sets at 9 and 11 PM. On Saturday and occasional Fridays a third set is added at 12:30 AM. Monday nights were reserved for the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (formally known as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band) who played the Vanguard every Monday from 1966 to 1978.

After Thad Jones moved to Europe, but the band continued as the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra until 1990. After Mel Lewis passed away in 1990 the band changed its name to the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Their performances can be seen at the Village Vanguard, every Monday night where they continue to pay tribute to their founders Thad and Mel, while still debuting groundbreaking new works.

Reference:
Village Vanguard