Art Works Blog

Art Works Podcast: Lorraine Gordon

In this week's podcast, we meet 2013 NEA Jazz Master Lorraine Gordon. She's the owner of the legendary New York City jazz club the Village Vanguard. The Vanguard has hosted everyone from Mary Lou Williams to Jason Moran. A jazz haven for more than 55 years, the Vanguard passed to Lorraine's stewardship after the death of her husband Max Gordon, who was the club's original owner. Lorraine had long been a regular at the Vanguard, listening to the music as the club's reputation grew among jazz musicians and became, according to jazz writer Nat Hentoff, "the closest we have to the Camelot of jazz rooms." When Max died unexpectedly in 1989, Lorraine closed the club for one night. She reopened it the next day, took over management, and never looked back.

But this isn't a case of inheriting the jazz bug from her husband: ever since her teenage years in Newark, New Jersey, Lorraine has devoted her life to jazz. Her first husband was Alfred Lion, co-founder of  Blue Note Records. She joined the small company, and together the husband and wife team recorded legendary jazz artists such as James P. Johnson, Sidney Bechet, and Todd Dameron. They  became advocates for the young and virtually unknown Thelonious Monk, whom Lorraine most particularly championed. Oddly enough, she was able to get a gig for Monk at the Vanguard in 1948, before her romantic relationship with Max Gordon began.

On January 14th at 7:30 p.m., tune in to our live webcast of the 2013 NEA Jazz Masters Ceremony and Concert! The evening will feature performances by past NEA Jazz Masters such as Jimmy Cobb, Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, and Randy Weston, and will celebrate this year's class of honorees: Lorraine Gordon, Mose Allison, Lou Donaldson, and Eddie Palmieri. Click here for more information.

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