Art Works Blog

Spotlight on Lorraine Gordon

"Lorraine Gordon's jazz promotions and productions remain vital to the jazz scene. This has been true for over 70 years! From the Newark Hot Jazz Club to Blue Note Records---it was Lorraine's press releases of 65 years ago that helped launch Thelonious Monk's fame---and on to the Village Vanguard. She's the mom of the greatest mom and pop store in history. A jazz listener, a record collector, a true patron of this art!" ---Jazz DJ Phil Schaap

"Because of Lorraine Gordon’s unwavering love and devotion, the Village Vanguard---the Shrine of Jazz---is still going strong. Lorraine is truly a keeper of the flame (and is frequently the flame itself, so watch your fingers!). Thank you Lorraine for your passion and your commitment over all of these years!" ---Jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves

Today on the blog, we meet 2013 NEA Jazz Master Lorraine Gordon. Gordon, née Stein, grew up in Newark, New Jersey, and became a jazz fan in her teenage years. Her first husband was Alfred Lion, co-founder of the Blue Note record label. Together, they worked throughout the 1940s to record such legendary jazz artists as Sidney Bechet and Thelonious Monk. The Lions had divorced by the end of the 1940s. Lorraine then married Max Gordon and they had two daughters. Max Gordon opened the Village Vanguard in 1935 as a music club usually featuring folk and poetry readings, but from 1957 on the Vanguard predominately featured jazz. In 1957, Sonny Rollins---in what was one of the first recording sessions at the club---documented two different trios he was working with on the three-album set A Night at the Village Vanguard. Soon after, the Vanguard became the place to record a live jazz album, with its exceptional acoustics and intimate space. In 1989 Lorraine's husband passed away. She closed the Vanguard for one day, then reopened it the next and took over ownership and management. A jazz haven for more than 55 years, the Vanguard is one of the best-known jazz clubs in the world and is still going strong under Gordon's ownership. Lorraine's memoir, Alive at the Village Vanguard: My Life In and Out of Jazz Time, was published in 2006.

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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