Village Vanguard, New York City
Max Gordon founded this much-celebrated jazz club in 1935. Ever since, it's been in the same basement location in the West Village. With a seating capacity of 123, it retains the same intimate ambiance that it has always had.
Since Gordon's death, his wife has managed the club. It has hosted nearly all of the famous modern jazz artists, including John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderley, Art Pepper, Joe Lovano, and countless others. Barbara Streisand recorded a live show here that was broadcast on PBS. Their photos adorn the walls, but aside from that the decor is spare.
The club has a limited selection of drinks, and no food. It's not a restaurant, just a plain old club. A must-see for any jazz buff, even if no one famous is appearing that night.
Dress Code: Come as you are.
This was imo the real, "old school" stuff,
not what I got uptown at Jazz Std, nor the laid back /cool stuff I heard at the Garage.
Sound & sightlines are good in the as far as I know virtually unchanged triangular showroom that has hosted all the jazz greats for decades.
The room sounded good when I was there.
The first time I was a little worried the Vanguard was coasting on its legacy, name & reputation, and there were mucho tourists (suppose it depends on who's playing).
Owner 80yr old Lorraine Gordon has kept the Vanguard running since her husband & original owner Max Gordon died, and still hangs out in the office / kitchen in the back, answering the phone and shaking hands with everyone as they leave after the show.
Head down in the basement early to get your choice of seats, as it's more often than not full / sold out.
Cover charge is usually $30.00 at the door - includes $20.00 admission + $10.00 drink minimum (usually translates into ~ 1 & 1/2 free drinks - be sure to tip your server), and Friday / Sat- $35.00. Still a small intimate place and in all fairness, with NY gentrified rents / taxes they probably need a solid cover just to keep the doors open (ask Lorraine the owner, it's none of my business ...)
Warning: CASH ONLY. No credit cards accepted.
Here is an interesting NPR sound clip with Lorraine about the Vanguards 70th anniversary:
Lorraine and Vanguard 70th
If you value jazz and especially jazz history as much as I do, I don't see how anyone could pass up going to the Vanguard at least once, if for no other reason than to pay homage to the living legends & ghosts who have left something behind here to share with everyone.
... Lorraine, you don't have to be a grouch, ... just tell me where the men's room is...
Dress Code: Whatever is comfortable, I saw suits to jeans.
Got jazz? You bet they do at this historic jazz landmark downtown. Village Vanguard is one the world's jazz landmarks, attracting hepcats and their fans for three generations. They've been here since 1935! This cozy basement bar oozes jazz history, which you can see framed on the walls. Expect to pay for the privilege of becoming part of that history - cover charges of $15/$20 and somewhat limited drink menu. But this is so much more authentic than the Disneyfied jazz you might find at the brand new spot-clean "Club Coca-Cola" at Lincoln Center!
In March 2006 I was here with friends Riff and Velma, seen pictured. We had the great experience of hearing the wonderful pianist Fred Hersch in a solo performance. It was the first time in the entire history of the Vanguard that a solo pianist was the headliner. Nothing can beat the intimacy of a club like this to really experience jazz.
Note: when the performers are playing, this is not a talking bar. No cell phones, either. It's all about the music. Dig?
This place (and other independent reviewers) touts itself as one of the best places to hear live jazz in New York. As well as visiting guests, every Monday night plays host to the house band, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. As well as playing here for 30 odd years, they are Grammy nominated, so I expected the best of the best.
Now what I know about jazz you could write on the back of a stamp, but I do know good, well performed music when I hear it, and this place just didn't hit the spot.
Some of the "trumpet solos" (think it was a trumpet anyway - told you I didn't know jazz), were distinctly off key & beat. When the whole orchestra played together it got pretty impressive, but I really couldn't tell the difference from one formulaic number to the next.
Venue was a smelly dive, although I suppose that creates the ambiance - the band leader even commented the place had flooded the night before in heavy rain. Wobbly tables and pillars blocking your view of the stage will only add to your misery.
If you love jazz, you will no doubt fall in love with this place, so ignore my moans, but for me it was a disappointment.
Drinks were fairly cheap - two are included in your $30 admission cover.
Dress Code: It's jazz... you're meant to look dirty and unwashed.
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Dress Code: There is no special dress code. Doors open at 8:00pm. Sets begin at 9:00pm and 11:00pm nightly. Generally there is an additional 12:30am set on Saturday and occasionally on Friday as well. It's best to call the club for confirmation of a third set.
Sunday through Thursday: $25.00 at the door (includes $15.00 admission plus a $10.00 drink minimum). On Friday and Saturday: $30.00 at the door (includes $20.00 admission plus a $10.00 drink minimum). Admission may increase slightly depending upon the artist. Drinks range in price from $4.00 to $8.00. Credit cards are NOT accepted, cash or traveler's checks with a valid passport (a copy is okay) or US driver's license only.
Great jazz players perform regularly in this historic club. The acoustics and the atmosphere are perfect. Call ahead for reservations for the more popular performers. Their schedule is on the net. The cover charge is inexpensive for the caliber of musicians who play here. I saw Wynton Marsalis in January, 2000, for $20.