DAY 7 – Village Vanguard Optional

photoWell, we have come to the END.  Its been a very fun and very busy 8 days in NYC.  The group this year was phenomenal.  All kinds of different people from different walks of life and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

Day 7 started on a great note and ended on a very sour note but luckily everyone chalked it up to a “New York” experience.  We started the evening at Smalls Jazz Club. We had already done a private event there but I wanted to take the group back to experience the night time hang in the Village. And a hang it was. The club was jammed and there were likely 75 people in there so its nice to know that even without my crowd I would’ve had some people come down. There were many special guests in spotted in the audience. All saxophone players!  Stacy Dillard, Tad Shull, Dimitry Baevsky, Ryan Oliver and I’m sure there were more. The band played great, its always a lot of fun when I get to play with Ian Hendrickson-Smith.  Jeremy Manasia on piano, Sean Cronin on bass and Brian Floody lit it up.

Then it was up to The Village Vanguard. I don’t have much to say about the music. Kurt Rosenwinkel and friends are very very popular and are all fantastic musicians but I’m not a fan of the music and last night did nothing to change that. Again, I stress that I have great respect for them but it just doesn’t float my boat. Having said all that, the vibe in what is supposedly the most famous jazz room in the world ruined any chance at all of anyone enjoying themselves.  Hands down the ruddest people I have ever encountered.  They truly do NOT care one iota about having a group of 43 people at the club from Vancouver.  Its the stereo typical New York attitude of “we are in New York where there are 11 million people and thousands of tourists so we can be as rude as we want because we know you’ll all come back.”   Here are a list of clubs that DON’T have that attitude: Smoke, Smalls, Creole, Showmans, Kitano, Birdland, Silver Lining, American Legion….(these are just the ones we went to, there are lots more.)   It’s a shame that on future tours The Village Vanguard will have to be an ‘optional’ activity as I’m not sure I can stomach taking my group back there but honestly I really don’t think anyone in my group cares where we go or what we do as long as the music is good and the experience is pleasurable. Even when the music is not what people like or dig at least they can have an experience….well the experience we had last night is one we can do without.

I wasn’t sure that writing this post was a good idea but if you know me, I’m honest and I try to always tell it like it is so I didn’t want to change that. The purposes of this blog and more specifically blogging about this trip is to give a description of the tour and how it went.

There it is.  Today is the last day. It’s been a fun ride but I’m ready to come home.

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18 thoughts on “DAY 7 – Village Vanguard Optional

  1. It’s regrettable that you and your group found an unpleasant vibe at the Vanguard. That is the exact opposite of the experience I’ve had in the venue. With several visits made, experiencing jazz in the Village Vanguard was always a highlight of the trip. The staff was always polite and accomodating. They deal with thousands of visitors from all parts of the world. I’d imagine they might have the occasional “bad” night, just like the Cellar.
    I hope your disappointment does not poison the desire of others who have yet to visit this iconic club.

  2. Without denigrating your experience, I suggest that you try not to judge the club too harshly. A lot of the cats who work there (I mean: servers, bartenders) have been there for years and are cool people. It is what it is and it was a different place when Max Gordon was a alive, but it’s still an amazing place, with incredible history. I really treasure the times I’ve gotten to play there and hope I’ll get to more in the future. Also, it’s a great sounding room. You know, you have a good connection with the clubs you listed, but I’ve heard complaints about all of them–without going into specifics there are many people who’ve told me they’ll never go to ——–. We need all the jazz clubs we have and more and personally, I really like the Village Vanguard. I’ll be there tomorrow night.

    • David, thanks for your comment. I absolutely WILL judge the club harshly. Very harshly as a matter of fact. The fact is if I treated my customers like they threat theirs I would be out of business. Im not suggesting its no amazing. The history in that club is unbelievable.

      I have had my own troubles at The Cellar with all aspects of my operation but I have never ever ever treated my customers like they treated us on Friday night. Never and if I did I hope someone would write a blog post about how pathetic I and my place are. It was atrocious. So yes, I did and will continue to judge the Village Vangaurd. They may think they are “all that” but you need to remember that without paying customers they don’t have a club.

  3. I remember when Miles, Rene, Glenda and I went to the Vanguard to see Paul Motian’s band (Chris Potter was playing tenor). The music wasn’t my cup of tea, and I remember the vibe being just weird. Weed’s Cellar Jazz Club kicks it’s ass!

  4. Well each to his own. As I said above, you can find many folks who would say the same negative things about some of the clubs you listed as “not having that attitude.” I’ve seen customers treated very badly in some of those venues as well (on a given night). So, while it’s within everyone’s rights to stop attending any jazz club they don’t like, I try not to generalize from one bad experience. It may be that the VV is particularly inept with large parties or that the night you went was a bad night for someone. Maybe it won’t work in the future for your group, but the American Legion ain’t the Village Vanguard. For me, it’s probably my favorite place to hear music in NYC (good piano, good sounding room) and the ghosts in place are great, as well as the memories of my own times playing there. I’ve been there three or four times in the last several months (don’t go out as much as I used to) but that was the first club I went to back in 85 when I moved to NY. I used to sit on the steps to hear Woody Shaw, and bands with Kenny Kirkland in the 80s when it cost under $10 to get in. So, I guess for me it’s always going to have a special spot in my heart.

    • It will always hold a special place in my heart to David and I will likely go there again when there is something that I want to hear which these days is few and far between but I digress. You are correct that the American Legion is not the Village Vanguard but not one person, in the over 100 people I have brought there hasn’t thought that it wasn’t the highlight of their 8 days in New York. They care about the business, they appreciate the patronage and are generally good spirited people. I’m certainly not saying that those experiences aren’t happening in other clubs. I have had complaints about some of my staff. It happens, people get bitchy, people have bad nights, people make mistakes. The Village Vanguard however went above and beyond the ‘just a bad night’ vibe. They were outwardly rude, abnoxious, ungreatful and well, to be honest complete assholes. Not just one person but almost everyone in the place. We paid good money and were treated like shit. I don’t care if you’re the Village Vanguard, The Amercian Legion or Carnegie Hall.

      I have a thick skin in regards to this kind of stuff. I have been to NYC many times and overall always had great experiences at club and restaurant, with musicians and people on the street. I love this place. The Village Vanguard experience however bothered me to the point where I will not bring my group back there. They can go if they like but I will take my money elsewhere and give my people what they want and what they deserve.

      Im happy to keep going back and forth with you. I like the dialogue but just because Trane played at your club or Dexter or Bill Evans or whoever doesn’t give you the right to treat people like shit.

  5. I don’t disagree with you since I wasn’t there to experience what you experienced. This situation is a little like hearing something bad from someone about a friend. On the one hand, you can sympathize with the person that was treated badly, on the other hand–you don’t want to judge your friend on something that you, yourself didn’t experience. So, I’ll leave it at that. In general, even clubs that screw up and treat the customers badly (and I’ve been hearing about a lot of them lately)–if they’re still bringing in jazz bands, I try to support or at least not actively boycott them, because there are (in general) less places to play then there used to be. Still, there’s no excuse for bad behavior and it’s certainly counterproductive to the interests of the club. When it’s hard enough to fill the place, why make things worse by creating ill-will and losing return business. But club owners can be mysterious on that score.

  6. Hi Cory – did we meet at Melissa Aldana’s event with Jimmy Katz? I think we may have! Anyway, speaking (also) as Kurt Rosenwinkel’s manager, I will avoid to comment on how you feel about Kurt’s music, that’s a taste issue I guess, and certainly everybody is entitled to their own taste lol.

    However, I must come to Village Vanguard’s defense. It is absolutely by far the best jazz club in NYC when it comes to focusing on the music (and not on selling fries with that), although I will also say that Small’s is right there with them. The staff at the Village Vanguard is like one big family, perhaps with the occasional exception, and most of the staff have been there for a long time. And take deep pride in being associated with this amazing club and it’s history + with forwarding the mission into this century. Which they are quite good at I must say…

    This last week they were faced by all sold-out shows, and people having to be turned away almost every night. Of course we are happy this was true of Kurt’s shows, but I don’t say that (just) to brag on his behalf. Because it is really not that unheard of at the Village Vanguard: Artists such as Brad Mehldau, Chris Potter, Guillermo Klein, Bill Frisell etc etc all regularly have sold out shows there. This is what happens when you mix all of these great artists with a 123 capacity club that happens to be perhaps the most famous jazz club in the world (certainly one of those longest in existence with the deepest history) in the jazz capital of the world. And whose artistic direction and general vibe + fair ticket prices etc. ensures that it’s visited by a crowd that is probably (definitely) younger than any other major jazz club in NYC.

    If you guys did not purchase tickets in advance then I am sort of surprised that you thought you could just show up with 43 people and expect to get in just like that. That’s like 40% of capacity of any given set. It’s hard to deal with an overflow of people that want to get in and can’t, and I am sure that can lead to stressful interactions. I just want to say that when it comes to dealing with us, the musicians etc, the people at the Vanguard are top notch. They treat us like family. And they are family to us.

    Not too many other places I’d say that about….

    • Sure come to there defence. Why wouldn’t you, its in your best interest.

      I had a reservation for 4 months and they put us at the back and then the staff, in it’s entirety proceeded to treat me and my group like absolute shit.

      It’s funny, the people that have come to its defence only talk about the history of the club, how it is the beacon of jazz clubs etc. It may well be but that does not give the staff the right to treat us like a bunch of half wits. The world needs the Village Vanguard like it needs war. We don’t need the VV. There are plenty of other clubs out there worldwide that care about how they present music and care about the audience that comes and hears the music. The Vanguard’s entitlement and sense of superiority is really ugly and it shows.

      I’m happy you like the Vanguard, why wouldn’t you? They make you alot of money so please understand your bias.

      • Hi Cory,

        I am from Denmark, used to be talent buyer for another incredible 440 venue called Montmartre in Copenhagen (Stan Getz recorded his last recording there, as well as his 60th and 50th birthday albums, and this venue – now closed – is probably my all-time favorite venue), and have toured the world with world class artists for over 20 years. I have seen it all pretty much. My defense of the Vanguard has nothing to do with making money there, and everying to do with the artistic choices they make every day (bring in great, young acts, help give them a break, no food served etc), with the sound in the room and with a family-affair style of operating as opposed to “corporate” plus with not gouging fans with high ticket prices etc. Yeah, they can have a bit of an old-school NYC thing going on, on multiple levels, but I prefer that to the bland plastic smiles in other venues by people who have little to no clue about the music, and who are just employees of the place, perfectly happy to move to a “better” job next week. I know that is not true of the Vanguard – that place is a lifestyle for the people who work there. Oh, and they let their musician friends walk in for free many times, because they value them in the room, and know these folks cant afford to pay all of the time. If I was all about the money then we would “demand” everybody pay (at which point we would be disinvited, because no manager or agent luckily sets policy of the VV), but we agree with the musician friendly policies of the Vanguard. So there…

        It sounds to me Cory that you had a bad experience there, and that you elect to use that experience to not recognize what is actually right about the Vanguard. I am sorry that you did not have a good experiende. I am sure it actually would have been very different if it had not been that it was so sold out. Its not easy for a 123 capacity venue to give preferential treatment to 43 people and seat them exactly where they want to be seated. VV seats people on a first come, first serve basis. Which, if you think about it, is fair too.

        Eough from me for now. Hopefully you will recognize that I write this not because I hope the Vanguard will make me some more money (we have no trouble getting our clients booked in other rooms that are actually known to pay better than the Vanguard, partly because they are larger rooms), but simply because while I dont want to discredit your having had a bad experience, as someone who knows the place well, and the people who work there, I simply think you are being unfair. Thats all.

      • Kurt, well if “that place is a lifestyle for the people who work there,” then I don’t want to be a part of that lifestlye. Im not stupid Kurt. I have run a successful jazz club for over 13 years (albeit not as famous as the VV) and the Vanguard is sold out night after night after night so if you can’t deal with a sold out set after a billion years of practice then you need to re-evaulate. We all showed up at exactly 10:30 as they asked and were the first to be escorted to our seats at the back. The seating is not really that big of a deal. I didn’t care. As I mentioned, the music is not my cup of tea although I have a ton of respect for Kurt and his quartet. My people however were a little shocked.

        Whether the Vanguard makes you money or not are you really gonna call a spade a spade if the Village Vanguard does something you don’t like? I would suspect not because you know how important it is for your groups to play there regardless of pay so you will, till the bitter end defend the Village Vanguard.

        I DO recognize the things the Village Vanguard does right, the first time I was in that club was one of the greatest experiences of my life, the second time where I got to sit in the front row to see Terrell Stafford’s band on the first New York With Weeds Tour was actually maybe even better than the first time I was there (although the staff was rude and very slow with service on both those nights.) Dealing with Deborah Gordon in organizing my groups for 3 years has been a dream. She has been patient, flexible, helpful and understanding.

        There is not ONE excuse in the world that justifies the way we were treated last Saturday night. Not one excuse. I did everything they asked, treated them with courtesy and respect and in returned was treated like they didn’t care, would never care and actually told one of our people “If you don’t like it, never come back.”

        Im happy you like the VV. Good for you. Maybe when they treat you like they did me, you’ll have a different attitude.

      • Cory, my name is Anders Chan-Tidemann, Kurt Rosenwinkel is one of our clients, and we don’t know each other very well at all, so I don’t know why you want to assign spurious motives to my defense of the Vanguard. I have no trouble calling out people and venues that I dislike. I intensely dislike Catalinas in LA for refusing to pay for the tuning of their own piano when I visited there once with – Kurt – because they had low ticket sales (Kurt is doing very well across town at the Jazz Bakery). That was a first. I told them: “If there’s only ONE guest here for the next days…do you really want that guest to listen to an untuned piano”? They didn’t budge. We paid for it ourselves. But we aren’t sending any artists back there, because that showed what kind of people they are (they were funny when I dealt with them for Joe Henderson in 1996 too). Oh…and in NYC Smoke has the absolute worst reputation for an arrogant, unfriendly staff. I’ve witnessed that myself.

        Oh well – it’s hard to make money running a jazz club. Or to even break even. There’s tons of jokes on the subject. In fact everybody in jazz, pretty much, aren’t exactly raking it in. It’s the niche of the niche and it’s not about to change. We are all a community, and I, we and – I am sure – Deborah and everybody at the Vanguard actually DO appreciate what you do too Cory. Maybe they just had a bad night. I don’t know..I don’t even know what they did or didn’t do to you. I’ll be frank to tell you that in the past they’ve had staff that I didn’t always adore, but the balance was always good and positive in MY dealings with them. I can only report what I’ve witnessed.

        Have a great day Cory…and I wonder how much of Kurt’s music you’ve heard actually? If you didn’t like this Quartet, playing original music, perhaps you’d be more into his Standards Trio – did you ever hear his album “Reflections”?

      • Hey, I’m not going to get into anything about Kurt and his music as that would no doubt be misquoted and misconstrued. Kurt and his band are master musicians and will achieve greater fame and notoriety than I ever will. I have the utmost respect for them as musicians. Hell if you asked to have them at The Cellar I would jump at the opportunity provided we could agree on terms. Does that make me a hippocrite? No, it makes me smart and an astute business man. I have heard his standards record.

        I left because I was angry and didn’t want my group to see that vibe. I may have enjoyed the music if the vibe was better.

        Good for you about Catalina’s but that ain’t the Vanguard. Easy to dismiss them. Everyone wants to play at the VV. Even those who say they don’t, I believe they may be lying. I will likely never have that opportunity but if they called me and offered would I say no? Of course not, I’d get on the next flight. Hippocrite? No. Smart? Yes.

        I have many a bad night at the Cellar. This was not a bad night. My bad nights never include insulting customers, refusing to get them drinks, asking them never to come back etc.

        The fact is the VV will stand forever because of it’s fame. It doesn’t need to be experts in customer service. To each there own. It’s just sad.

        As for people not ‘rakin it in in jazz,’ I totally disagree. There are plenty of people doing just fine. I suspect the Vanguard family is doing quite well given how much money they walk a way from each and every night.

        As for Smoke I can’t comment other than to say I have a personal relationship with them that has been great. I have had some issues with them but they have always stood up and been upfront, fair and willing to dialogue. Not sure if id get the same from anyone at the Vanguard.

        I WILL be writing a long list about what happened. I’m just waiting to corroborate one story.

        I’m following with great interest the sexual harassment and age discrimination charges as well.

        I’m sorry I kept calling you Kurt.

      • OK – I look forward to reading your description of what happened at the Vanguardt. I wish you well and while you may not own the Vanguard, you seem to run a well-liked establishment, and your commitment to the music by running a jazz club in the first place is admirable and a dream come true, I think, for many of us…me too! So well done!

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