THE GOODS ON THE FAMOUS NIGHT AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD

Now that I have the FULL story from a member of our group I feel I can write about what happened at The Village Vanguard BUT before I do I want to clarify a few things so people don’t get their knickers in a twist.

1. MY MOTIVE: I really have no alterior motive here other than to relay a story about a bad experience I had at a New York jazz club. I would do the same if it was Smoke, Smalls, The Blue Note or any other club for that matter. I blog about my New York With Weeds Tour and am not going to lie and wax poetic about something because of the reverence the rest of the world has for the place. Although my past experiences with service with the Vanguard haven’t been stellar, I have just chalked those up to being in New York and the way things are in general. The following however went over the top in so many ways, it had to be written about.

I in NO WAY am insinuating that myself or my club is perfect. We have bad nights in all aspects but this is above and beyond and I can say without question this has NEVER happened at my club.

2. RESPECT: I am fully aware of the history of the Vanguard. I have read both books about the Vanguard with great interest and am still amazed of the magical feeling I get when I walk down those stairs into that club or when I see the red awning from afar. Jed, Jenn or any of the other staff will never be able to take that away from me. They have been in business a long time and it simply IS the most famous jazz club in the world.

3. KURT ROSENWINKEL: Its already happened in private messages where some people think I am using this as an opportunity to slag Kurt. This is ABSOLUTELY not the case. I have made my feelings known about how I feel about his music BUT I have the utmost respect for him and his band as musicians and from what I know of them..as people. If I had an opportunity to book Kurt at The Cellar again I would do it in a second. So this post and my night has nothing to do with Kurt Rosenwinkel so I will reserve any and all comments in regards to what I liked or disliked about the performance.

So here we go:

This is the third trip to The Village Vanguard with New York With Weeds. This year was the biggest group. I have dealt with Lorraine Gordon’s daughter all three years. I have to say that we have never met but she has been AWESOME!!! Patient, understanding, flexible and more than cordial.

I will put MY experience at the end of this post but first here is the whole reason I was waiting to relay what happened to use. This is from a tour participant verbatim:

Hi Cory – well first as you know the guy at the door was insufferable. He told me that he was the manager and I asked him why he was working the door and he said he had to, “Because the animals in the line (aka his customers) couldn’t be trusted.” He went on about if being beneath him to be doing the job but somebody had to. Then he said I had to go inside even though he told me the show wasn’t starting for another 10 – 15 minutes, but if I didn’t go in my seat would be gone. So I said I had paid for the seat so couldn’t I choose to stand outside ‘cause my friends were almost there. Then he said, “What are you in grade three?” and I said, “No but can’t I wait for a bit more or leave my friends’ names with you,” and he said, “NO, tell the guy downstairs” and I said, “What good will that do as they won’t know to go downstairs,” and he got really rude, saying again, “NO, WHAT DID I SAY, ARE YOU IN GRADE THREE?” Anyway I was polite to him throughout as I recognized that my friends were partly in the wrong for being late, saying (tongue firmly in cheek but politely), “Must be frustrating for you doing this job when you are the manager etc.” We got through that and after I’d coddled him a bit more, they arrived and we went downstairs. Then the real fun started.

The space they had for us was enough room for 6 people and they had about 20 of us crammed in, my knees had nowhere to go, we had no table, and we couldn’t see anything (not that I really cared because the band as you mentioned was sort of annoying, the guy beside me asked if the band spoke English to which I said “I didn’t know” and he answered “I guess the music is supposed to speak for itself” then he promptly fell asleep). Anyway that’s a sidebar. At the end of the night the waiter brought us a bill for our drinks, (he’d been pretty surly and rude just getting us the drinks), and I said, “We only had one drink each and that was included in our entrance.” And he very rudely answered, “Well that dude Cory didn’t pay for these and he’s left” and I said, “Well you knew we were part of this group, you should have charged him for them and so it’s your mistake and we are not paying.” I handed him the bill back and he said, “YOU’RE PAYING,” and put it back down. I said, “No we aren’t, it was bad service, no sightlines and your mistake!” He walked away and came back with another bill and put that one down too; then I lost it and said, “WE’RE NOT PAYING.” At which point he shouted back,”YOU CAN’T JUST BRING 43 PEOPLE TO A CLUB LIKE THIS!” At which point, I said, “You don’t want the business?” and Vanessa’s friend Norman was so embarrassed he paid the bill. I told Vanessa and Norman in front of the waiter neverto come back to the club and to tell all their New York friends the same. Even though, I don’t think there is any chance of that ever happening anyway!

Just the same my mom, who was watching all this, will love to tell her friends about her New York moment and Vanessa said she was “impressed” with the way I stood up to the waiter, so it was all good and did not in the least take away from a great trip. As my sister said after talking to our mom, “I think she grew a foot taller after the trip.”

If this isn’t enough, now here is my experience:

We showed up at 10:15 (15 minutes before we were supposed) to with about 30 out of 40 people. Jed was at the door and asked us to line up in the ‘ticketed’ line which we did. I went down and was greeted and was greeted by the hostess who informed me about where we would be sitting which I was fine with. I was dis-appointed we were relegated to the back but there were some prime ‘side’ seats and being a restaurant owner I was sympathetic to the fact that they might have sat us there to help with their service and flow.

I then went back upstairs to greet the rest of my group. there were about 10 of them milling about and there were still people in the line that had reservations or tickets. Jed was once again taking care of the lineup. 2 of my people went to enter the club knowing that my group was already down there. They were told by Jed in very rude terms that they were not allowed to go down and to go to the back of the line. This naturally made this person uncomfortable and when she challenged him as to why, instead of explaining their policy he simply said “get to the back of the line and if you don’t like it don’t come in and don’t bother coming back.” Once everyone was in I went back downstairs only to be told by the hostess that my group was being quite rude. I asked what the problem was. I was told “people were just seating themselves at any table and when they asked them to move they wouldn’t.” I asked to be shown where these people were seated and it was pointed at the exact section that we were told us to all sit at not 5 minutes before. I said that you was are boss of the seating and that you instructed my people where to sit so they did just that. I was looked at with a disgusted look and the hostess walked away. When I asked my group what had happened, one gentleman said that the hostess said “you can’t sit here, we have people who have purchased tickets.” This is an exact quote! The group of five that were being lambasted for following The hostesses instructions on seating simply replied “well we bought tickets to and were sat here and we’re not moving.” Good on them I say!

Then the poor service, rude service and SLOW service was just way to much to deal with. When I asked for a glass of wine that I had paid for the waiter looked at me and said “you’ll get your wine in a while when I deal with all YOUR other people” and walked away. I got my wine at the bar and paid for it twice.

Not to make my group seem like big drinkers but the VV walked away from at least a couple of drinks for about 25 people. At $10 a drink (give or take), that is a lot of money to walk away from.

Anyways, there it is. Out in the open, as it happened.

 

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18 thoughts on “THE GOODS ON THE FAMOUS NIGHT AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD

  1. Again, I’ll reiterate: In several visits to the Village Vanguard, I’ve only been treated with the utmost respect. The club is generally packed to capacity every night. I have seen how the staff deals with various issues regarding seating etc.

    One thing your story did not mention is that there are *no* reserved seats (family and friends of the musicians may be an exception). People who are first in line and down the stairs have the first shot at the seating. Yes, you have a seat if you have pre-purchased a ticket, but specific seating is not guaranteed.

    Furthermore, unless I misread something, I found the part about the unpaid bar tab very distressing. I don’t think future tour group participants will have to worry about attending the Vanguard, “optional” or not.

    While it was enlightening to read the comments of some members of your group, I’ll reserve judgement, not having been present myself. There are two (or more) sides to every story.

    • If you were there, you would have very quickly realized there were NOT two sides to this story. This was pure as day the worst display of customer service ever. I’m glad you have had great experiences. That’s fantastic.

  2. It’s really a shame that places in NY can get away with service like that just because they’re “famous” and / or in NY. your story doesn’t surprise me in the least. And though I’ve never had such an experience I know the vibe down there can be very unwelcoming. Sorry you had to deal with it on your trip 😦

  3. Cory, why take them to the Village Vanguard in the first place, really? I think you’ve made a mistake. Down there you are exposed to artists such as Kurt Rosenwinkel, Aaron Parks, Eric Revis & Justin Faulkner, who are all generally acknowledged to be some of the leading lights of their generation, with worldwide devoted fan bases, and with Kurt himself counting Eric Clapton, Q-Tip, Donald Fagen as outspoken and collaborative fans, and who has become the most widely copied jazz guitarist in the world + is generally also acknowledged to be one of the leading jazz COMPOSERS around today.

    It’s all a little to heavy for your group, that’s clear to see, they can’t take it all in, find it overwhelming and annoying, even sleep-inducing. Your group should clearly have stayed in the country side, where they will have a much easier time finding the jazz that are best suited for them.

    And then when combined with the absolute temple-of-music-love that is the Village Vanguard, who caters to people that show up there every day to step into one of the few places left in the world that is ALL about the music, not the rapidness of the drink serving, or the numbered seats – JUST the music which, on the other hand, it caters to with almost nano-technology precision – then, at least in the case of this one customer, it all adds up to the old expression of throwing pearls for swine. What an absolute waste!

    • Wow, Andres. Insult my audience. I gave you chance to be unbiased and you have failed. I guess you’re upset about the comment about Kurt’s music. Calm down my man. Not everyone thinks that band is god’s gift to jazz music. Have you never been criticized? Grow up.

      Unreal. Thanks for starting a dialogue with me and letting your own agenda get in the way of acknowledging what a sad situation we faced. Not once have I insulted your or the band you represent other than to say its not my cup of tea and then you come back and insult 43 people that paid good money to see your group. Well, you insulted 42 because one spoke out about their dislike.

      I guess you’re just like all the rest of them. Entitled.

      I wish you nothing but the best of luck and once you take of your VILLAGE VANGUARD colored glasses off and realize that they need a lot of help in a lot of areas then perhaps we can talk again.

      I’ll let my group know that we’ll visit the country for some jazz next year.

  4. Unbiased? First of all there is no such thing as unbiased. Secondly, you are hammering on with your insulting diatribe about the Village Vanguard, and our friends from there, and then let the one customer you quote additionally insult the artists performing even to the point of trying to generalize his observation by suggesting someone else fell asleep too. Not the hundreds of customers that were in rapture.

    Here in this city we give as good we get, and I am not going to let that just pass unanswered. And if you are so interested in “unbiased” then why didn’t you ask the 42 other customers to write what a great joy they had being in this sacred place watching a fantastic group perform as a counter point yourself?

    I have told you numerous times that I have visited venues all over the world with a multitude of artists, and that I am not scared of speaking out when wronged, but that the Vanguard is an absolute joy for us. Is it perfect? Probably not. But yet I can’t think of a single thing I want to change about it. Oh yes I can…your one customer from above. That’s it!

    • I’m finished this is going nowhere and I apologize my English isn’t as perfect as yours.

      I will admit I should’ve edited the part about the music out. For that I sincerely apologize.

      I don’t wish to joust with you anymore as it’s not really accomplishing anything.

      I will have to read back through you comments but I don’t believe you actually ever acknowledged what an awful experience it was for us, you just kept hammering home what a revered place the VV was.

      Whatever, I wish you and your company and your artists nothing but fame and fortune.

  5. This is not about our fame and fortune (there’s little to be found of both in jazz) – it’s about what’s right and what’s wrong. Having been at the Vanguard so many times, I can very well see that trying to seat 43 people from one group into one pre-sold out show at the Vanguard could lead to stressful interactions from both sides. Especially when your customer tries to argue with the staff. And I find your description of the event & the Vanguard to be one-sided and completely biased, not at all the general consensus about the place, and I am a bit put off by your continued attempts at attributing my counter point to some self-interested motive of mine that has nothing to do with my real feelings about the Vanguard itself. I represent artists that speak the truth through music, and I try to speak the truth – albeit not unbiased – myself.

    I still wish you well too. We can have disagreements and still be friends, I believe. But yes – I am not too happy about the insults hurled at the music, that was overstepping the line.

      • Hi Cory,

        I just spoke with Jed from the Village Vanguard. He told me to say that he sincerely apologizes for anybody that felt insulted at the Village Vanguard, and that this wasn’t the intention, obviously, from anybody there to make people feel uncomfortable.

        He also asked me to mention that the Vanguard just isn’t the perfect place to bring 43 guests at a time, and so it is probably not a perfect fit for your groups.

        Jed and everybody from the Village Vanguard wishes you all well – and so do I!

      • Anders. Man, I’m really trying hard to let this go but its starting to sound like your on the Vanguard’s payroll. Look, I really appreciate you trying to make sure everyone is playing nice. It’s an admirable quality but you shouldn’t be involved. Why are you speaking for The Village Vanguard?

        Look. If Jed was that upset or felt THAT bad he would contact me directly, not go through a musician’s manager. Do you guys think I’m stupid? Perhaps he doesn’t have my contact. If you wanna email me and I’ll pass on my contact to him, Im happy to provide it. cweeds@me.com is my email. I don’t need an apology from Jed nor do any of my people.

        Whether this is your quote or his quote: “, and that this wasn’t the intention, obviously, from anybody there to make people feel uncomfortable.” Really? Did you read what Jed said to some of my people? I would love your opinion on how his intent could have been any different? I’m serious. I would love to hear the defence of that? I would rather Jed say “look I’m going through a lot of shit right now (which is he is) and I’m letting it get in the way of my customer service and I’m sorry,” but to say that “this wasn’t the intention, obviously, from anybody there to make people feel uncomfortable.” is honestly, totally laughable.

        As for the 43 people……maybe someone should tell Deborah, who last time I checked is the owner’s daughter that The Vanguard can simply not handle 43 people coming at once. Again, not to throw stones but if the Vanguard had competent serving staff, 43 people would be a breeze. Although we at The Cellar have trouble from time to time, we deal with having to seat and serve 40 – 60 people at the same time and we have to also take and run food orders. Get good staff, staff that want to make money in tips, staff that want to sell more and make the Vanguard more money. It’s not rocket science. Again, I re-iterate my tenure (13 years) in the restaurant/club industry has been far far from perfect but c’mon let’s get serious. 43 people and all they have to do is get them a drink. Not hard to do Anders.

        I had an nice email communication with the hostess who I called out in my blog post today. She contacted me directly and we sorted things out and I feel much better about where I’m at with her.

        In the grand scheme of things Anders, Jed, and The Village Vanguard need me like they need a hole in the head. I recognize that and the feeling is mutual. I don’t need the Village Vanguard. I will continue to check their website, see who’s playing there and when I’m in NYC I will check more closely and if there is someone there I want to see I will go and try to sit at the front and relish being in the greatest jazz club in the world. What I won’t do is take anymore of their shit EVER.

        As for your involvement I’m just simply perplexed.

  6. I feel kind of sad the post has gone down this road. I’m sorry for all those concerned; patrons, club owners, musicians and “innocent” bystanders, etc.

    You see, some time ago there were a few comments on some blog or social media site, slagging the Cellar. While the persons were certainly entitled to their say, I jumped in to defend the Cellar. My protestations fell on deaf and angry ears. Wow…did I get a flame-job!

    My point? Those posts are still out there doing their insidious damage, and the nature of the internet assures they will likely never die. Think about it.

    • I hear you Doug. It’s is the age that we live in. I appreciate your defence. I or my club are in NOOO way perfect. God we have gone through our issues and will likely continue to do so. It’s a hard business.

      Having said that I can say with utmost certainty I or any of my staff has never acted like that, or to that extent. If they have they have been fired immediately. I was simply relaying an experience but because people hold the hallowed ground in the VV in such high regard they can’t listen for 5 seconds and realize that the really screwed up and ruined what could’ve been a good evening.

      Speaking of Kurt’s manager. I felt when he entered the conversation it had the potential to go off the rails and it did. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I said I respected him and his band despite it not being my favorite music, he wanted to make the whole thing about the music. This was even before I posted the bit from one of my participants, which I openly admitted I should have edited out.

      See, I have made many mistakes, blunders and missteps. I will likely make more. I ways however can stand up and admit when I am wrong and say sorry.

      • We all make mistakes – no hard feelings from here. I’m sure I make them all of the time. We all had our say, that’s what open debate is all about, including spirited debate. No reason to get all depressed about it later…have a good night, off to hear Terri Lyne Carrington as well as Melissa Aldana at JALC.

      • To be clear though I wasn’t admitting to making any mistakes in this discussion other than not editing my customers note and not proof reading my replies 🙂

        Have a good night.

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