Alive At The Village Vanguard
BOOK REVIEW By Willard Manus

If you're from New York and a jazz fan, you will surely enjoy ALIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD, MY LIFE IN AND OUT OF JAZZ TIME by Lorraine Gordon (Hal Leonard Corp). The book brings to life the jazz scene in Manhattan, from the 50s to the present, with a warmth, spunk and honesty that are admirable.

Lorraine was a New Jersey gal who loved jazz. She was also attractive and bright, qualities that aroused the interest of Alfred Lion, the young German emigre who had founded Blue Note Records, the independent label that released the early work of Sidney Bechet, Thelonius Monk and Art Blakey, to name but a few famous jazzmen.

Lorraine married Lion and for many years helped run Blue Note. During that time she met Max Gordon, owner of the Village Vanguard, a club he opened in 1935 at 178 Seventh Avenue South. Lorraine eventually left Lion for Gordon and was influential in the Vanguard's becoming the most famous jazz club in the world. Artists such as Charles Mingus, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins, Aretha Franklin, Ornette Coleman, Roy Eldridge and Ben Webster played there, not to speak of comics Lenny Bruce and Elaine May & Mike Nichols.

When Gordon died, Lorraine was 67. Most people assumed she was too old and inexperienced to run the Vanguard by herself. Lorraine proved them wrong. Showing a surprising toughness, dedication and acumen, she took on the challenge of keeping the nightclub alive. "Hers is a great achievement," trumpeter Whynton Marsalis said, "not just for jazz, but for our times."

ALIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD is the personal document of a woman who has lived, loved and fought hard--Lorraine is an unabashed political activist on the Left. She tells wonderful stories, not only about her adventures in jazz, but about such close friends as Barbra Streisand, Jabbo Smith, and Judy Holliday.

She also isn't afraid to lash out at enemies like Burl Ives, the folksinger who turned stoolpigeon in the McCarthy years and ruined the careers of several fellow artists.

"She is the real deal," said saxophonist Joe Lovano. The same goes for this captivating book about her.