VINCE GIORDANO: THERE’S A FUTURE IN THE PAST (Dave Davidson & Amber Edwards, 2016)
22 East 12th St. between University Pl. & Fifth Ave.
Through Thursday, January 26
Vince Giordano has an infectious glee throughout most of Vince Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past, a lively documentary that celebrates his dedication and passion for keeping the music of the 1920s and 1930s alive. “He’s totally consumed by his mission,” one member of his band, the Nighthawks, explains. “He’s meant to be a bandleader,” another one says. Director-producers Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards follow the youthful Giordano, who will turn sixty-five in March, as the band plays at the Newport Jazz Festival, with Garrison Keillor on A Prairie Home Companion, at Sofia’s in the Edison Hotel, at Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night’s Swing, and at the New York Hot Jazz Festival at the Players club as well as recording a tune in the studio with David Johansen for Boardwalk Empire. The Grammy-winning Giordano and the Nighthawks have performed music for nearly two dozen films, including several by Woody Allen. But leading a Jazz Age band in the modern era is no easy task; Giordano, who plays the tuba, the string bass, and the bass saxophone and handles the vocals, has no roadies and no agent, so he and partner Carol Hughes are seen lugging equipment around, scrambling for gigs, and getting the orchestrations just right, testing Giordano’s gleeful onstage demeanor. “When I first met him, I thought he was very unusual and a nice person, but I didn’t think he was exceptional and crazy like he is,” Hughes says. The Brooklyn-born Giordano is also a music historian and archivist, having collected some sixty thousand arrangements, with twenty-five hundred brought to any single show, making for a wide range of setlists. Among those singing Giordano’s praises are many members of the eleven-piece Nighthawks, some of them who have been part of the band since the 1970s; sharing fun stories are reed players Mark Lopeman and Dan Levinson, trumpeters Jon-Erik Kellso and Mike Ponella, violinist Andy Stein, pianist Peter Yarin, trombonist Jim Fryer, and guitarist Ken Salvo.
The heart of the film is watching the remarkable band play such songs as “Stampede,” “Shake That Thing,” “The Moon and You,” and a glorious “Rhapsody in Blue” at Town Hall, by such legendary composers and bandleaders as George Gershwin, Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman, Bix Beiderbecke, and Duke Ellington. One of the most poignant parts occurs when Sofia’s, where Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks played every Monday and Tuesday night for five years, closes, so Giordano must find a new home, which he does, at Iguana NYC. (You can also catch them at the “Highlights in Jazz” forty-fourth annual gala on February 9 at BMCC’s Tribeca Performing Arts Center with Ms. Vinnie Knight and Cynthia Sayer & Her Joyride Band.) Vince Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past is a poignant tale of a New York City treasure whose obsession brings great joy to the rest of us.