Peak Performances from the Village Vanguard

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The Village Vanguard, 1976. i i

The Village Vanguard, 1976. Tom Marcello hide caption

itoggle caption Tom Marcello
The Village Vanguard, 1976.

The Village Vanguard, 1976.

Tom Marcello

For jazz musicians, playing at the Village Vanguard is a special event. To record there is a rite of passage. How can you not bring your best stuff, knowing who brought theirs before? For the rest in the room and around the world, these will be moments that open jazz conversations for years to come. Here are five notable glimpses into the world's most famous jazz joint.

Peak Performances from the Village Vanguard

Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins

  • Album: Night at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 2
  • Song: Sonnymoon for Two

Although the Village Vanguard opened in 1935, it adopted an all-jazz policy in 1957. Saxophonist Sonny Rollins was the first jazz player to record there that year.

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Song
Sonnymoon for Two
Album
Night at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 2
Artist
Sonny Rollins
Label
Blue Note Japan
Released
1957

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John Coltrane

John Coltrane

  • Album: Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings
  • Song: Impressions

In November 1961, John Coltrane spent a week on stage at the Vanguard. Producer Bob Thiele and engineer Rudy Van Gelder came away with 13 reels of tape. "Impressions" lets the listener in on the Coltrane group dynamic, here with Trane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. (Eric Dolphy is heard on the last note.)

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Song
Impressions
Album
Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings
Artist
John Coltrane
Label
Teldec
Released
1961

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Cover for Sunday at the Village Vanguard

Bill Evans Trio

  • Album: Sunday at the Village Vanguard
  • Song: Gloria's Step

Pianist Bill Evans once said that if you try to explain jazz, you start to lose the experience of it. Evans was at home when he played the Vanguard. From 1961's Sunday at the Village Vanguard, with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, here's LaFaro's piece "Gloria's Step."

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Song
Gloria's Step
Album
Sunday at the Village Vanguard
Artist
Bill Evans Trio
Label
Riverside
Released
1961

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Thad Jones

Thad Jones & Mel Lewis

  • Album: Live at the Village Vanguard
  • Song: The Little Pixie

The Village Vanguard has had its own house band since 1966, when Thad Jones and Mel Lewis started a Monday-night tradition — now in its 42nd year as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, which just finished recording Monday Night at the Village Vanguard. The disc will be released in July, but in the meantime, enjoy Jones and Lewis from 1967's Live At The Village Vanguard, doing Jones' "The Little Pixie."

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Song
The Little Pixie
Album
Live at the Village Vanguard
Artist
Thad Jones & Mel Lewis
Label
Blue Note
Released
1967

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Bill Charlap

Bill Charlap Trio

  • Album: Live at the Village Vanguard
  • Song: Rocker

The energy, excitement and magic felt on previous tunes from the Village Vanguard is still very much a part of today's visit to the little basement club on 7th Avenue South in Manhattan. Here's an example from 2003 with pianist Bill Charlap's trio (Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on drums). Gerry Mulligan's "Rocker" lets you know that a trip to New York for any jazz fan must include a visit to the Village Vanguard, if only to inspire your own jazz conversations.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Rocker
Album
Live at the Village Vanguard
Artist
Bill Charlap Trio
Label
Blue Note
Released
2007

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