NPR logo Babs and Lorraine: A Short Rumination

Babs and Lorraine: A Short Rumination

Barbra Streisand is returning — yes, "returning" to the Vanguard this September. Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

Barbra Streisand is returning — yes, "returning" to the Vanguard this September.

Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

So Barbra Streisand is returning to the Village Vanguard. Returning? you may be asking.

I would have wondered the same had I not read Lorraine Gordon's autobiography Alive At The Village Vanguard. Streisand and the Vanguard go back to the days when Lorraine's late husband Max Gordon ran the place, and he took a chance on the young singer. She eventually moved uptown to Gordon's other room, a supper club called the Blue Angel, then to Broadway and beyond.

While Streisand is not a jazz singer, the first time I really paid attention to her was back in the late '70s, when I saw one of her albums amid Coltrane and Miles at the house of a sax-playing friend of mine.

"Bro, what's up with the Streisand album?"

He then went on to gush about her phrasing, intonation, selection of tunes, how she just killed on ballads. You would have thought he was talking about an NEA Jazz Master.

In her book Lorraine Gordon details the days when she and Streisand would take to the streets for political causes back in the days when the singer could walk anonymously in NYC. There were countless hours spent in deep discussions between the two about show biz and life in general. It completes a nice circle to have a big deal gig like this one at the Vanguard: there's a familial history there, if not an artistic one.

The only drag is that there's a lottery-style distribution of 100 tickets for the gig, scheduled for Sept. 26. I hear unconfirmed rumors that the date may be recorded, though there's no word on how or when the recording would be available if it indeed happens.

Reading about the club date takes me back to my friend's final word on his admiration for Streisand: a vocalist doesn't have to be a jazz singer to have an influence on jazz musicians.