Best Of

Best Jazz Club

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Of New York’s great jazz rooms, the Village Vanguard has the edge in terms of historical pedigree, sound, unique physical space, and ever-broadening booking policy, representing jazz across many generations and aesthetic viewpoints. The calendar is something: radical offerings from Henry Threadgill and John Zorn alongside great and underrated pianists George Cables, Kirk Lightsey, and Harold Mabern; young bandleaders of note such as Fabian Almazan and Rudy Royston next to established masters Fred Hersch, Tom Harrell, Joe Lovano, and Dave Douglas. The Vanguard opened in 1935 under Max Gordon, who ran it until his death in 1989. (The 80th anniversary is soon upon us, with 91-year-old Lorraine Gordon, Max’s widow, still at the helm). Classic Live at the Village Vanguard albums abound — suffice it to say that examples by John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Bill Evans leap to mind. Now bands play for six nights straight, which means they’re allowed to grow and evolve. There’s a beauty in seeing saxophonist Ravi Coltrane invent and push ahead with his extraordinary quartet on the same bandstand where his father brought enduring glory to the Vanguard name back in ’61.

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