Find Authors

ALIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD: My Life In and Out of Jazz Time

Historians can sum up an era; biographers, a life. Jazz historians often attempt to do both, defining an era in terms of musical lives lived. Nothing, however, compares with the voice of someone who was present when history was being made. And very much paying attention.
Lorraine Gordon has lived more than a few lives: downtown bohemian, uptown grande dame, record business pioneer, wife, lover, mother and, finally - at a point when most women her age were just settling into grandmotherhood - owner of the most famous jazz club in the world, The Village Vanguard.
It is this last fact that casts her life with a late-blooming significance verging on the inspirational. Because only after she had lived a good part of her life did Lorraine Gordon discover what she was in fact born to do.
The trajectory of her journey has been remarkable, the details, a Jackson Pollock-like swirl of fierce colors shot through with luminous creative figures - not just jazz figures but luminaries from every point on the political, social and entertainment spectrum.
And yet, what truly distinguishes Lorraine Gordon’s life story is Lorraine Gordon herself. In many ways she was just an average person with an above average appetite for jazz; not a musician but a fan. Her love of the music, however, has been unusually tenacious.
Ever provocative, ever the unapologetic straight shooter, Lorraine knows exactly where she’s been and more or less how she got there. Her voice is indelible, her memory inscrutable. Her life adds up to far more than just a jazz story. Yet it also constitutes, if only by inference, pretty much the story of jazz over the past half-century. It is also not solely a “woman’s story.” Yet it remains one of the more extraordinary and, yes, enlightening stories about one woman’s life in 20th and 21st Century America.

--Barry Singer


Articles from The New York Times, The New Yorker and more.
"I cannot imagine a reader who admires Churchill not having a good time with this book. I know I did."
-Michael Korda
Winner ASCAP DEEMS TAYLOR AWARD for Music Writing.
"A superbly written, utterly fascinating survey of the recent, largely unchronicled history of the American musical."
-Robert Kimball
"Should readjust our perspective on the history of American popular song."
Music by Vernon Duke
Book & Lyrics by Barry Singer