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LORRAINE GORDON,
1922-2018

Lorraine Gordon, owner of the venerated jazz mecca Village Vanguard, whose start in jazz involved promoting a then-unknown Thelonious Monk, died Saturday of complications from a stroke. She was 95.

Club manager Jed Eisenman confirmed her death to the New York Times.

Known as a keeper of the flame for the club and the music, Gordon had run the Vanguard since 1989 when her husband, Vanguard founder Max Gordon died. She was a constant presence there, active in the booking and bookkeeping for the 123-seat club in Greenwich Village famous for presenting everyone from John Coltrane to Barbra Streisand over its 83-year history.

Her involvement in the music dates back to the early 1940s. Her first husband was Alfred Lion, the founder of Blue Note Records, where she worked packing records and handling public relations.

Coincidentally, she got Monk booked at the Vanguard in 1948 and, after divorcing Lion, married Gordon in 1949.

The downstairs club on Seventh Avenue South went full-time with jazz in the 1950s, presenting two sets nightly, Tuesday through Sunday. The site has been used for more than 150 live recordings, most notably for records by Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Dexter Gordon, Keith Jarrett, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau and this year’s Grammy winner for jazz vocal album, Cecile McLorin Salvant’s Dreams and Daggers.

Also known for her activism in fighting nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War, her memoir, Alive at the Village Vanguard: My Life in and Out of Jazz, was published in 2006. The National Endowment for the Arts bestowed the Jazz Masters award on her in 2012.

Outpouring on Twitter from the jazz world was immediate. Drummer/composer Antonio Sanchez called her “A warrior of our music.”

Bassist/bandleader/radio host Christian McBride tweeted, “I’m fortunate to have known Lorraine Gordon. Her spirit will forever live in the Village Vanguard. For the rest of our time, musicians who play there will hear a voice coming from nowhere at 8:30pm shouting, “Let’s go! Get up there! What are ya’ waiting for!?” RIP Lorraine.”

Singer Jane Monheit noted “Lorraine Gordon gave me a chance when I was a scared kid who scarcely deserved it. I’ll always be grateful.”

Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel chimed in with, “She was tough, brilliant and powerful, and created the greatest place on earth for Jazz, The Village Vanguard. I will miss her laser sharp wit and humor. Her voice rings in my ear. Bon voyage.”

 

 

 

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