I don’t typically like to spend more than $10 when I go downtown. Usually the subway fare is enough to make me cringe. But I spend over $30 when I go to the Village Vanguard, and it’s worth every penny.
The Village Vanguard is a jazz club in the West Village, and it has served the jazz community for almost 80 years. From the outside, it’s nothing fancy. It even looks a tad like Mugz’s, but the red awning with plain, white block letters is iconic because of the long tradition it has of creating jazz history. In the past, important musicians such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bill Evans and even Harry Belafonte performed there, and today the world’s best and brightest jazzers make regular stops at the Vanguard during their tours. I don’t blame them, because it is virtually the most musician-friendly jazz performance space in the country.
First of all, the village’s architecture is haphazard; the basement, where the club is located is shaped like a weird, isosceles triangle. This shape makes for better acoustics (even better than in your shower), so every listener experiences an intimate sound. Each listener is also forced to be completely engaged in the music, because the club does not serve food. The Village Vanguard website makes it very clear that the focus of the listeners should be listening. “During performances, QUIET IS ENFORCED,” it says, “We’re a jazz club, not a chat room.” So no live tweeting allowed.
If you’re not that into jazz, and you think this sounds boring, it’s not. Each 90 minute set is guaranteed to blow your mind. I especially recommend going on Monday nights when the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra plays. They create a wall of sound that you will be hard pressed to find mimicked anywhere else. The last time I heard them play, I felt butterflies in my stomach the entire time. I also saw one of my favorite bands there, The Bad Plus, and it changed my life forever.
I know this last paragraph “has as many clichés as a Katy Perry album,” Canton Winer, FCRH ’15, says, but it’s the cold, hard truth.
I’m sure after reading all of this, you might be wondering, “Am I cool enough to go to the Village Vanguard?” Answer: not quite, but you should go anyway. You’ll feel super sophisticated even though you’ll be sitting in a dank, puke-green basement that kind of smells like moth balls. Plus, you’ll go up 10 cool points, maybe 15 if you order a cool drink. If you bring your crush, you’ll probably get a second date.
And is it a good place to take someone from out of town? Definitely. They’ll feel like a genuine jazz connoisseur in the real New York City.
I promise, it’s worth the $25 or $30 cover and one drink minimum. I think Sara Vaughn said it best in her timeless rendition of All of Me: “Doo bee doo be doo bee wa, ba ba ba za bobadoo ba.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Due to an editing error, Elizabeth Zanghi, the article’s author, was incorrectly labeled Assistant A&E Editor. She is The Ram’s Photo Editor.