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Lee Konitz and Lorraine Gordon


Hardbopjazz

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in the 70's Lorraine was around, but during the day - a few times I had to drop some stuff off for her (I had some tapes of Jabbo Smith that she wanted to hear) - she took care of day prep, if I recall c orrectly, as Max was already starting to decline.

but she's a character, and there's one hilarious story I've told in public once, but should not have - hopefully it's buried away from public access, though I'll tell it again the day AFTER she's six feet under (it came courtesy of Curley Russell) -

You can always change the names to protect the incident and tell it anyway. :g

Protecting the incident is exactly what Allen is doing by not telling what happened ;)

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When there are just two sets a night, each set is 75 minutes.

On the weekends when there are three sets, each set is 60 minutes.

She still acted like a shit, though.

With that said, playing jazz is not like popular music where a fix set of tunes will add up to X amount of minutes. With jazz, the musicians' solos can make a tune 10 minutes one time and 20 minutes the next time. It is all determined upon the mood at that moment. Playing 55 minutes or 75 minutes is irrelevant in my opinion. Lorraine is just a grumpy person. I've seen it many time when I've gone there. I am going again tonight so let's see she does something new.

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When there are just two sets a night, each set is 75 minutes.

On the weekends when there are three sets, each set is 60 minutes.

She still acted like a shit, though.

With that said, playing jazz is not like popular music where a fix set of tunes will add up to X amount of minutes. With jazz, the musicians' solos can make a tune 10 minutes one time and 20 minutes the next time. It is all determined upon the mood at that moment. Playing 55 minutes or 75 minutes is irrelevant in my opinion. Lorraine is just a grumpy person. I've seen it many time when I've gone there. I am going again tonight so let's see she does something new.

We can debate bedside manner, but, fundamentally, if the contract says 75-minute sets for X amount of dollars, then it's the musicians' responsibility to deliver that amount of music. That's the deal. Lorraine could have said, "If you choose to only play an hour, I'll just dock your pay by 20 percent." Now, do I think someone should be keeping a stopwatch? (I'm sorry, Lee, you need to play another two choruses of "All the Things You Are" to get to your set time up from 73 minutes to 75 minutes.) No, of course not. But stopping 15 or 20 minutes early? That's way over the line, and the issue is really about delivering what the club has promised patrons.

It costs at least $35 to hear a set at the Vanguard ($25 cover; $10, minimum) -- which is, of course, ridiculous, but that's where the economics are at this point. The 75-minute set has become standard at the Vanguard and most of the marquee clubs in NY and that's what the large majority of folks expect. If you ask the staff how long the sets are, they'll tell you 75 minutes. So if you start giving people 60 minutes, most are going to feel cheated and they won't come back. I mean, it's already enough of a racket that the one thing a club can do to maintain a sense of value is deliver a full set of music -- that's the deal between patron and club. If we were still talking about a $10 cover and $5 minimum, then the club and the players could afford to be a lot looser, but not at current prices.

I get the notion that the spirit of the moment can lead the the band organically to, say, a 60 minute set rather than 75 minutes, but professionalism dictates that it's the leader's responsiblity to create a framework and pacing for a set so that it all adds up correctly, musically and by the clock. Now, whether a 75- minute set is too long or whether you'd prefer 55 minutes of killin' music with an organic arc and sense of completeness rather than 75 minutes that feels disjointed or overstuffed -- those are separate arguments.

As a coda, it's standard in symphony orchestras that every rehearsal and concert is meticulously timed and the requirements of the contract are strictly enforced literally to the minute. There's always an orchestra member who is in charge of watching the clock, and if a conductor keeps the players one minute over the allotted time, or at a performance, if the lights in the hall don't come up signaling that the players can leave the stage until one minute after ground zero (2 hours and 20 minutes since the the start of the concert I think is close to standard), the overtime rates kick in for the entire orchestra in 15 minutes intervals. In other words, miss by one minute and the players get 15 minutes worth of overtime -- which adds up to an aggregate of tens of thousands of dollars in no time. That kind of regimentation is perverse, and, though it evolved that way for justified reasons, remains symptomatic for many of the old-school labor mentality that's become an impediment to innovation and change in the orchestra world.

But I digress.

Edited by Mark Stryker
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One thing's for sure: if the set is supposed to be 75 mins and you finish a tune at the 60 min mark, you can easily play one, or two more pieces. Even if you had run out of repertoire, you could play something like "Bags' Groove".

But, Lee is elderly now, and maybe he gets too tired to play for more than an hour.

Toward the end of his life, Noel Coward was top-billed at Vegas and only came out and did a 20 minute set. (No prizes for guessing what he sang.)

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  • 2 weeks later...

WNYC visits Lorraine Gordon at her apartment:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rpS3T2lQ-U&feature=sub

"Lorraine Gordon has run the Village Vanguard since her husband died in 1989.

The legendary jazz club turns 75 this year and Gordon invited WNYC into her

Greenwich Village apartment to talk about jazz."

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I didn't write a follow up to this story. I went back on Friday and Saturday of that week. On Friday between sets, Lee was in the back with Lorraine and they both were laughing. This leads me to believe Lee has a hard shell and just below off what Lorraine said as "It's Lorraine, and she is just being herself." But still, she was kind of rude.

Edited by Hardbopjazz
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  • 10 years later...
On 1/21/2010 at 7:27 AM, AllenLowe said:

In the 70's Lorraine was around, but during the day - a few times I had to drop some stuff off for her (I had some tapes of Jabbo Smith that she wanted to hear) - she took care of day prep, if I recall correctly, as Max was already starting to decline.

but she's a character, and there's one hilarious story I've told in public once, but should not have - hopefully it's buried away from public access, though I'll tell it again the day AFTER she's six feet under (it came courtesy of Curley Russell) -

Allen - did you ever tell us this story after Lorraine died? I could use a little hilarity these days.

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