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Ethan Iverson Remembers Lorraine Gordon

The Bad Plus pianist recalls the Village Vanguard owner (10/15/22 – 6/9/18)

Lorraine Gordon (photo by: John Abbott).

They still call New York the Big Apple, but it’s less crunchy and tart than it used to be. Going to the Village Vanguard in the 1990s was always a bit intimidating. The owner, Lorraine Gordon, ruled the roost with an iron fist. If she didn’t like the way a patron was behaving, she would rise up out of her seat and yell at them, threatening ejection or even worse.

For about 20 years, you could be anybody anywhere in the world, call the Vanguard between two and five in the afternoon, and have a genuinely famous person yell at you over the phone. At night she acted as if asking the way to the Vanguard bathroom was the most irritating question that had existed in all human history. Lorraine’s irascibility was legendary, and for some it might even have been part of the draw. She once wouldn’t let Henry Kissinger enter mid-set. Kissinger said, “Perhaps you don’t recognize me.” Lorraine said, “Oh no, Henry, it’s just the opposite, I know exactly who you are,” and shut the door in his face.

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Originally Published
Ethan Iverson

Ethan Iverson

Ethan Iverson has been writing about jazz for 15 years, mostly on his blog Do the Math. While he was the founding pianist of the Bad Plus, these days Iverson performs in a duo with Mark Turner and in Billy Hart’s quartet, has a longstanding relationship with Mark Morris, and teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music.