New York big-band leader Vince Giordano talks to Atlantic City Weekly about working on HBO's Boardwalk Empire and its GRAMMY-nominated soundtrack.
Yes I did, and I used to go on tour with him on the road. It was a blast. He had a lot of great musicians he worked with and I love touring because it’s always a good place to see and I get to hit antique shops to find more sheet music and piano rolls and musical instruments. It’s kind of fun that way. I still work with Redbone occasionally and he’s down to a duo now. Sometimes he likes to spice it up and add me or somebody. But having him sing 'Sheik of Araby' was sort of a 'I got a chance to hire Redbone!' So that was kind of neat.
He's been keeping the flame alive in terms of early 20th century music over his whole career.
Most definitely. He turned a lot of people on to this kind of music like when he appeared on Saturday Night Live. A lot of young folks never heard this stuff. All they knew was the music of their time, the rock 'n' roll. Then there’s this guy doing Emmett Miller and Jimmie Rodgers and Cliff Edwards at that time and they were like, 'wow!'
Yeah his version of “The Sheik of Araby” is a lot different on his original recording.
Oh yeah. Well, for this project they wanted more of a what would happen in the original recording. The arrangement we did was an original arrangement from 1920 or '21. So we just kept it really close to what happened back then.
I saw the picture on your MySpace page with the — is that a bass sax?
No, that’s actually a straight baritone sax. That was made for an unfortunately long forgotten big-band musician and vaudevillian named Benny Meroff who played in Chicago in the ‘20s and ‘30s, and that was made especially for him. He used to do all kinds of novelty stuff and I got that from his widow. It was down in his basement. She was 82 years old so she was happy to get rid of it and I was happy to get it.
So what is that, five feet tall?
Yeah, yeah in fact there’s a shot of Benny Meroff and he’s playing it and he’s so short he has to be on a stool.
Yeah, it looks like it fits you perfectly in the photo.
Yeah, it does. It comes right up to my mouth so I can play it. Benny is probably a bit shorter than me. People were smaller back then for the most part.
You perform weekly at Sophia’s in New York City. Are you leading the band or are you also playing?
Oh, I play. There’s really no need to be out there in front. I mean, I’ll conduct maybe an ending sometime once in awhile and it’s mostly for show biz. But no, I’m back there in the trenches with the tuba or the bass sax or the string bass, announcing, singing and all that stuff.
Do you see any similarity to the ‘20s in terms of that vast amount of music all of sudden being accessible to a large amount of people due to the advent of recording to today's digital age when people are able via the Internet to go on places like YouTube to see actual videos of some of the ‘20s, 30s. The sudden accessibility seems similar in both cases.
Oh definitely. When I was young I had, which I still have, which I never use anymore, a giant reel-to-reel tape recorder because that’s what we did back in those days. And I would call [78 record] collectors and plead with them if I could come over and record some stuff and begrudgingly some of them [said yes] and some of them were happy to. And I would drive 40, 50, 60 miles with this machine, set it up, record it, and then write down the information and that’s how I could listen to a lot of different recordings.
So were you able to mic the Victrola?
Well, sometimes I’d have to put up a little microphone that came with the tape machine in front of either the Victrola or the speaker and, you know, that’s kind of a lot of work and today people can just do a couple of clicks in their living room and hear these wonderful recordings and even greater than that is what comes a little later, film. You know, film and film music. I’d be staying up until two or three o’clock in the morning to see some films that might be shown on a TV station because maybe there’s some hot music from the late ‘20s, early ‘30s and sometimes there was and sometimes you’d be disappointed. They would cancel the film and put something else on instead. It’s very frustrating, but boom, same deal. Things that we only dreamed about are, again, a few clicks away. I think it’s wonderful. It can really spread this music and film, just all over the world. It’s a wonderful age for that. I just wish more people would tap in and turn onto this because it would get the music even more popular. I mean, unfortunately there’s so much out there. Thousands and thousands of styles of music that people can choose and you hope by chance that they might click on this vintage stuff.
Starbucks last year released a 1920s CD featuring original recordings, Speakeasy Times.
It’s great. I’ve seen it listed. I’ve looked at the tracklisting. I’m not going to buy it because I have it all already. But for a lot of people it’s a good introduction.
The ‘20s seem like such a pivotal decade in world music.
Yeah, oh yeah. It really changed a lot of stuff. After the Victorian things and World War I, people just said 'enough of that. We look at all the people who just got massacred, Let’s dance! Let’s have fun! 'Running Wild' and all that.
Why is it important to you to preserve the music of the 1920s and '30s in in a live setting?
It’s been my love and passion ever since I was five years old and I think this music moves people. People who come to see us, they say, 'when I got here I was, eh, in kind of a blah mood, not so good, or depressed, or whatever and I come out in just a whole different place. I’m laughing, my spirits are lifted, it’s cheaper than going to a psychiatrist!'
And it’s kind of the original intention of the music, was to kind of do that to people like you said.
Absolutely. So it moved me and it still moves me and I think if more people were exposed to it, it would have more people doing something with it.
Do you think Atlantic City could embrace Boardwalk Empire more and have the Nighthawks down for shows and stuff like that?
I would love to come down there and maybe bring a star down from the show. Have Redbone show up one night, Nellie McKay, have Kathy Brier [and] Stephen DeRosa, who’s great. Just do it once a month or once a week or I don’t know, whatever they want to do.
How many members are in the Nighthawks?
We have 11 including myself.
When you were a much younger man, did you ever imagine that you’d be one of the main forces in keeping the flame of early 20th century American music alive?
No, all I knew was 'I have to do this. This is my calling.' And it’s not like it’s work a lot of the time. I mean some aspects of it are work, you know, when you gotta schlep a drum set up two flights of stairs. There’s no elevator or it doesn’t work or something like that.
Or the tuba.
It’s no surprise that Diana Krall — whose sultry voice, good looks and evocative piano playing made her an instant star in the jazz world beginning in the 1990s — has always had one foot in the past and one foot in the present.
Among the genres of music A Night at the Speakeasy embodies are country (catapulted into popularity in the mid-1920s by the Grand Ole Opry radio broadcast, which originates from Tinnon’s home town of Nashville, Tennessee) and gospel, also made widely popular by radio in the 1920s.
From Nelson Johnson and the original book to the Grammy-winning soundtrack, interviews with the cast and executives of the HBO show set in Atlantic City and the real stories behind the drama series.
Plus ‘Boardwalk Empire’ Return Date Announced , Tribeca Cinema Series and Drew Toonz
According to the Hollywood insider publication Variety, HBO "will bring back the 12-episode third season of Boardwalk Empire on Sept. 16 while New Orleans saga "Treme" is back for 10-episode third season on Sept. 23.
Plus Atlantic City Restaurant Week preview, Drew Toonz and bandleader Vince Giordano on 'Boardwalk Empire' soundtrack winning a Grammy.
Justified and True Blood actor Stephen Root will appear on Boardwalk Empire starting in season three as "recurring lawman," according to Hollywood Reporter. Root will play "Gaston Means, a former swindler and murder suspect who now works for the Department of Justice."
'The whole world now will start listening and really finding out how great the music of the 1920s is. It brings it up to the forefront.'
"Eddie lived in a kind of musically optimistic 1920s place even though he had a shitty childhood. His parents died when he was young but his grandmother raised him and he was little and scrawny so he got beaten up a lot. He learned to make jokes so he could avoid getting beaten up, so from then on he realized this singing and dancing thing could work."
"When I recorded the first two songs I got to record with the band, which I prefer — in the same room, we did it live. Coming from a musical theater background, I prefer to sing live because there's just this synergy when you have a band playing behind you."
“It’s been my love and passion ever since I was five years old and I think this music moves people. People who come to see us, they say, ‘When I got here I was in kind of a blah mood, not so good, or depressed, or whatever and I come out in just a whole different place. I’m laughing, my spirits are lifted, it’s cheaper than going to a psychiatrist!’”
"The book is the book, the show is the show, the book is what inspired the show and the show, with the benefit of some really creative people, is going to re-tell the story of Prohibition through the eyes of criminals. And the focal point of that is Nucky."
The long-awaited DVD set featuring the complete first season of HBO's Boardwalk Empire will be released in January 2012.
The famed seaside resort that is portrayed in HBO's hit drama series Boardwalk Empire celebrated the show's second season premiere on Sunday, Sept. 25, in a number of ways over the weekend.
Plus Atlantic City Ballet set to celebrate 30 years; DrewToonz on 'Livin' de Life' and the Album of the Week.
After retiring as a professional opera singer, Anthony Laciura figured he’d channel his energies into helping budding operatic stars hone their craft ... Then came a call from the office of the director of the planned HBO series 'Boardwalk Empire'
In a “news” box on the upper right side of the Archeophone Records home page, there’s a list of the songs played thus far in the first two episodes of HBO’s 'Boardwalk Empire,' set in 1920s Atlantic City.
Early in the premiere episode of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, a crowd of dapper Atlantic City movers and shakers, partying well into the night in a spiffy supper club, make a familiar countdown, cocktail glasses held high...