Vince Giordano, bandleader of New York City’s Grammy-winning hot jazz band The Nighthawks, is no stranger to the world of film-making.
He has appeared in four Woody Allen movies, Sweet & Lowdown, Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and Mighty Aphrodite and in the films The Cotton Club, The Aviator, and Revolutionary Road.
More recently, he played a Prohibition Era bandleader in HBO’s hit television series, Boardwalk Empire. Giordano & the Nighthawks also acted on screen in all three seasons of the 1920s’ crime drama set in Atlantic City.
The band was awarded a 2012 Grammy for Best Compilation for Visual Media for their CD Boardwalk Empire Volume 1 – Music from the HBO Original Series.
So much for fictional films…and so much for being type-cast as a musician.
Now Giordano, 63, is the star of a feature-length documentary about his own life and work, Vince Giordano – There’s a Future in the Past, which made its world premiere on March 5, at the Manchester International Film Festival in Northern England.
The festival presented Giordano with a” busy bee” award for Best Score.
“The bee statue is a symbol of Manchester,” Giordano explained. “It was once a great center of manufacturers and workers.” The bee symbol also adorns Manchester’s coat of arms which dates back to 1842 and can be found at the town hall and on other downtown landmarks.
Giordano appreciated the reception he and the documentary’s producers received in England.
“The festival planners gave the film a prime slot, Saturday at 8:15 p.m., on a big screen at the Printworks Odeon, and they had a Prohibition-themed party with live music leading up to the showing,” he said. Prior to the premiere the Manchester Evening News named There’s a Future in the Past as one of 11 “must-see” films out of the festival’s 93 entries.
The doc’s directors, Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards, also attended the world premiere and met with distributors about future possibilities for the film.
“It could be for broadcast or release in theaters or online streaming or whatever new forms of showing films are invented in the next year,” Giordano said.
Davidson previously directed films about Cissie Houston and Peg Leg Bates. Edwards produced five episodes of the TV mini-series, Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook.
The new documentary chronicles Giordano’s life story from his childhood in Brooklyn to his emergence as the world’s most knowledgeable exponent of the jazz styles of the 1920s and 1930s.
For four decades, he has kept the past alive with his 11-piece big band The Nighthawks, a collection of more than 60,000 band arrangements, and a house-full of vintage musical instruments, recordings, and films. While he considers his own primary instrument the bass saxophone, Giordano also plays tuba, string bass and he also vocalizes.
Viewers of the Giordano documentary will be immersed in the hot jazz and swing that fueled Prohibition high-jinx and cheered up Depression-era America. They will also see what it takes to make a life as a professional jazz musician in 21st century New York.
Davidson and Edwards began the project in 2012, but ran into problems securing the rights to some of the music featured in the film.
“I have to thank to a dozen or so major angels who helped us through the expensive thicket of music clearances over the past six months,” Giordano said, “so we were able to go to Manchester ‘rights-ready.’”
After enjoying the premier screening and winning the Best Score award on March 5 in Manchester, Giordano flew back to New York City in time for the Nighthawks’ weekly Monday and Tuesday night gig at Tuesday at Iguana, a classy Tex-Mex restaurant on West 54th Street between Broadway_and 8th Avenue.
He’s a busy bee, all right, a musical marvel whose charmed life proves there is indeed a future in the past.