Lorraine Gordon, the longtime owner of New York’s legendary Village Vanguard jazz club, died Saturday morning (June 9) in Manhattan. She was 95.
Lorraine Gordon, the widow of Vanguard’s founder and owner, Max Gordon, died from complications of a stroke, the Greenwich Village club’s manager Jed Eisenman told The New York Times.
The Vanguard opened in 1935 and went on to host such legendary artists as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans. Lorraine Gordon, a longtime lover of jazz, took the helm as owner 54 years later following Max’s death in 1989. Since then, she had booked performers and handled the books for the venue, according to the Times. The club celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2015.
“She’s a real New York character,” the late Bruce Lundvall, the former president/CEO of Blue Note Records, told NPR in 2012. “She’s tough, but she’s charming and she’s wonderful and she’s smart as a whip. And she runs the greatest jazz club in the world, period.”
Lorraine Gordon was born Lorraine Stein in Newark, N.J., on Oct. 15, 1922. She first visited the Vanguard in 1940 at age 17. Soon after, she married Blue Note founder Alfred Lion and worked at the label, where she helped promote legendary pianist Thelonious Monk, the Times reports. She later divorced Lion and married Max Gordon, trading work for motherhood and political activism.
In 2006, Lorraine Gordon published a memoir, titled Alive at the Village Vanguard, which was co-written with Barry Singer. In 2013, she was given the honor of “Jazz Master” by the National Endowment for the Humanities, NPR reports.
Lorraine Gordon is survived by her two daughters Rebecca and Deborah, and a grandson. Deborah Gordon will take over the Vanguard, Eisenman told The New York Times.