"Yes, you're recreating something," says Jim Fryer, a trombonist in Vince Giordano's fiery throwback jazz orchestra the Nighthawks. "But you're trying to recreate something so vividly that it's alive now." Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards' doc Vince Giordano: There's a Future in the Past showcases both the recreations -- persuasive revivals of tunes and arrangements and solos from the 1920s and '30 -- and the great present-tense effort it takes to pull them off. Besides playing his bass, his tuba and his joyously flatulent bass sax, bandleader Giordano tracks down vintage arrangements from the days of Fletcher Henderson and Paul Whiteman, handles bookings and all the stage-patter, checks that all his Nighthawks and their instruments have gotten onto the bus and never seems without something to schlep. Your heart may break when, thanks to some miscommunication between a venue and the talent, Giordano has to break down his band's setup before he's finished hauling it to the stage -- another act is going on first. The past weighs heavily and literally.
Giordano and his band members attest in the film to how regular gigs, even for small crowds, are invaluable to their sharpness. Curiously, 15 years on from the battles over Ken Burns' Jazz, and two decades into Wynton Marsalis' reign at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the film never considers the question of the value of such painstaking recreations. When the Nighthawks light into an arrangement, they're not aping a record you could spin or download at home -- they're attempting to discover what it might have been like to hear those bands of back then blowing the doors off a joint.
Dave Davidson, Amber EdwardsDave Davidson, Amber EdwardsFirst Run Features