THURSDAY, MAY 3—ECONOMY HALL TENT, 4:25 P.M.
There aren’t many musicians who can match singer Banu Gibson’s knowledge of and passion for the vocal jazz of the ’20s and ’30s. One such player will be joining her regular band at Jazz Fest this year: New York multi-instrumentalist Vince Giordano, who leads the Nighthawks Orchestra and is known for Boardwalk Empire and other period soundtracks. While the two have performed together over the years, Giordano doesn’t like traveling and this will be one of the few times he’s played New Orleans. He’ll be playing tuba, string bass and bass saxophone—this being one of the few cities where he can find those instruments instead of having to carry his own.
“It’s fascinating that we’ve had parallel careers, and he’s musically attracted to the same things I am,” Gibson says. “I knew his reputation, but seeing him in New York was great fun. Usually you only get to hear this music on old 78s, and when someone plays it the music becomes alive.” The two first crossed paths in the ’80s when Gibson was performing in New York—her pianist and arranger David Boeddinghaus was the connection—and remained in touch over the years. “We used to travel together and bitch about how hard it is to be a bandleader. And it’s tougher for him since he has twice the number of musicians I do.”
Gibson can take some pride in having predated, and probably influenced, the current vogue for early jazz. “More people have been getting the bug bite, and that’s spectacular. When you love this music, sometimes you get to feel that you’re the last person who will ever love it.” But as a music teacher herself (she cofounded the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Camp, which continues this summer), she’s a bit of a stickler for getting the details right.
“If you’re doing something as a museum piece, then it’s going to be dead, and I think my own voice comes through when I sing. But I’m also performing in a style that has certain parameters that I live within. When I came to town I was combining Broadway songs with a Dixieland style, but I’ve moved toward something that’s less of a hybrid.If I’m taking a song from the Great American Songbook, I want you to hear it the way you might have the first time around. Since this material has been out there, so many singers have put their own spin on it that you don’t recognize the original. So I take that away and try to give you the real meat and potatoes. A song will completely change if you can give it the right tempo and feel—and if you really sing the lyrics, not just the syllables.”