[JPL] An Impresario to Mix Things Up Again

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Wed Oct 15 13:42:54 EDT 2008


October 15, 2008
An Impresario to Mix Things Up Again

Half a century after he opened the Village Gate ‹ and 14 years after he
reluctantly closed it ‹ Art D¹Lugoff is back at the legendary club. The old
sign is still there on the corner of Thompson and Bleecker Streets, even if
the old club has been remade into Le Poisson Rouge.

But Mr. D¹Lugoff, 84, is very much in the house ‹ this time as a consultant
‹ ready to book the kinds of double and triple bills that made the Village
Gate the site of unforgettable performances by musicians like Gillespie and
Coltrane (and comedians like Cosby and Seinfeld, too). On Monday, he revived
one of his oldest and most popular concoctions, the Salsa Meets Jazz series,
hoping to attract the kind of mix on stage and in the audience that can
happen only in New York.

³This is what¹s most needed artistically,² Mr. D¹Lugoff said. ³So many
people had been asking me if I would ever bring that back. I like the
crossover that happens here, and that¹s crucial. It¹s two great types of
music that have a lot in common and bring people together.²

David Handler and Justin Kantor, the two 20-something musicians who founded
Le Poisson Rouge, said they were excited about being able to collaborate
with Mr. D¹Lugoff, who was a renowned impresario before they were born. They
have a vision like his for the club, embracing different genres, from
classical to pop.

³To us, this space was hallowed ground, and its history as the former
Village Gate was important, as well as wanting to pay homage and reconnect
with the man who got that started,² Mr. Handler said. ³And the aesthetic is
similar: eclecticism as the goal with our bookings and the art we present.²

The concert on Monday night featured the jazz trumpeter Jon Faddis with the
conga master Candido Camero and the big band Latin jazz of Bobby Sanabria.
More Salsa Meets Jazz gigs are planned for early and late December.

Before he opened the Village Gate, Mr. D¹Lugoff had been producing folk and
ethnic music concerts around town. He later put on jazz shows at the
Brooklyn Academy of Music featuring musicians like Louis Armstrong, Count
Basie and Duke Ellington.

But it was at the Village Gate, which he started in 1958 with his brother
Burt, that he became an impresario who booked what amounted to a Who¹s Who
of 20th-century American music. His shows reflected his wide-ranging tastes,
sometimes pairing a comedian with a jazz act or a folk singer. In later
years he found success with theater, with shows like ³One Mo¹ Time,² and
³National Lampoon Lemmings,² the Woodstock satire that featured a young John
Belushi and Chevy Chase.

³My emphasis has always been on picking artists who please the public,
please me and give me a living,² he said. ³I was thankful if I could break
even. I never was interested in just making money ‹ not that I have anything
against that. But I did what I wanted. I did different things.²

The Salsa Meets Jazz series, which started in the 1970s, certainly met those
criteria. In a city that was home to leading musicians in both genres, he
had his pick, and the audiences flocked to the club.

³What we did was socially important,² he said. ³The mix was not just Latino
and black. It was Jewish, Italian, Irish and Japanese. It was a mix of
people. Also, we had dancing. The only time you couldn¹t dance was when
Celia Cruz came with Tito Puente. They just sold out every seat in the
house. There was no place to dance.²

He also gave the stage over to artists whose fortunes might have been on the
decline but whose pipes were still good. He has fond memories of La Lupe,
the Cuban-born torch singer whose tragic life (and status as a gay icon)
earned her comparisons to Judy Garland.

³She was different, effervescent, exciting, sexual, sensual and whatever
else you could say,² he recalled. ³She would slither around. It was ‹ heh,
heh, heh ‹ quite a thing. She had a terrific following.²

So does he, and that is not lost on his partners at Le Poisson Rouge. They
hope artists who played the Gate decades ago when they were on the way up
are still fond of the place now that they are on top.

For his part, Mr. D¹Lugoff is enthusiastic about getting back to setting the

³These guys gave me an opportunity,² he said. ³Instead of being jealous of
the Gate, they see it as making a connection.² In the future, he is hoping
to bring back Latin jazz standouts like Arturo Sandoval and Paquito
D¹Rivera, and he has also been thinking of reaching out to some folkies who
have enjoyed long careers as singer-songwriters. ³I have multimusical
interests,² he said. ³I love Greek music, Italian music, Russian music. I
don¹t play an instrument. Except the radio.²

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