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Mary Stanford Written by Mary Stanford
Mar. 29, 2017 | 12:11 AM

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Playing in limited run in Los Angeles from April 14th – 20th at Laemmle’s Music Hall 3 with appearances by Giordano and the filmmakers on opening weekend. For more information, including a trailer, please visit Laemmle’s website.

Vince Giordano will also be giving a rare West Coast performance in Los Angeles at the Cicada Club on April 13th.

For more information, please visit the Cicada Club website.

Interview by Mary Stanford

In the 1920s, bandleader Paul Whiteman was dubbed “the king of jazz.” In the 1930s, Benny Goodman was given the title “the king of swing.” In Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards’ critically-acclaimed new documentary, “There’s A Future in the Past,” modern-era bandleader Vince Giordano names himself “the king of schlep” in reference to the hard work of loading his van with equipment for an upcoming show.

It’s a self-depreciating joke by Giordano, a Grammy Award-winner who is a world-renowned expert at re-creating the music from the era of Whiteman and Goodman. Film and TV fans may know Giordano’s big band, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, from numerous soundtracks, including “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Aviator” and Woody Allen’s “Café Society.” Yet for all of the ovations Giordano’s band receives, the behind-the-scenes reality of keeping “vintage” music alive is far from glamorous. This real-life drama is at the center of Davidson and Edwards’ fascinating new documentary about Giordano and his career. 

FilmRadar sat down with the filmmakers and their subject ahead of the film’s opening in Los Angeles to discuss their documentary and their collective passion for preserving the past.

Amber and Dave, how did you become aware of Vince’s story and what drew you to it as your subject?

Dave Davidson: We got hooked on Vince’s story when we were working on the PBS series “Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook,” which was a nine part series featuring small segments with performers, historians, and collectors who are keeping the tradition of these songs alive and Vince was one of them. When we connected with him, we realized that there had to be so much more to his story than just that one segment. We felt right away that we had met a kindred spirit.

Amber Edwards: We’d both been aware of Vince and his band in New York since the ‘90s. He actually played at my first wedding back in 1992; the marriage didn’t work out but it was a great party! I stayed in touch with Vince and was a fan of his work over the years. I even had the chance to sing with his band a few times too, including a song on the soundtrack for “Boardwalk Empire” season 1, “Alice Blue Gown.”

Do you feel that your familiarity with the subject matter made it harder or easier for you to tell this story to an audience who might not know this world?

Davidson: I don’t think the music itself needed a lot of explanation from us. As the Village Voice says, what Vince does is “rock & roll Prohibition style”.  It’s very relatable. But finding a narrative to go with the music was a process of ongoing discovery for us. We did not know how things would play out.

Edwards: For me – even having performed with the band – there were a lot of things that I had never really thought about, such as how much work it takes just to get to the downbeat. And we discovered in making the film that Vince’s longtime fans didn’t know that either.

Vince, you’ve scored numerous films. What was it like being on the other side of the camera?

Vince Giordano: Well was a little a little scary when they approached me to do this. First of all, you have this camera on you all the time, and it’s not like a film – I’ve done films, but as a character – and everything is all nice and all worked out. When you’re doing a documentary, anything can happen, and it did. We had some great times, and we had some crazy times, and there it is.

How did you determine what they would shoot?

Giordano: I just told them what was coming up – certain concerts, when we lost our gig at Sofia’s and were going to have a farewell night, when certain people were coming in – and then they would come up with ideas of coming to my house and seeing stuff. So they just kept rolling with ideas and different angles and they would film, and I guess some stuff worked better than others.

Davidson: We could have daisy-chained together all that great music, but story lies in all the incredible struggle. When you’re living through it with him, it hits you in a more profound way when you’re in the trenches.

Edwards: What we didn’t know starting out was that this period would be so eventful for Vince. And we certainly didn’t anticipate that we would have that happy ending of seeing a new generation embrace this traditional jazz music. That movement was not really much on the radar screen when we started shooting. I think that renaissance has been driven, in large part, by Vince’s influence and his work with things like the “Boardwalk Empire” soundtrack.

How long was the shoot?

Giordano: They shot a lot of film. It was three years – not constantly of course – with different ideas that they had, and let’s try this, let’s try that, lots of gigs.

Edwards: We officially started shooting in 2012, but we already had accumulated a fair amount of footage from as early as 2009 from the “Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook” segment.

Dave and Amber, what’s your process like as co-directors?

Davidson: It’s a fluid process, but I do the shooting and Amber does editing. I’m more on the front end, and Amber is creating story out of the best stuff that we shot on the back end. I’m really a second set of eyes as the story is knit together.

Edwards: But we both are at all of the shoots, and it’ like we have two brains instead of one because some of these shoots were really complicated with multiple cameras. One of the best examples is when Vince is playing at Lincoln Center for their summer jazz series and there was a B band at Sofia’s [the restaurant where Giordano had a weekly show]. Dave was at Sofia’s, and I was at Lincoln Center, and neither one of us had any idea what was happening at the other location.

Davidson: We thought that what we were going to see is the evening that Vince returned to his glory days of being like Paul Whiteman and having two bands out simultaneously, but what we got was the opposite.

Edwards: We both thought the other must be seeing the successful event, and it wasn’t until we got together afterward that we realized neither one had gone well. It ended up being a key scene in the film.

Vince, one of the other moments that also stands out in the film is seeing your vast library of original band sheet music from the 1920s and ‘30s, and hearing your plan to make the duplicate copies available to other collectors and institutions. What happened with that? Did they go to good new homes?

Giordano: No, they are still here waiting to get to the next place, and all someone has to do is work out this deal. I get a lot of people asking about the arrangements, but they’re still here. We’ve tried different colleges, and a lot of the colleges say “Will our modern jazz department use these arrangements?” and I say, “No, they won’t because this is not modern jazz. This is popular music and jazz music and Broadway music and film music of the 1920s and ‘30s.” So it’s a great research tool if you want to recreate that or study what bands were doing back then. It’s a great resource, but I gotta find Mr. or Ms. Right.

Dave and Amber, what’s next for Hudson West?

Davidson: It’s also on the spectrum of musical documentaries, but very different world than the Vince documentary. It’s called “A Gesture and A Word,” and it’s the story of a very good friend of mine, a singer/songwriter named Rob Morsberger, who passed away from [a brain tumor]. As it happens, we were already working together to shoot several projects when he received the diagnosis. We decided to keep shooting, and the documentary chronicles last 18 months of his life. It sounds like a film about death, but it’s actually a film about life and getting the most out of life.

For more information about this documentary and Hudson West’s other upcoming projects, please visit

For more information about Vince Giordano’s upcoming shows and projects, please visit


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