Vince Giordano - There's a Future in the Past

Help us finish a feature length documentary film about the hot jazz bandleader and preservationist Vince Giordano and his amazing band The Nighthawks.
Hudson West Productions
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Croton on Hudson, New York
United States
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Vince Giordano—The Documentary

Hudson West Productions’ feature-length documentary film Vince Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past has been in production since 2012. No doubt many of you have seen us with our crew shooting at Vince's various gigs. With your support, this film can be completed in 2014. It’s a music-rich, intimate portrait of a ferociously dedicated and gifted musician, archivist, and historian, and the 11-piece band that Vince and his partner Carol Hughes keep going against all odds.

Connoisseurs know that when it comes to the Hot Jazz of the 1920s and ‘30s, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks have no peers in terms of virtuosity, authenticity, repertoire, and just plain joyfulness. They perform at the top venues (The Newport Jazz Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center) and are heard on the radio (A Prairie Home Companion, Fresh Air with Terry Gross) and appear in movies (The Aviator, The Cotton Club) and even won a Grammy for their soundtrack work on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.

And while running this remarkable enterprise for nearly 40 years, Vince has also managed to amass, preserve, and catalog an astonishing collection of more than 60,000 items of stock band arrangements, silent film scores, and vintage sheet music. But Vince is no hoarder; he shares this music with the world by playing it, and playing it better than anyone.

Vince with a tiny fraction of his collection in his Brooklyn garage.

Our Approach

Scintillating performances by “the best band in the land” could make for an entertaining film in itself — and make no mistake, there will be generous stretches of performances in our documentary — but the tension between those transcendent moments in the spotlight playing the music Vince loves and doing what it takes to get there is where the story lies. Even those lucky enough to have seen The Nighthawks perform live have never seen the preparation, planning, and sheer grunt work that’s required to get to that first downbeat.

Leading the Hot Jazz world into the 21st Century is anything but glamorous. There's a Future in the Past chronicles Vince's day-to-day efforts to find gigs, keep track of band members (all of whom have their own busy careers,) save priceless vintage arrangements from the dumpster, catalog his 60,000 piece collection into his custom-engineered database, find artisans to repair period instruments (like his Stroh Phonofiddle,) juggle recording sessions and create new arrangements for singers and special events, negotiate fees and distribute paychecks, and pick up side sessions to make extra money, all in order to do what he lives and breathes for: playing the most exciting, joyful music ever written, and playing it so well that his musical heroes of the 1920s and ‘30s would have hired him to play in their bands!

There’s a Future in the Past takes music lovers inside the real world of a real big band to show how Vince and his colleagues achieve the miraculous. For example, Vince and Carol have no road crew. For every engagement, they must hoist all of his over-sized instruments into a van along with multiple leather binders holding 2500 arrangements for each of the 11 musicians, an array of unwieldy but essential accessories such as antique trumpet mutes, lighted music stands and banners, a period microphone, clarinet megaphones, and the stray 100-pound Celeste. It is one thing to carry the cultural burden of keeping Hot Jazz alive for 40 years, quite another to literally carry the tons of gear that go with its performance for all that time. For Vince and The Nighthawks, it is a calling. It’s all about ‟making the big machine work”, he says.

The Man

Vince Giordano has been a man out of his own time all his life. Growing up in an era dominated by Rock, Blues and R&B, Vince was mesmerized by the Hot Jazz and early Swing music of his grandparents’ generation. His friends made fun of him for listening to “that cartoon music.” Even the jazz community, which preferred Cool, Bebop and Free Jazz, scorned these traditional forms.  

He started gigging professionally at age 14 and immediately after high school joined the Navy to tour in the Navy Show Band. While still in his 20s, he began collecting stock arrangements to give his newly created big band The Nighthawks a repertoire to play.

Vince in the Navy Show Band in 1971.

Now at age 62, Vince now fronts the most well-respected repertory band in the world. Actually, he plays, sings, and conducts from the back of the band, holding down the rhythm on string bass, tuba and bass saxophone, and he is the foremost scholar of this uniquely American art form that gave us our “soundtrack” from the turn of the century through World War II. This is the hard driving syncopated music of Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, Bix Beiderbecke, Jimmy Lunceford, Duke Ellington, Benny Moten, Paul Whiteman, and Benny Goodman—the music that gave young Americans their first real sense of identity, blew the lid off stale notions of polite social dancing, celebrated racial diversity, and opened up the straight-laced musical world to soaring improvisation within a tightly disciplined framework

The Music

Although its heyday was nearly a century ago, this music lives today through Vince and his band, The Nighthawks. When the light hits the bandstand on gig nights, we see eleven virtuoso players, decked out in crisp tuxedos, blasting out the most frenetic yet precise dance music on the planet. Yes, it is from another time, but its explosive rhythmic drive, infectious humor and the jaw dropping virtuosity of those who play it make it fresh, ‟of the moment” and inviting—it invites you to dance. Lindy Hoppers, Balboa experts and Fox Trotters come from all over the world to dance to Vince’s rhythmic Swing. There is a dazzlingly symbiotic relationship between these athletic, talented dancers and the musicians on the bandstand. They are part of the same culture, and both sides work at their apex. Lightspeed footwork and acrobatic spins and lifts are the trademarks of these folks—the dance equivalent of a wailing clarinet solo.  Not surprisingly, many of the regulars are themselves competition dancers.

What We Need

Hudson West has been shooting with Vince and the band since 2012, sustained primarily by substantial contributions from a handful of devoted Vince Giordano supporters and Hudson West stalwarts. However, in order to take this project across the finish line we need help from a wider network of music lovers: you!

Hudson West needs to raise $168,000 to pay for post-production. This requires:

  • access to a state-of-the-art editing system

  • massive amounts of digital storage (we’re up to 16 TB so far)

  • time and personnel to log and transcribe hundreds of hours of footage (all of the performances were shot with multiple cameras; so a 2-hour concert recorded by 6 cameras equals 12 hours of footage to ingest, log, transcribe, and then sync together.)

  • additional shooting, travel, location and union fees, and then more logging, transcribing, and assembling, as we see which threads of the story need to be further developed, and as new activities in Vince’s busy life occur in real time.

  • color-correcting and conforming

  • sound design and mixing

  • licensing fees for copyrighted music and archival material, an expensive and exacting process that can claim as much as one third of the total budget.

People often wonder why it takes so long to make a documentary. The work described above is one reason: it just takes a lot of time to review, assess, arrange, and then re-arrange a huge amount of chaos into order.  But the other reason documentaries take so long is that they’re almost always underfunded. At Hudson West, everyone is paid much less than the industry standard, which we justify because we are doing what we love. But filmmakers do have to make a living somehow. Every job we take to pay the rent is time that can’t be devoted to finishing a film.

We want to complete Vince GiordanoThere’s a Future in The Past in 2014 so it can be in distribution in 2015. Vince and his band deserve it, and so do his fans all over the world. With your help, this film can be out of our editing system and ready to go in front of the public within a year.

Who We Are

Hudson West Productions consists of Dave Davidson (director) and Amber Edwards (producer), the principal partners in this not-for-profit independent production company that has, for nearly 30 years, created documentaries about history, culture, music, art, and education. Founded in 1985, Hudson West’s mission is to fill in gaps in the “cultural dial” left by commercial media by preserving, interpreting, and presenting unique but overlooked narratives to a wide audience. Collectively Dave and Amber have created more than seventeen hours of national PBS programming, including nine episodes (over three seasons) of the award-winning series Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook. Currently Hudson West is in production with two music documentaries: Vince Giordano—There’s a Future in the Past, and Toward the Great Whatever, about the singer-songwriter Rob Morseberger’s quest to complete a life’s work of composing and recording before his death from brain cancer at age 53. To learn more about us and our work, visit

What's In It For You?

A lot!

  •  You’ll have the satisfaction of helping provide a showcase for brilliant musicians who have dedicated their lives to keeping Hot Jazz alive.
  •   You’ll make it possible for Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks to connect with an worldwide audience who might otherwise never see them perform live.
  •   You get a tax deduction for your contribution! Hudson West Productions is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization!

With Vince’s help, we've put together a range of thank-you perks at all levels, from individual song downloads to CDs to DVDs of the finished film to tickets to the premiere to the Nighthawks playing for your own private party!  But remember, whatever amount you can afford to contribute makes you a part of it. You will be the reason that the world can discover Vince Giordano, The Nighthawks, and the re-birth of Hot Jazz!

International Film, International Following

Jazz lovers travel to New York from all over the world to see and hear Vince and the Nighthawks live. And while it’s impossible for the band to tour all the places where they have fans, this film can take their music and their stories around the globe. Best of all, you don’t have to be a US citizen—or even use US dollars—to contribute.This campaign can accept contributions from any country, in any currency.

Now, what happens if we don’t reach our goal during this campaign? All will not be forfeited. We chose the Flexible Funding option, so that if we don’t get to our goal now, we will stretch out our production timeline. But we can still keep and use whatever you contributed.

Hudson West has never not finished a film but some projects have taken longer than we would have liked while we stop to raise more money. The sooner Vince Giordano— There’s a Future in The Past is funded, the sooner you will see the completed film!

Why We Need Your Help Now

Any one who loves Hot Jazz and early Swing, and appreciates Vince Giordano’s lifelong mission to keep this music in front of the public, knows what a challenge it is to even find it, except in special corners of the internet and a few cultural oases in big cities. Vince’s music is not played on commercial radio; you cannot buy vintage stock arrangements at your local music store—if you even have a local music store; and except for Vince’s and a few other artists’ recordings and movie and TV soundtracks, you cannot buy contemporary CDs of this music. (You can get CDs of old 78s that have been transferred, but to hear this great music in full fidelity, authentically rendered, you have to turn on The Nighthawks.) The music of the ‘20s and ‘30s is, sadly, very far off the current cultural map.

It’s true that there has recently been a spate of big-name, big box-office ‟music documentaries” bankrolled by major studios and major record labels that glorify pop stars while pretending to be a ‟behind the scenes look” (think Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, and the English-Irish boy band One Direction.) But an honest portrait of a hard-working, devoted practitioner of the pop music of the last century is not going to get attention from that corner of the universe.

We know that there is a huge appetite for Vince’s music and for Vince’s story here in the USA and internationally.  But the popular music of nearly a century ago will never be considered ‟commercial” by entertainment investors. Which is why we are asking you, who understand and appreciate what Vince has done and continues to do for our musical heritage, to support this project.

Check out our Thank-You Perks, and please share this campaign (and this music) with your friends!

Find This Campaign On
raised by 443 people in 1 month
49% funded
No time left
Verified Nonprofit
$168,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on May 15, 2014
Select a Perk
  • $25USD

    Take a tax deduction for the full amount and get a personal thank you on Vince’s Facebook Page.

    64 claimed
    Estimated delivery: May 2014
  • $50USD

    Tax deduction plus digital download of a song performed live by the Nighthawks that we recorded during filming (from a selection we'll provide.) Delivered as an MP3 via email. Note: The majority of performances that we filmed will not make it into the final cut, and what does will likely be edited for time. So this is a chance to get music that might not end up on the soundtrack!

    50 claimed
    Estimated delivery: May 2014
  • $75USD

    Tax deduction plus a classic Nighthawks CD (choose from among 3 available selections.)

    19 out of 300 claimed
    Estimated delivery: May 2014
  • $100USD

    Tax deduction plus 2 classic Nighthawks CDs (choose from among 3 available selections.)

    58 out of 200 claimed
    Estimated delivery: May 2014
  • $125USD

    Tax deduction plus 3 classic Nighthawks CDs.

    9 out of 150 claimed
    Estimated delivery: May 2014
  • $150USD

    Tax deduction and digital download (DRM protected) of final completed film.

    9 out of 100 claimed
    Estimated delivery: February 2015
  • $200USD

    Tax deduction, and signed DVD of the completed film (including bonus material) upon completion.

    47 out of 300 claimed
    Estimated delivery: March 2015
  • $250USD

    Tax deduction, plus a date with Vince in person over a cup of coffee (or something stronger) at mutually convenient location and time in NYC. (Cost of beverages not included.)

    8 out of 10 claimed
  • $275USD

    A pair of (2) tickets to a sneak peak at selected early scenes from the film, followed by a mini-Nighthawks concert, at the famed Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY. Meet the filmmakers and musicians afterwards. One night only, Wednesday, June 25th. (Transportation not included.)

    1 out of 12 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2014
  • $300USD

    Tax deduction, signed DVD (including bonus material) of finished film and free admission for party of 4 to hear The Nighthawks play at Iguana in NYC (food, beverages, and travel expenses not included.)

    14 out of 15 claimed
  • $400USD

    Tax deduction, signed DVD (including bonus material) of finished film and be our guest at the premiere screening (travel expenses not included.)

    4 out of 12 claimed
  • $500USD

    Tax deduction, and a chance to sit in with The Nighthawks, as a vocalist or instrumentalist, for a 15-minute set at Iguana on a mutually agreed-upon time and date, with selections chosen in advance from Vince's vast music collection. (Travel expenses not included.)

    9 out of 10 claimed
  • $750USD

    Tax deduction, and you and up to 2 additional guests (3 people maximum) get a guided tour of Vince's astonishing collection of musical instruments, piano roles, memorabilia, sheet music, and stock arrangements in his Brooklyn home, at a mutually convenient time and date. (Travel expenses not included.)

    2 out of 5 claimed


    Tax deduction, name in credits, signed DVD (including bonus material) of finished film, free admission for party of 4 (food and beverage not included) to hear The Nighthawks play any Monday or Tuesday at Iguana in NYC, and 2 passes to the premiere screening (travel expenses not included.)

    4 out of 4 claimed
  • $1,001USD

    Tax deduction, name in credits, signed DVD (including bonus material) of finished film, free admission for party of 4 (food and beverage not included) to hear The Nighthawks play any Monday or Tuesday at Iguana in NYC, and 2 passes to the premiere screening (travel expenses not included.)

    0 out of 5 claimed
  • $3,000USD
    The "Honey Taps" Tap for You!

    Tax deduction plus the amazing Honey Taps (see them in action in the Updates tab) will perform at your own private event. You’ll get 3 Honey Taps performing one number (your choice from their rep) and they’ll be available for pictures and schmoozing as well. Local travel included within 25 miles of New York City. Transportation fees will be added outside the NY-NJ-CT Tri-state area. Perk must be redeemed by July 31st, 2014, and scheduling must be coordinated directly with the Honey Taps.

    0 out of 5 claimed
  • $10,000USD

    Tax deduction, name featured in credits, 4 passes for the premiere screening (travel expenses not included,) signed DVD (including bonus material) of finished film and free admission for your private party of up to 20 on any Monday or Tuesday at Iguana in NYC (travel expenses not included.)

    0 out of 2 claimed
  • $25,000USD

    Tax deduction, name featured prominently in credits, and have Vince and The Nighthawks perform at your own private party! (Musicians' travel and cartage not included. Scheduling must be done in consultation with Vince.)

    0 out of 1 claimed
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