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People, Locations, Episodes

Thu, 12.15.1949

Birdland (Jazz Nightclub) Opens

On this date in 1949, Birdland nightclub opened its entertainment doors.

One of the top venues for jazz performances worldwide, it is also an important step in the evolution of Black musical history.  During the mid-to-late 1920s, top musicians were moving to New York, and Birdland was launched as a result. Birdland has been the jazz Mecca in the United States. Charlie Parker served as the inspiration for Birdland, played on its opening night on Broadway, a few blocks west of 52nd Street.

For the next 15 years, the club's survival recipe was built upon terrific double and triple shows, beginning at 9 p.m. and sometimes lasting 'til sunrise.  In addition to Bird, Count Basie and his big band made Birdland their New York headquarters, eventually recording George Shearing's "Lullaby of Birdland" live at the club. John Coltrane's classic quartet regularly appeared in the early 1960s, and Symphony Sid Torin made a name for himself, broadcasting live from the club to radio listeners up and down the east coast.  In its first five years, almost 1.5 million people paid the $1.50 admission to the cabaret section, the listening bullpen, to hear fabulous music and experience a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. Birdland's booking history reads like a who's who of jazz: Parker, Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Coltrane, Bud Powell, Stan Getz, Lester Young, Erroll Garner, and many, many others.

Regular patrons of the club included Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Joe Louis, Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Sugar Ray Robinson. As Rock & Roll emerged, Birdland's prosperity declined in the 60s, and its doors were closed on Broadway and 52nd in 1965.

In 1986, Birdland awoke uptown at 2745 Broadway, on the corner of 105th Street. This uptown Birdland was triangular, with a stage in the narrow center; as the triangle widened, was a bar with small tables. No musician would deny the unique acoustics this setup produced.

In 10 years, more than 2,000 artists performed at the club. Now, in the 21st century, the Birdland banner resides in midtown. This Birdland offers top-flight jazz in a world-class setting, good sightlines and acoustics, an elbow room, and a menu seasoned with award-winning Southern Cuisine.

Midtown Manhattan's Birdland has treated customers to some of the best jazz on the planet. It has presented musicians Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, Lee Konitz, Tony Williams, Mark Murphy, Diana Krall, Michel Petrucciani, John Scofield, Kevin Mahogany, Dave Holland, and Tito Puente, as well as the big bands of Chico O'Farrill, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Maria Schneider--and this is only a partial listing. They remain open, at 212-581-3080

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