It was Charlie Parker, known to fans and fellow musicians as "Bird," the
dynamic creative personality and genius of the alto saxophone, who served
as the inspiration for Birdland. When the original Birdland opened fifty
years ago this December, Charlie Parker was the headliner and the club was
located on Broadway, a few blocks west of 52nd Street, which was a hotbed
of jazz in the 30s and 40s.
In addition to Bird, many jazz legends were regulars at the club. Count
Basie and his smokin' 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 at the club in
the early 60s, recording "Live at Birdland." And the infamous Symphony Sid
Torin made a name for himself broadcasting live from the club to radio
listeners up and down the eastern seaboard.
When the midtown scene changed in the early 60s, the club closed its doors.
But Birdland awoke uptown in 1986 at 2745 Broadway, on the corner of 105th
Street. In ten years, more than 2,000 emerging artists performed at the
club. On many occasions, artists who performed at the original club on
52nd street graced the stage of the second version of Birdland as well.
In the 90s, the Birdland banner has been reborn in midtown. The new
Birdland offers top-flight jazz in a world class setting--good sight lines
and acoustics, elbow room, and a menu ripe with award winning Southern
Since the reemergence of the club, midtown Manhattan has been treated to
some of the best jazz on the planet, including memorable sets by such
musicians as Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, Lee Konitz, Mark
Murphy, Kevin Mahogany, Dave Holland, and Tito Puente, as well as the big
bands of Chico O'Farrell, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Maria Schneider. Many can
be heard on demand, right here on GMN.