When the original Birdland opened fifty-one years ago in December, 1949, 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 1930s and 40s. For the next fifteen years, the club's survival formula was built upon memorable double and triple bills, commencing at 9 p.m. and sometimes lasting 'til dawn.
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 1960s, 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.
But as a new popular music, Rock & Roll emerged, Birdland's fortunes declined in the 60's and its doors were closed on Broadway and 52nd in 1965. After many 5 am nights, the club went silent.
Birdland was reborn uptown in 1986 at 2745 Broadway, on the corner 105th Street. The uptown Birdland was triangular. The stage was in the narrow center, and as the triangle widened, there was a bar with small tables. No musicians would deny the unique acoustics this setup produced. 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.
Still there was something missing. "After ten successful years uptown, I felt the mystique of Birdland returning to midtown - it would be the natural continuation of the legendary jazz corner of the world," said Birdland owner John Valenti.
Now, half a century later, the Birdland banner has been reborn in midtown. After a decade of neighborhood success on the Upper West Side, John decided to move the club back to 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 Cuisine.
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, 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.
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