Ever since most of Chicago's top musicians moved to New York in the mid-to-late 1920s, New York City has been the Jazz Mecca. Nearly every major jazz style of the past seventy years has been initiated in the Big Apple.
It was Charlie Parker, familiarly known to his fans and fellow musicians as "Bird," a contraction of Yardbird, his formal nickname, who was the dynamic creative personality and genius of the alto saxophone who served as the inspiration for Birdland.
When the original Birdland opened sixty years ago in December, 1949, Charlie Parker was the headliner and the club was located on Broadway, a block west of the 52nd Street scene, which was a hotbed of jazz in the 1930s and 40s.
Miraculously, just as the scene on 52nd Street caved in, Birdland was born and quickly came to prominence. 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 famous DJ, Symphony Sid Torin made a name for himself broadcasting live from the club to radio listeners up and down the eastern seaboard
Make sure to book a reservation early as sitting at the bar does not give you a very good view of the show. We ended up leaving before the show was over as we could not see from the back and there were no other places to move over too. But, on the flip side the music was great regardless of the views.
Spent my 50th Birthday meal here. This place is legendary, and didn't disappoint. Scheduled act couldn't make it, but replacement, Victoria Swift was awesome. Victoria, you really made my birthday. There is a minimum charge per guest to cover music. We had a table right by the stage. Intended to eat somewhere else, and just book here for the later sitting for music and drinks. The greeter said there was space now, and as the food prices weren't too high, we decided to eat here instead. Food was great, the table in a great place, and the act sensational. After the first set was complete, you have the option of staying for the second set. There is a further minimum spend of $10 per head, but a couple of drinks covers this as you have already paid for the show. This goes down as one of my best birthdays ever. Good job Birdland for giving me such a great memory.
Birdland is that mythical Manhattan nightclub you see in 1950s movies with jazz soundtracks: a little glamorous in a casual, offhand way, neither too hip nor too touristy. The sightlines are excellent, the covers are reasonable, and the music programming covers a broad swath of jazz, swing and cabaret sub-genres. The place holds about 200, mostly at tables that fan out in a series of elevated tiers around a small thrust stage. The decor is polished and softly lit, and the crowds are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and (happily) not too cool for school.
Birdland was not founded by Charlie Parker, and this is not the original nor the second location, but I'm sure it's a prime spot for tourists. Lots of big names come here, you've got the cast party on Mondays which is a lot of fun. Big cover charge (30-50) and a $10 minimum makes this an expensive offering for jazz, there are a lot of good places for much less. But if you want the biggest names, it's here, blue note, or Vanguard...
Great atmosphere and also amazing music. Don’t get the chocolate warm fudge with vanilla ice cream though. It tastes like your eating a sponge. Also a pricy place.