1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S, W to Times Square;A, C, E to 42nd Street/Port Authority.
M42, M104 to 42nd Street & 8th Ave.
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.
In its first five years of existence, 1,400,000 paid the $1.50 admission to make their way either right to the cabaret section or left to the intense listening bullpen to hear Birdland’s attractions and sample its atmosphere. Given the artists on the bill, that comes as no surprise. Birdland’s booking history reads like a who’s who of jazz: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bud Powell, Stan Getz, Lester Young, Erroll Garner, and many, many others.
Considering the excitement that Birdland generated on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that the club attracted its share of celebrities. Regulars to the nightly festivities included such household names as Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Joe Louis, Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Sugar Ray Robinson.
As Allan Morrison, the long-time editor of Ebony once put it, “Birdland was both a cultural vantage point and a barometer of trends where all the big names in jazz performed.”
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 needed to take a nap.
Birdland awoke uptown in 1986 at 2745 Broadway, on the corner 105th Street where it was well renowned for its great acoustics and unique setup. 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.
Now, half a century later, the Birdland banner has been reborn in midtown and called, “close to perfection for serious fans and musicians,” by The New York Times. 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 an award-winning menu featuring American cuisine with a Cajun flair.