Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Anytime I hear the word “Birdland,” I get nostalgic. It reminds me of the good old days when I used to take strolls from midtown Manhattan to the west side of Broadway, watching the skyscrapers in the “Big Apple” — New York City. The year was 1996. At the time, fabulous “Birdland” — a commercially-successful fusion song by the Weather Report, had become a jazz standard. It was blaring as I passed by Manhattan’s re-born “Birdland Jazz Club”, “The Jazz corner of the world” as it was labeled by jazz legend Charlie Parker.
Birdland Jazz Club originally opened its doors in the winter of 1949. Within five years, it had attracted nearly 1.5 million people, each paying $1.50 admission to sample the one-of-a-kind atmosphere and enjoy live gigs. Performers like Charlie Parker and Count Basie and his big band played from 9:00 PM until dawn. But the club’s fortunes started to decline in the 1960s when Rock & Roll music started attracting many Birdland fans. Sadly, the club closed its doors in 1965.
Among the many other jazz greats who performed live at Birdland, we find: Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Lester Young, John Coltrane, Bud Powell, Stan Getz and others.
Also at Birdland, Count Basie and his smokin’ big band recorded George Shearing‘s “Lullaby of Birdland” live. Shearing, the British pianist who overcame blindness to become a worldwide jazz star, died at 91 two weeks ago.
More on Birdland here with Russ Davis:
For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America