By Michael Barbieri ****I went for dinner and a show at Birdland Jazz Club recently and my experience at this legendary venue was memorable indeed!
Opened in 1949, and named for alto saxophonist Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, the original Birdland was located on Broadway near 52nd Street. The iconic club was home to jazz legends like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie and Parker himself, along with many others. In the 1960s, however, Birdland shuttered when crowds fell off. In 1986, the club reopened at 105th Street and Broadway, welcoming newer artists along with many of the famous names who had played the original venue. Finally, 10 years later, the club moved one last time, to its current location on West 44th Street—and not surprisingly, they’ve booked some of the best names in jazz once again, like Maynard Ferguson, John Pizzarelli, Phoebe Snow, Dave Brubeck, Jon Hendricks and many, many more.
For this first visit, I was in my comfort zone. I was there to write up the food, as well as review Natalie Douglas, a fantastic jazz and cabaret artist, who’s done a series of tribute shows at the club over the years. Natalie’s show was part of the Broadway@Birdland series, emceed by the multi-talented Jim Caruso, who also hosts the wildly successful Jim Caruso’s Cast Party, a fabulous open mic variety show with performances by Broadway legends, jazz greats, cabaret divas, new up-and-comers and even a star-struck tourist now and then! The club itself is a class act too, with tiers of tables covered in white linen cloths, additional seating at the neon-accented bar, walls covered in elegant portraits of the artists who’ve played the room and an ample stage with excellent lighting and sound.
But before the show—dinner!
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