Birdland, one of the most famous and historic jazz clubs in the world, is in trouble. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched in the hope of raising at least $250,000 toward keeping the midtown Manhattan venue alive.
Theatrical producer Tom D’Angora is leading the initiative, which as of January 5 has raised just under $103,000.
Like almost every other music venue in New York, Birdland was ordered to close last March 16 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Owner Gianni Valenti had hoped to reopen in July; when that proved impossible, he laid off most of his staff in hopes of staying solvent.
The club reopened on December 2 with a skeleton staff, limited capacity, and a host of new safety precautions in place. However, 10 days later, the state shut venues down again.
“I thought about a New York without Birdland and I knew right away that we couldn’t let that happen,” D’Angora wrote on the GoFundMe site. “Live music is imperative to the spirit and energy of this city.”
Originally opened at Broadway and 52nd Street in 1949, Birdland was named for bebop icon Charlie Parker (affectionately known as “Yardbird” or “Bird”), who was one of its most frequent headliners. Scores of other musicians played and recorded at the club, which closed at its original location in 1964. Valenti reopened the club in 1985 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, moving it to its present location (West 44th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues) in 1996.
Birdland isn’t the only jazz club raising funds online; a number of other important venues around the United States have opened GoFundMe campaigns in an effort to remain afloat during the pandemic. These include Baltimore’s Keystone Korner, Hollywood’s Catalina Jazz Club, and Philadelphia’s Chris’ Jazz Café.