As previously reported, the iconic Birdland jazz club, located in the heart of NYC’s Theater District at 315 West 44th Street, has suffered financial setbacks due to the extended shutdown of live venues and was in danger of becoming another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. But a GoFundMe campaign, launched by Tom D’Angora on January 2, at the request of long-time Birdland entertainers and hosts Jim Caruso and Susie Mosher, is already within $5,000 of its $250,000 goal, designated to pay off the debt incurred over the past year and to provide funds to cover rent and monthly bills until the club can safely reopen.
With more than 3,300 generous donors contributing to the cause thus far, the musical landmark is in near reach of being able to weather the COVID-19 storm. And the fundraising effort is not yet over; it will continue with Save Birdland: A Celebration of Music, History and Community, a free virtual concert on Sunday, January 24, at 7 pm, to thank the patrons and fans for their support, to provide an evening of the top-notch entertainment for which the club has been known since its inception, and to provide a bigger financial cushion to ensure its survival.
Established in 1949, and named after jazz legend Charlie “Bird” Parker, who was a recurrent act at “The Jazz Corner of the World” (as Parker called the venue’s original location at Broadway and 52nd Street), the nightclub was a home base for an illustrious roster of jazz greats, including Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis. In addition to those who played there, Birdland was frequented by big-name celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, Joe Louis, and Sugar Ray Robinson.
At its current address, to which it ultimately relocated in 1996, Birdland’s offerings have expanded from its signature jazz performances to include a variety of Broadway and Off-Broadway artists, as well as cabaret, comedy, dance, drag, burlesque, and weekly variety shows. In September 2018, the club opened the Birdland Theater, an intimate 100-seat space below the main floor, which also hosts a full lineup of luminaries and emerging talents, and since the pandemic shutdown in March 2020, Caruso and Mosher have maintained a visible presence online, with regularly scheduled streams of their popular Birdland series.
As with the nightclub, the virtual telethon will feature a staggering array of stars that includes Erich Bergen, Matthew Broderick, John Bucchino, Ken Burns, Peter Cincotti, Elvis Costello, Jeff Daniels, Clive Davis, Giancarlo Esposito, Melissa Leo, Norm Lewis, Manhattan Transfer, Wynton Marsalis, Bebe Neuwirth, Mandy Patinkin, John Pizzarelli, Martha Plimpton, Randy Rainbow, Chita Rivera, Mercedes Ruehl, Catherine Russell, Billy Stritch, and Veronica Swift, along with Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. and former POTUS Bill Clinton. Additional performers will be announced in the coming week.
Save Birdland: A Celebration of Music, History and Community will begin streaming at 7 pm, on Sunday, January 24, on the Save Birdland website. Viewing is free, but contributions of any size are greatly appreciated. To donate, go online.