I'm a Charlie Parker fan, so when we had a few minutes to kill before Mary Poppins and I typed "attractions near my location" into my smarty phone, and then I found out that Birdland was just a block away from where we were eating at that very moment, I nearly broke the sound barrier getting there.

It was the middle of the day, nothing was going on, but it was like visiting the Wailing Wall for me. I just stood next to the glass, peering in and thinking about all the greats who've performed there.

Birdland was named for Charlie Parker, who, as the story goes, was so timid and shy that people referred to him as "Yardbird." Later this was shortened to simply, "Bird." The original owners of the club named it for Parker and made him the main headliner. Their scheme to make the club stand out was to simply out-music every other music venue and they booked double and triple bills, starting at 9 pm and often lasting until dawn. Parker himself went through waves of favor there. His drug addiction made him unreliable as a performer and at one point, he was banned from the club entirely.

This isn't the original Birdland, of course. It was first opened about ten blocks north and was one of the most popular (and successful) jazz clubs in history for the next fifteen years. But Rock and Roll started to eclipse Jazz in the 60s and the owners couldn't pay the rising rent costs so they closed its doors in 1965. Until then, the
booking list was like a who's who of jazz: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Lester Young, and a host of others.

In the eighties, Birdland reopened on the Upper West Side and stayed there for the next ten years. Eventually, the owner decided to move it back to Midtown and here it sits on 44th street, near Broadway and the theater district. Since its rebirth, Birdland has seen some of the best musicians on the planet: Pat Metheny, Diana Krall, Dave Brubeck, Pat Martino, Maynard Ferguson, The Yellowjackets, and my personal favorite, Tito Puente.

And for all of you who've commented about how much you'd like me to take you to New York for your birthday weekend? Consider this: The Dormouse had to listen to this whole lecture from me while standing on the street in front of Birdland. So you may just want to hire one of those New York City bus tours and leave me home. I'm just sayin'.