‘We can’t have a New York without Birdland’: Iconic NYC jazz club rallies to stay open amid pandemic


MANHATTAN — What better way to open the Save Birdland fundraiser than hearing the legendary Catherine Russell sing its anthem: the lullaby of Birdland.

Birdland, the jazz corner of the world, has been around for longer than most of us can remember.

It first opened in 1949 on 52nd Street with big names, including Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Billie Holiday. They performed regularly with Billy Taylor as the house pianist.

Like so many jazz clubs and music venues across the city, it’s been shuttered on West 44th Street since the pandemic began last March, except for a brief reopening last month.

Owner Gianni Valenti feared would have to close permanently until producer Tom D’Angora held a successful fundraising telethon to save the West Bank Café on Christmas Day.

“After a very successful West Bank Café campaign, some of my friends said ‘can you do the same for Birdland,’” D’Angira told PIX11 News. “Birdland can’t close. We can’t have a New York without Birdland. That’s impossible.”

So Tom and Michael D’angora put together another hugely successful fundraiser with more than 100 stars from many professions besides jazz, including former President Bill Clinton, participating to save Birdland.

The GoFundMe page goal to Save Birdland was $250,000 and, as of Sunday night, it had already smashed the $360,000 mark.

Valenti, who has owned Birdland for 35 years said he was so grateful.

“The pandemic has thrown everything out of wack. My first thought was about my staff,” Valenti said. “The pandemic has been so tough for everyone. Your generosity has not been lost.”

The telethon means Tom D’Angora now has another successful fundraiser under his belt.

“The music community, the Broadway community, the live performance community, is the most generous exquisite group of people who ever existed,” D’Angora said.

Manhattan Videos

6 injured in East Side crash that damaged outdoor dining area, fruit stand

Ali, Frazier and the Fight of the Century 50 years later

NYPD Asian Hate Crime Task Force investigating unprovoked attack

Local group supports minority owned businesses during time of need

Suspect in Chinatown stabbing charged with hate crime

Man arrested after Asian man stabbed in Chinatown

More Manhattan

Trending Stories

Connect with PIX11 Online

Connect with PIX11 Online

Don't Miss

Latest Video

'Good Trouble' star Sherry Cola talks hit Freeform series, stand-up comedy

'Real World' reunited: Kevin Powell talks new Paramount+ series

Jon Batiste talks new album, Golden Globe win

Watch with Dan: March docs include 'The Speed Cubers,' 'The Social Dilemma,' and 'Long Shot'

Helping women navigate the workforce

6 injured in East Side crash that damaged outdoor dining area, fruit stand

Multi-vehicle crash in Midtown Manhattan shuts down part of 2nd Ave.

Chilly weekend ahead, but a warmup is on the way

Cuomo aides altered nursing home death reports: NYT, WSJ