Elvis Costello, Sting and Billy Joel are among the stars lending their support to a campaign to save the fabled New York City jazz venue Birdland. The effort includes a virtual concert — which Costello will partake in — airing January 24th at 7 p.m. ET.
Like so many venues across the country, Birdland was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced it to shut its doors. Despite the passage of the Save Our Stages Act in last year’s Covid-19 relief bill, which will provide targeted aid to the live entertainment industry, many venues will still struggle to stay afloat until its safe for concerts to resume again. Along with the virtual concert, there’s also a GoFundMe campaign for Birdland, which has raised over $250,000.
Birdland opened in 1949, taking its name from jazz great Charlie “Yardbird” Parker. It quickly became hallowed ground in the jazz world, hosting legends like Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. While Birdland was forced to close in 1965, it was able to reopen at its current location in 1986.
In a short video, Costello recounted his deep affection for the venue and recalled a night where he, his wife, the jazz pianist Diana Krall, and the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh got to watch the pianist Cedar Walton. “That’s not an evening you can readily imagine, but that’s just one of the things that can happen when you find yourself in a place like Birdland,” Costello said.
Along with Costello, the lineup for the Save Birdland concert will also include Clive Davis, Wynton Marsalis, Whoopi Goldberg, Leslie Odom, Jr., Catherine Russell, Veronica Swift, Audra McDonald, Manhattan Transfer, John Pizzarelli, Peter Cincotti. Former president Bill Clinton is also set to share a message during the show, and additional performers will be announced in the coming days.
Sting also shared a statement in support of the campaign, comparing Birdland in New York to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Coliseum in Rome, the pyramids in Giza, and Buckingham Palace in London. “What really made America great was jazz music,” Sting says. “We have to save Birdland.”
“The pandemic has been brutal for music venues around the country,” Joel said in a statement. “With few exceptions, they have not been able to put on shows. The pandemic shutdown has been particularly difficult for jazz clubs which rely on live performances to survive. When I heard that the legendary jazz club, Birdland, was in danger of closing due to the pandemic, my heart sank. Birdland has been around for 71 years, a favorite amongst jazz fans, where many of my musical heroes performed: Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck… the list goes on and on. The iconic club is also home to some of the best contemporary jazz, Broadway, singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists in the country. It’s times like this where music is more important than ever. I ask you to please give what you can to help this American Culture treasure so it can continue to live on and continue to swing.”