Birdland Blues

I played an early show at Birdland in NYC several weeks ago. It was a decent crowd at the show considering how early the gig was and it was kind of a last minute deal. We were opening for Joe Lovano, who was performing a special tribute to Trane with an all-star trio backing him. I really wanted to see the show but I had to run to another gig in Brooklyn that same night after the gig. I knew that some of the players in the band that I was playing with at Birdland were planning on staying so I knew that perhaps I’d get a report on the show when I saw them the next time.

So I saw my friend and asked him how the show was and he told me that they didn’t stay for the show. He said that they were going to be charged 40.00 to stay for that show. He also said that when that show started there were plenty of empty tables where they could have sat. I think that there’s something seriously wrong with this picture. Not saying that artists who perform at venues should be let in for free to additional shows on their given night (actually I think that they should, but in this economical environment maybe it’s not the most ideal case) but I do think that there could have been a little wiggle room for the cover charge. Even if musicians/guests aren’t going to pay full price, perhaps those that are admitted at a reduced rate will patronize the establishment during the show, which is income for Birdland as opposed to none due to musicians walking out over an outrageous cover.

I’ve never understood this business practice. I’ve seen it in many places and it makes me realize that there is a reason many are saying that the club scene in jazz is hurting…
I did blog about this issue a long time ago here

Jason Palmer

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3 Responses to “Birdland Blues”

  1. “Not saying that artists who perform at venues should be let in for free to additional shows on their given night…”

    They absolutely should. F those F’ers. Is the club part of the jazz community or not? I think they answered that question.

  2. Hey Jason, I think that if you are performing at a club on any night you have the right to stick around, at least backstage or at the bar if the venue is crowded. I feel that jazz musicians today need to speak up for our rights as performers. Its not so much to ask a club for a drink, music stands, basic backline, etc. but we are so used to dealing without them that its become acceptable. Also, being asked to leave is detrimental to the club as well as the jazz community. If you are performing at a venue you are bringing an audience and customers to the club. Club owners seem to forget this fact. If musicians took a stand against some of these practices I think we could see some real changes. Anyways, thats just my two cents on the subject. Also, Im gonna be in Boston 10/28-31, if youre around lets try and do some playing!

    • Right on Michael! There are venues that are great about treating musicans fairly. It’s just the ones that aren’t that can really do it in. It also affects the music I think. If I have a bad experience before a show I know that it’s going to affect how I play, sometimes for the better though I must admit.

      I think that I’m going to miss you this time in Boston. I’m teaching all day on that Thursday and on Friday I’m going to Delaware to play a Brownie tribute with Strings. You should go down to Wally’s and play with the cats down there!!

      Take care,

      J.P.

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