The Real Birdland

Yesterday was the Orioles first home game in Baltimore. I’m no fan of baseball, but I thought a baseball inspired post was in order. Living in Baltimore, home of the Orioles and Camden Yards, baseball is more than an institution. It’s a way of life. Driving around the other night, I saw a billboard that read “This is Birdland,” advertising the Orioles. Apparently, they’ve taken to nicknaming Camden Yards, “Birdland.” I guess they think they are clever since the team mascot is a bird and all. I hardly think one bird, an oriole, warrants calling the place Birdland.

The REAL Birdland was a jazz club named in honor of Charlie Parker, aka “Yardbird” or “Bird.” The Orioles rip this name off as a marketing gimmick. The club used it to honor a legend that played with the likes of Jay McShann, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Christian. Both the jazz club and the musician were immortalized in the 1977 jazz classic, “Birdland” by Weather Report (a song which is totally swingable, but it hasn’t been done yet). And also in the 1950’s song, “Lullaby of Birdland,” which is one of those amazing tunes that seems to be magic no matter who is playing it.

I know that language and meaning is a fluid thing. The Orioles have usurped the term and bent it to their will. Who know? Maybe they “invented” it on their own without any knowledge of the term’s history. People will drive by the sign, and associate “Birdland” with Camden Yards without ever knowing of another meaning. So this is my attempt to keep the jazz torch blazing, remembering a part of the jazz legacy. Many iconic albums were recorded live at Birdland. Many legends performed there. It inspired songs and artists for years. This is Birdland.

While the original jazz club closed in 1965, it has since been reopened in a new location in NYC.  The next time you’re in the Big Apple, check out their calendar of events. You might be able to hear some amazing artists.



Filed under community, History, Jazz, Music

3 responses to “The Real Birdland

  1. Ceste

    I’ve been to the NYC new site! It rocks

  2. mo cantin

    This was quiet interesting and I wasn’t sure were you were going to go with this “rant”. i like how you bring the swing, jazz, blues, etc… references into these posts. Most of us, myself included, do not always realize the influence of these things in current culture.

    Where was the original “birdland” club?

    Also, the birdland seems to work with all Baltimore sports. We have ravens and orioles.

    • craigsparks

      The original Birdland club was on 1678 Broadway in NYC. Currently, its located at W 44th St.

      And I could go along with the whole Orioles/Ravens thing if it weren’t just a billboard campaign for the Orioles referring specifically to Camden Yards. I guess one could argue that many baseball teams are named after birds, but I’d rather just chalk it up as a teachable moment. I am curious to know if the ad team that came up with that knew the original reference, or discovered the original reference before they plastered it all over Baltimore.

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