A couple Saturdays ago, I made it out to Birdland to hear the Dave Liebman Group.  I attempted to listen for the signature Lieb chromatic sound as he played with guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Marko Marcinko but quickly settled into passive listening.  As my threshold for dissonance increases, it may be that it takes a more concentrated effort to distinguish among the various shades on the spectrum from diatonic to chromatic harmony.  My brain wasn’t up for that and I let the music wash over me as I enjoyed an old Ornette standard, played on wooden flute by the saxophonist.

Though it was my first time at the club, I found myself feeling at home in the familiar dim lighting and relaxed atmosphere, sandwiched between tourists from Brazil and Japan at the bar.  Noticing the Phantom of the Opera program booklet, I began to chat with the stranger to my right about the musical and his business trip to the Big Apple.  With his startled observation at my looking like an “oriental face,” bewilderment at the concept of student loans to pay for school and surprise at the fact that I am the same age as his daughter, Mr. Shikata reminded me of my dad in his curious and astounded reception.  To avoid giving him a heart attack from an overload of revelatory details such as how long I have lived in the States to what I am studying in grad school, I excused myself and went to check out the bathrooms.

The ladies room was fairly nice, with a plate of potpourri on a table, flowers and posters in a long restroom with two stalls and two sinks.  There’s even a slightly faded plush bench you can sit on and ample lighting by the mirrors.  From photos that our diligent men’s room correspondent KMac sent me previously, it appears that the men’s room is very similar to the women’s, but with an additional sink and two urinals.

The crucial thing to note about Birdland’s restrooms is that they are wheelchair accessible.  The signs on the doors caught my eye, as I have never before seen a club with such a feature in the city thus far.  Before moving here, it didn’t occur to me to consider accessible restrooms, but if I had, I likely would have thought of them as a necessity and not an additional feature.  But with so many clubs located underground, accommodating restrooms are rare luxuries here.

Located at ground level just a couple blocks away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square and directly across the street from a major hotel, Birdland is not only accessible, but situated in a prime sightseeing location.  Scanning the audience, I thought about how many tourists must come through each night to complete their New York experience.  Given the importance of tourism to this city’s economy, what kind of impact does it have on the jazz scene?  I hear that the market for jazz is in the European circuit, and not here—what a funny situation that would be if it’s true that our musicians make income largely by touring abroad then come home to play at venues that are also significantly funded by foreigners.

Kim from Norway tells us how to say “Where’s the restroom?” in Norwegian –

Hvor er toalettet?

One Comment on “Birdland”

  1. melody says:

    mmmmmmm, yeah, wheel chair accessible. that’s what I’m designing at work all day! So for better or worse, that’s all I think of when I’m in a public restroom haha!