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Artist Interviews
Return of Birdland – Our Chat With Gianni Valenti

Over the past few months, we have been chronicling what is happening at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City with our good friend, owner and proprietor, Gianni Valenti. The club is now open and we thought it might be interesting to see how things are going.

The Weekender: Gianni, we are thrilled to hear that Birdland is now open. How does it feel to be back in business?
Gianni: It’s wonderful to have my team, to have the artists and the music around me once again. I spent 15 months without that and it was the worst time I’ve ever experienced in my life.

The Weekender: To what extent is your operation restricted or limited?
Gianni: The restrictions we have are self-imposed. We’ve asked for vaccine proof for all of our artists and all of our employees, and soon to be, all patrons. We have found it has been much appreciated and welcomed by the arts community, and reassuring to our staff. It was a great precedent to set and will soon be enforced all over New York, other cities are following suit as well.

The Weekender: What was the biggest challenge to your reopening? We understand that securing servers, etc. has been very difficult for club owners.
Gianni: The biggest challenge to reopening was being idle for over 15 months. We had to retool the club mechanically because things break down with disuse. We had to improve the spaces cosmetically. We had to change the drapes, repaint, replace flooring, refinish all bar surfaces and stages. It feels, in many ways, like a new room. As for staffing, we were blessed that most of my staff returned when they heard we were reopening, and we had many eager newcomers as well. We are fully staffed, and have been lucky not to face that challenge.

The Weekender: Who is on the lineup roster for the rest of August?
Gianni: We have a fantastic August planned. We are celebrating Charlie Parker’s Centenntial that we missed last August with a great lineup. We have Billy Stritch, Charles Tolliver hosted by Danny Glover, Arturo O’Farrill and his octet, (recently signed to Blue Note Records) and our many popular weekly residencies.

The Weekender: We hear that New York is back and we hear that many places have closed and that people are moving out. What is your take on the Big Apple?
Gianni: Presently, Times Square is not back to normal. Broadway is still closed, hotels are still closed, we have very few tourists visiting us at this time. But in other neighborhoods, the Village, the Upper West Side, New Yorkers are out in full force. We are thrilled that even though our neighborhood is still struggling to return, we have had the full support of our community coming out and supporting the arts, it is heartwarming and reinforces my belief that Birdland is here to stay.

The Weekender: Tell us something encouraging about the jazz scene in New York City?
Gianni: The jazz scene in New York City is thriving. People are hungry for live music and artists are eager to play for live crowds. Birdland is here to make sure that happens.