Saturday, September 27, 2014

BIRDLAND Jazzista Social Club ~ Reborn

BIRDLAND Jazzista Social Club ~ Reborn

Onstage: the charming neon sign with the blinking yellow bird

The Berkeley, California jazz club known as the Birdland Jazzista Social Club is a local legend.  Named for the unique and detailed bird houses which adorn its walls and are sold to fund the club, its true function has been to provide an after-hours music club where both students and masters are welcome to play, as jazz clubs historically have, into the early morning hours.  Though Birdland has famously functioned for years in its low-key, Berkeley home garage form, playing to sold-out crowds, the social club is expanding.  Having run afoul of various Berkeley business laws, the founder of Birdland, a former UC Berkeley lecturer on Asian American History, Michael Donato Parayno, hopes the recent move to Oakland will improve the offering.

The new sign outside the North Oakland site 
The new space at 4318 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, CA is about three blocks from the MacArthur BART Station and plans to offer live music two to four nights per week.  Entry cost will be a $10 donation.  Birdland also plans to offer "membership cards" for $40/year that offer priority admission to events, discounts on merchandise and higher-priced shows and special events as well as discounts at participating local businesses.  The club's farewell-to-Berkeley concert on April 30 and opening-in-Oakland soft launch on June 21, 2014, were played by two high-school jazz bands, all of whom had played at the previous venue many times before.  The headlining group was comprised of: Tim Lin, saxophone; Omree Gal-Oz, piano; Logan Kane, string bass; Edward Evans, trumpet; and Marcelo Perez, drums.  Though the soft launch refers in part to the space being in serious construction mode, the vibe was high and excited.  Birdland is well-known for being as accepting of students looking for places to play, as it is of more established bands and big names in jazz.  Mike not only hires them and pays them a portion of receipts, he encourages them and feeds them before the show.  There is always their famous BBQ chicken, vegies and palettes of water (the club is BYOB).  While they eat, he explains the legal and monetary difficulties of such an enterprise: cabaret licenses, food and beverage permits, etc.  It's a story of red-tape and courtroom battles.

Mike's dream is to form a musical community around a neighborhood, in this case, North Oakland, with services that appeal to concert-goers and benefit the locals.  The beginning phase of this "neighborhood music scene" that will "reinvent the entire neighborhood like Austin's music scene," includes six businesses along a five-block stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Way - Marcus Bookstore, MLK Cafe, Ray's Barbershop, The Fruit Basket, Gallagher's Liquors and Micro's Market - offering free music on Fridays and Saturdays from 9pm to midnight.  Taking advantage of these day-businesses after hours, the opening weekend included such diverse genres as blues, samba, bossa nova, West African, neo-Soul, Jazz and Cuban music.  Conversely, during the day, the 2700-square-foot Birdland building will be open as a retail space, selling Mike's one-of-a-kind birdhouses as well as offering dance and music classes.  He hopes to open the cafe component by Thanksgiving. 

Birdland's proximity to the MacArthur BART station is important; Mike has plans to include British Taxis, pedi-cabs and a Thai tuk-tuk that will be available for hire, to transport people from Birdland to BART or their vehicles (there is a spacious parking lot adjacent and ample street parking).

Mike's vision is about community-building.  Billed as the "Bay Area Arts & Music Project" (BAAMP), he says, "it can't just be about us," and hopes the neighborhood will become known as, "the Bay Area music district."  I attended two concerts in the series at the charming Marcus Bookstore, the oldest black-owned bookstore in the United States, with its striking exterior murals and beautiful, interior leaded-glass (created by the owner's brother and offered for sale).  Being in a bookstore late in the evening for an original music concert is inspiring and interesting, and allowed browsing between sets for my next read.  Blanche Richardson, co-owner of Marcus Bookstore, said of Birdland, "I think what they're doing is great.  It really instills a sense of community." 

Check it out, by clicking here: BIRDLAND WEBSITE  

***If you are interested in an insider's description of the original Birdland, read this interesting and info-rich post on Culture Spy Blog (of East Bay Express) by the eloquent and obviously, seriously cool,  Simma Lieberman.*** Below her post, is my own. ***
SCROLL DOWN, just below Bibliography -OR- click here ---> Simma Lieberman


Birdland Jazzista Social Club. September 27, 2014 <>.

Martersteck, Paula. "Birdland Jazzista Social Club Hopes to Establish an Oakland Music District." Culture Spy. April 18, 2014. September 27, 2014 <>.

***** Simma Lieberman post about Birdland on the Culture Spy Blog: *****

If you live in Berkeley, Ca and you haven’t been to the Birdland Jazzista Social Club, then you haven’t really experienced Berkeley.

A lot of people like to talk about diversity, community, and inclusion, but it’s just talk. They like the idea of diversity, of people from different cultures, backgrounds and interests converging, as part of their romantic ideal, but their actions and the people they have in their lives, don’t demonstrate what they say they believe. Some of these people have not rarely if ever been inside the homes of people different than themselves, nor have they ever invited any one different to share a meal, and have a meaningful conversation.

But Michael Parayno has not only shared meals and conversation with people from diverse backgrounds, he’s built a social club in his garage, where people who represent almost every, and any difference converge together on Friday, and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons to eat massive amounts of barbecue and listen to live jazz, blues and play dominoes, cards, checkers and chess on small tables set up on the sidewalk.

Before I became a member, I would pass by this house with weird looking old English cars, birdhouses, loud music, the smell of barbecue, and hundreds of people from every dimension of diversity going in and out. I was curious, and wanted to know how someone could have such big parties every weekend, and not invite me.

So one night, on my drive home, I passed his house; saw the garage door open, and Michael standing outside. I couldn’t stand it any longer, I had to know, so I pulled over, jumped out of my car, and said, “What the heck is gong on, and how do I get invited?”

Fourteen months ago, Michael (who was known for designing and building his world famous birdhouses) bought his first grill, and invited a few neighbors over to barbecue, and listen to jazz on the radio. Everyone had such a great time, they decided to do it again, and they invited a few more people, who had such a great time, that they had another barbecue. Not only did they invite more people they knew, but they started inviting anyone who happened to be walking up their street.

One of Michael’s friends from Malaysia, Morgan Lim, offered to cook Satay, and then they decided to have a “multi-culti,” grill with barbecue recipes from a myriad of cultures.

One Friday night, one of Michael’s neighbors brought his jazz trio, and everyone got to listen to live jazz instead of the radio. Naturally, the next step was to continue with more live jazz, and Michael decided to build a stage, get a professional sound system, and create a night club, with lights, and furnishings, where everyone could feel at home, and the Birdland Jazzista Social Club was formed.

Parayno’s Birdland Jazzista Social Club is a true “multi-culti,” community. Michael says, “we have people of all ages from embryos to people in their late 80.’s. This is a social club where gay, straight, Black, White, Asian, Latino, and people from every other culture can feel at home, including homeless folks.” “I want to bring back the idea and practice of people being a real community,” “We have people, food and music, from 8:00 PM-5:00 AM

It costs $20.00 to join, and then regular donation is $10.00 of which goes to the musicians.
“Actually, Michael said, “the $10.00 is only for the music, There is never a
charge for food and drink because food and drinks should not be monetized among friends in a social club .”

On a Friday night, the number of people who attend can easily reach 250, and on Saturday nights at least 150 show up to hear blues.

“I want people to associate jazz as party music again, and equate it to having a good time. Jazz is for the masses and all classes,” Parayno declares.

He told me, “this is a place where my young immigrant students learn how to interact and interface with people who have been in the US all of their lives instead of just hanging around with people of their own ethnic background. “

And in keeping with the ideas in my article, “How Jay-Z, Eminem, and Steve Jobs Can Bring Us to Salvation,” I believe that spending time at Birdland, sitting on one of the leather couches, or on a folding chair listening, conversing and grooving to the music, one minute with a homeless person and the next minute with a Silicon Valley CEO, can bring us to inclusion and community.

If you find yourself in the SF Bay Area, you can go to the website, where you can find the menu and music calendar. Birdland has musicians through November, The word is out and it’s gone viral, musicians who come out to San Francisco to play at the upscale venues, make it a point to also play at Birdland. Be prepared to be welcomed like an old friend and make some new ones.
6 likes, 0 dislikes  

Posted by Simma Lieberman on 04/21/2014 at 11:00 AM

As a parent of a jazz student who has benefitted immensely from Mike's wide vision and love of community, I can say that Birdland has become an extraordinary & essential stop along the Bay Area Jazz Education Continuum. High School students, Jazzbos in training, bitten by the jazz bug, compete for precious few spots in the conglomerate All-Star Bands at SFJAZZ, the Studio Bands at the California Jazz Conservatory (formerly, the Jazzschool, in the Berkeley theater district) and elsewhere, still need a place to play and a place to listen, talk and grow beyond the group.  Many of these players also write music and it is indispensable to them to be able to showcase their work in this under-21 environment.  These kids are the NEXT GENERATION!  Mike is their adoptive cool-father-figure and his one-of-a-kind bird houses, their metaphorical homes!
Posted by Shamera Kane on 09/27/2014 at 4:01 PM

No comments:

Post a Comment