In conversation with Gianni Valenti and Albare Dadon, prior to the launch of a new Melbourne jazz club in 2016.
GV: Well I am very excited, its under construction, its just the bones I’ve seen so far, but Albare is putting together a fabulous club.
JK: How big will the club be?
GV: The club is going to seat approximately 200 people . It’s going to have a full kitchen, a full bar service. We will be open seven nights a week with two shows a night.
JK: That’s a fantastic thing for the Melbourne jazz scene.
JK: Gianni, going back to Birdland, some history and your philosophy on why the club is so successful.
GV: You know, I am just carrying the torch. The club has been around for 65 years. It opened in 1949 with the musical direction of the great Charlie Parker and it was a mecca for jazz artists and the fans and we have just continued to program it properly. We’ve got a great fan base, we’ve got a lot of tradition. What we’ve added to the club that wasn’t there in 1949 is more of a dining experience and an entertainment in the evening that’s complete. That you get there and have full dinner and enjoy a great show, and the success has been booking the artists people want to hear.
JK: Do you think that over the year’s people’s taste has changed in who they want to see perform?
GV: Music has evolved obviously, the young people stepped up and have a different view of jazz and from the traditional jazz that was around years ago. I think the taste in jazz has progressed but it still has the gut and backbone of traditional jazz.
JK: So do you think that people trust Birdland so they are willing to take a risk and that it has a pedigree that its going to be good?
GV: I think that what you said is very important. When people do come to visit us in New York, and I might add that 70% of our guests come from outside of America. I would say that of those guests half of them, perhaps maybe more, know the artists. The other half are going in because they understand that Birdland gives the top quality artists and they are pretty confident that the music is going to be first class.
JK: For the musicians, what do you feel the club offers?
GV: First of all, the musicians play for us because it is a high profile club. They normally would use Birdland as a stepping stone to play anywhere else in the world. If they’ve made it to Birdland and we give them a headlining spot, this gives them more leverage in finding other venues around the world. The competition in New York is fierce and for an artist to get to that level it is so imperative for them to enhance their career.
JK: Back to the actual club and your relationship with the Blue Basement.
AD: There is only one Birdland and that is in New York. We’ve got a sister club arrangement, that’s the Blue Basement, which is a unique. Birdland doesn’t have any other arrangement like that. It’s very special.
JK: Why is Melbourne the special place that you have chosen to have an association with?
GV: We both believe that music here in Melbourne is at a very high level. I get a lot of Australians come and visit with us in New York. The music scene here is strong. Albare’s commitment to music is very much like mine. He wants to make it grow, to keep it strong, to bring top artists to Melbourne to Australia and likewise for me to bring top artists from Melbourne to New York so we can share the artists between the countries.
AD: There is going to be a lot of artists coming from the United States that play at Birdland and for the Australian artists who play at the Blue Basement, they will also be considered to play at Birdland. That’s important for both sides of the equation.
JK: That’s an incredible opportunity for musicians.
GV: I think what we are about to venture into is about the artists and about the music. Keeping it alive, keeping it strong and sharing between the two clubs.
JK: So that’s a wonderful collaboration that you are putting together. What do you hope to achieve beyond that, recordings, festivals? Or is the focus on the club?
AD: Well Joanne, what we are doing is creating a permanent festival. So this is going to be a permanent jazz festival in Melbourne, as it is a permanent jazz festival in New York. So you’re going to have quality artists that you would normally only see at a festival level, you will actually see them all the year round at the Blue Basement. That’s the idea, and of course another important idea is that Birdland’s uniqueness is to be able to be a restaurant as well as a jazz venue. You have many restaurants that are trying to be music venues and they don’t succeed. You have many music venues that try to also be a place where people go and eat and they don’t succeed. There are very few places, and I only know Birdland as the place where you have a high quality dining experience and a high quality music experience. We are trying to emulate this and the experience is most important. I think that’s going to be something that Melbourne will embrace. Because as you know, we like our food in Melbourne, we like our drinks, we like all the good things in life and what better thing to do than marrying great food and great music.
JK: It sounds great. Lucky Melbourne.
GV: Its going to be a wonderful club. Just the thought of bringing some of the artists that play at Birdland to your beautiful country. I know that they’re thrilled, those that I’ve spoken to. We can’t wait to get opened.
JK: Can you give me any names of people who might appear?
GV: I can give you a few names we have on hold. Because we are really under construction we don’t know the exact date we are looking at, maybe the end of February the middle of March, but you have the likes of Karrin Allyson, Ravi Coltrane Mike Stern, John Scofield.
AD: I can continue Joe Lovano, Leatherjackets, Dave Holland etc
JK: Thank you for talking with me. I can’t wait for the Club to open.
Venue information – http://www.bluebasement.com/