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The Birdlanders

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United in New York, the Birdlanders was a group of all-star musicians who recorded several bebop-oriented sessions in 1954. However, the brains behind the Birdlanders was not a native New Yorker, but rather, the well-known French pianist/producer Henri Renaud (born April 20, 1925, Villedieu-sur-Indre, France). The Birdlanders were so-named because they were regulars at Manhattan's famous Birdland nightclub, whose name was inspired by the seminal bebop alto saxman Charlie "Bird" Parker. At the time, Birdland was among New York's top jazz venues, and in the early 2000s, there was still a Manhattan jazz club calling itself Birdland (although Birdland's original location is long gone). Renaud's Birdlanders project was officially underway on January 28, 1954, when he produced a trio that consisted of Duke Jordan on piano, Gene Ramey on bass, and Lee Abrams on drums. All of them were regulars at Birdland and the same goes for the improvisers who Renaud picked for sessions on March 5, 7, and 11, 1954. That month, the Birdlanders sessions that Renaud produced included J.J. Johnson or Kai Winding on trombone; Al Cohn on tenor sax; Milt Jackson on vibes and piano; Tal Farlow on guitar; Gene Ramey, Percy Heath, or Oscar Pettiford on upright bass; and Max Roach, Charlie Smith, or Denzil Best on drums. Renaud, in addition to serving as producer, was the pianist on the Birdlanders' March sessions. Whether the Birdlanders were playing up-tempo material or ballads, they were very much a bebop outfit — no swing, no Dixieland, no classic jazz — and they were quite representative of what jazz fans were hearing at Birdland in the '50s. Those 1954 sessions resulted in three LPs, all of them on the Period label. And in 2000, the Birdlanders' recordings were reissued on CD when Fantasy assembled two CDs for its Original Jazz Classics series: The Birdlanders, Vol. 1 and The Birdlanders, Vol. 2.

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