Birdland Jazz finds a new home at Café Yesterday

Birdland Jazz logo. Photos: Eric Arnold

Late last year Michael Parayno, the founder of arguably the hippest garage jazz club and barbecue joint in town, was having some serious run-ins with the city — as first reported on Berkeleyside.

Parayno was operating a very popular supper club, then called the Multi Culti Grill and Birdland Jazz, out of his Sacramento Street residential address across from North Berkeley BART. Almost 150 people commented on the three posts we wrote about his situation, the vast majority in support of his underground music venue.

The first time Parayno was busted by the city for code violations he simply reinvented his Friday night soirées as a private party, the Birdland Jazzista Social Club, much in the manner of the SF Underground Market in San Francisco. But in the end both much-loved events were shut down this summer by their respective cities for various zoning infractions. In Parayno’s case, he was cited for code violations, twice.

Nothing if not persistent, Parayno, who has developed a loyal and vocal following among both music lovers and jazz musicians, has relocated his jams to the nearby Café Yesterday on University Avenue, a quirky new addition to the neighborhood that is run by two SoCal refugees with music and movie backgrounds.


The café is best known for its wide-ranging breakfast cereal bar, though it also sells standard coffee house fare like salads, sandwiches, and cookies — in addition to Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms, and Cocoa Puffs.

Michael Parayno, founder of Birdland.

The move came about because Parayno is a regular at the nonprofit, community-oriented café’s open mic nights on Thursdays. When the owners heard about Parayno’s plight, they promptly offered up their space; Birdland was back in business six days after shutting down.

An unofficial “soft launch” kicked things off on on August 6th with the GG Amos Blues Band, and the Billy Buss Quartet. (Buss is a graduate of the Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble.)

The food plays second fiddle these days; it’s more of a potluck scene with people, including Parayno, bringing food to share and the café selling tea, coffee, and pastries.

The Bird Man (Parayno is know for his birdhouse designs) is grateful to have a new home and extra help to keep the club going. Still, he says, it’s hard to top the garage band nights, a sentiment echoed repeatedly in the comment section of this East Bay Express story, where performers and attendees alike lament the passing of the old birdhouse venue.

“There is nothing quite like Birdland in the entire Bay Area that I know of. It is not, per se, a club, bar, or an establishment,” wrote Robin 616. “It is a gathering place where the art of music is shared with the community in an atmosphere of mutual respect and admiration. It is where kindred souls gather to be soothed, uplifted, inspired, rejuvenated, recharged and restored. Music from all over the world is played here.”

Still, the show must go on. Birdland Jazz on Sacramento Street is a thing of the past. The future for the music meet-up may well be found at Café Yesterday. Parayno certainly hopes people swing by to find out.

Birdland Jazzista Social Club is at Café Yesterday, 1122 University Street (@ San Pablo) on Friday, August 26 — Grupo Falsa Baiano, 8:30 p.m., Clifford Brown’s Brewing Company  11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 27 — The Adrian Gormley Ensemble  8:30 p.m., Nerio Degracia Mambo Jazztet 11:00 p.m.

Sarah Henry is the voice behind Lettuce Eat Kale. You can follow her on Twitter and become a fan of Lettuce Eat Kale on Facebook.

Related:
What next for the Multi Culti Grill and Birdland Jazz Club [12.10.10]
Must-haves: A couch in the garage, a grill in the driveway [12.13.10]
Birdland Jazz and Multi Culti Grill: Update [12.17.10]
Out In Berkeley: Mo’Fone — distilling the essence of funk [06.30.11]