Reason #55 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

Yardbird Suite

By Emil Tiedemann

Considered “the bedrock of jazz venues in Canada,” the legendary Yardbird Suite, along Tommy Banks Way in Old Strathcona (since 1984), is the country’s oldest jazz club. Run entirely by dedicated volunteers, the Yardbird has a legacy of jazz music stemming all the way back to March 23, 1957, when a group of local musicians opened the original club on Whyte Avenue and 104th. 
 
The neon sign outside of the famed Yardbird Suite, on Gateway Blvd.


Ken Chaney, Neil Gunn, Terry Hawkeye, Garry Nelson, Ron Repka, and Ray & Zen Magus knew they had something special here when they founded the Yardbird in a town not exactly known for its jazz scene. They named the venue after Charlie Parker’s 1946 bebop standard “Yardbird Suite,” which itself derives from Parker’s own nickname “Bird.” 

Although the great Parker never played the Yardbird (he died two years before it opened), plenty of jazz greats have taken to the stage at one of the Yardbird’s four incarnations, including Nat King Cole, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Don Cherry, Chick Corea, and Edmonton’s own Big Miller, P.J. Perry, and Tommy Banks
 
Edmonton's own jazz legend Big Miller.



The Yardbird also happens to be the official performance venue of the Edmonton Jazz Society, home of the Edmonton International Jazz Festival and Edmonton Jazz Orchestra, and a catalyst for future jazz greatness, offering creative workshops, clinic sessions, and jazz programming for emerging artists throughout the year. 

Although Edmonton may never be known as one of the great jazz towns in North America, head down to the Yardbird and you’d never know it. #yardbirdsuite
 

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