From the 1930s into the early 50s, if you flagged a taxi in NYC and asked to be taken to “The Street,” you would be driven, without giving a number or an avenue, to 52nd Street. There were so many jazz joints and clubs along 52nd Street that it also became known as “Swing Street.” Jazz greats including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Louis Prima, Billie Holiday, Fats Waller, Ella Fitzgerald, Marian McPartland, and many more artists played almost nightly and easily would perform in more than one club in any given month. It’s from this street that the bebop tune called “52nd Street Theme” by Thelonious Monk became a live jazz standard.
Club Bonafide, located at 212 East 52nd Street, is bringing music back to 52nd Street with the same open, embracing attitude. The club was founded in 2015 by world-renowned musician Richard Bona and restaurateur Laurent Dantonio. Bona viewed Club Bonafide as a vehicle for reigniting an openness within venues both by doing away with exclusivity clauses and by looking to instill a more genre-blind booking. In this way, the club hopes to encourage a celebration of live music and an environment of collaboration that is crucial to building a scene. “Charlie Parker was performing on 52nd Street every night,” Bona notes. “And that’s part of what made him great. The artists have to be able to perform, and it helps no one if a great musician can only play in New York at a major club maybe three times a year.”