Five Spot Café

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The Five Spot Café was a jazz club located at 5 Cooper Square in the Bowery neighbourhood of New York City.


In 1937, Salvatore Termini (b. 1884) purchased what was then known as the Bowery Café, a working-class bar located under the Third Avenue El. In 1946, two of Termini's sons, Joe and Ignatze (Iggy), returned from the war and helped run the bar. In 1951, the sons purchased the business from their father and renamed it the No. 5 Bar.

In late 1955 the Third Avenue El was demolished and the city embarked on a revitalization of the Bowery. During this time many artists were drawn to the area due to the cheaper rent prices compared to Greenwich Village. Pianist Don Shoemaker was among the influx of artists who moved to the Bowery. Occupying a studio at 1 Cooper Square above the No. 5 Bar, Shoemaker hosted jam sessions during which he would purchase beer from the Terminis. Shoemaker eventually told Joe that if the bar would purchase a piano, he and his band would play. Joe bought a used upright piano, received a cabaret licence on 30 August 1956, and opened a week later under the name the Five Spot Café. Artists such as painters Herman Cherry, David Smith, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell, Alfred Leslie, Larry Rivers, Grace Hartigan, Jack Tworkov, Michael Goldberg, Roy Newell, Howard Kanovitz and writers Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O'Hara, Ted Joans, and Gregory Corso began frequenting the club.

The first official engagement at the 5 Spot was Cecil Taylor, whose band featured Buell Neidlinger on bass and Dennis Charles on drums. Later, Steve Lacy (then still Steve Lackritz) was added to the band. Originally, Taylor's band was initially hired to accompany Dick Whitmore, but Whitmore quit after three nights, giving the job to Taylor.[1] The gig lasted from 29 November 1956 to 3 January 1957.

On 4 July 1957, Thelonious Monk's quartet featuring John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Wilbur Ware on bass, and Shadow Wilson on drums began a six-month stay at the club. Ware was later replaced by Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Coltrane by Johnny Griffin, and Wilson by Roy Haynes. This was Monk's first extended engagement.

The original Café was demolished in 1962 to make way for senior housing and the club moved to 2 St. Marks Place. That location discontinued live music in 1967 and the brothers let their cabaret licence lapse as live jazz dipped in popularity.[2] It resumed jazz performances in 1974, having briefly changed its name to the Two Saints, but closed in January 1976, having hosted final performances in 1975, because it was never able to regain a cabaret license.[2][3]

Ornette Coleman Quartet New York debut[edit]

On 17 November 1959, the Ornette Coleman Quartet from Los Angeles made its New York debut at the Five Spot. The Quartet featured Coleman on alto saxophone, Don Cherry on cornet, Charlie Haden on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums. The engagement was originally scheduled to last two weeks, but due to its success was extended to ten weeks, ending in late January 1960. Musicians such as Leonard Bernstein, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane were among the attendees on the opening night. On 5 April 1960 the quartet returned to the Five Spot for a second engagement which lasted four months, thus ending in late October 1960. This second engagement featured Ed Blackwell on drums replacing Higgins.

Live recordings[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spellman, A. B. (2004). Four Jazz Lives. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. p. 67. 
  2. ^ a b "The Highs and Lows of a Great Jazz Club" by Gary Giddons. The Village Voice, Feb 16, 1976
  3. ^ "A Pizza Restaurant With Toppings Of Jazz" by Owen McNally. The Hartford Courant June 05, 1997 [1]
  4. ^ Schwartz, Andy. "Perfect Sound Forever: Soundscape". Retrieved 11 May 2016. 

Joey DeFrancesco - Live at the Five Spot (Columbia - 1993)

Kelley, Robin D. G. Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original. New York: Free Press, 2009.