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The Hippest Place on Earth

Five Spot Jazz Club

 

— 5 Cooper Sq. —

 
The Hippest Place on Earth Marker image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, July 12, 2016
1. The Hippest Place on Earth Marker
Inscription.  
You are standing at the former site of the Five Spot Café, which in the 1950s and ‘60s was owned and operated by brothers Joe and Iggy Termini, who brought in the era’s most progressive jazz artists, including Thelonious Monk, Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy, Charles Mingus, Randy Weston and John Coltrane.

Some of Billie Holiday’s last performances took place here. Because the authorities had seized her cabaret card, the engagements could not be publicized, but the club filled up by word of mouth alone.

In 1959, saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s Five Spot debut introduced free improvisation to mainstream jazz discourse. Although composer Leonard Bernstein visited one night and loudly declared it “the greatest thing that has ever happened in jazz,” Colman’s music remains controversial to this day.

THE New York destination for bohemians and visiting intelligentsia, Five Spot regulars included painter Robert Rauschenberg, poets Ted Joans and Amiri Baraka, and novelists Jack Kerouac and James Baldwin. During the club’s existence, whether as listeners or as performers, the most adventurous artists of the time came
5 Cooper Square image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, July 14, 2016
2. 5 Cooper Square
The marker is on the Cooper Square side fence.
through the Five Spot’s doors.

In 1963, the club moved to Two St. Mark’s Place and Cooper Square, where it lasted until the early 1970’s.
- David Neil Lee, author, The Battle of the Five Spot
 
Erected 2016 by Bowery Alliance of Neighbors.
 
Location. 40° 43.646′ N, 73° 59.479′ W. Marker is in New York, New York, in New York County. Marker is on Cooper Square/Bowery near East 4th & East 5th Streets, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5 Cooper Square, New York NY 10003, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. 27 Cooper Sq. (a few steps from this marker); Vauxhall Gardens (within shouting distance of this marker); 27 Cooper Square (within shouting distance of this marker); Paresis Hall (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Old Merchants House of New York (about 300 feet away); Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) (about 400 feet away); Firehouse Engine Company No. 33 (about 500 feet away); De Vinne Press Building (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in New York.
 
More about this marker. One of more than sixty entries in the “Windows on the Bowery” series.
 
Categories. Arts, Letters, Music
 
Inset image. Click for full size.
3. Inset
Crowd outside the Five Spot
Inset image. Click for full size.
4. Inset
John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Ahmed Abdul-Malik at Five Spot, 1957
Inset image. Click for full size.
5. Inset
Ornette Coleman (1930-2015)
Inset image. Click for full size.
6. Inset
Billie Holiday (1915-1959)
Writer Kenneth Koch recalled: “It was very close to the end of her life with her voice almost gone, just like a whisper, just like the taste of very old wine but full of spirit…Everybody wanted her to sing, Everybody was crazy about her.”
Quote from City Poet: Life and Times of Frank O’Hara by Brad Gooch
Inset image. Click for full size.
7. Inset
 

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Credits. This page was last revised on April 17, 2019. This page originally submitted on April 12, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 43 times since then. Last updated on April 17, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on April 12, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.   7. submitted on April 14, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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