“The Five Spot” Spirit at The Jazz Kitchen

David Linard, the jazz piano player with “Sammy Miller and the Congregation” in New York City, came home for the holidays and joined “The Uncle Dan and Sophie Jam” at The Jazz Kitchen for a great night of music and talk. David joined his friend Sophie Faught on saxophone and her trio of Nick Tucker on bass and Sammy Phelps on drums. Just before the close of the last number Joel Tucker, brother of Nick, showed up with his guitar and a true jam sessions rocked The Jazz Kitchen. I have not heard that pitch of jazz and felt the spirit it created in the room since my nights at the legendary Five Spot in The Bowery in New York in the Fifties, when John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk and Charles Mingus – and my friend David Amram – held the stage there.

This was the second rendition of “The Uncle Dan and Sophie Jam,” and we continued our theme that began with “Starting Out” with Sophie and my stories of what it was like starting our as a musician in the current era, and as a writer in New York in the Fifties, with music to match the mood of our experiences. We moved on this time to “The Big Break,” which for Sophie was playing with Nicholas Payton at Lincoln Center, and for me was covering the Emmett Till Murder Trial in Mississippi in 1955. David Linard joined us with the story of his audition at Julliard, when he played “Voyage,” with the music’s composer listening as one of the judges – and David played it for us. Sophie told of having to be ready to play any one of dozens of compositions that Payton might play and expect her to know it and she played for us “Neffertiti,” the Miles David composition she played with Nick Payton that night at Lincoln Center.

For my reminiscence of the Emmett Till Trial, when I described arriving in the town square of Sumner, the Mississippi town where the trial took place, Linard struck a deep, shuddering bass chord and played “Dixie,” and after describing the trial that found the murderers “Not guilty” [they later confessed for pay in a magazine article] I read the first sentence of my article for The Nation: “The crowds are gone, and this Delta town is back to its silent, solid life that is based on cotton and the proposition that a whole race of men was created to pick it.” I had originally asked that “We Shall Overcome” be played, but after I thought of the darkness of the trial and what it represented, I asked that instead our musicians play “God Bless The Child.” They did it, with the sacred beauty it deserved.

As I sat back and listened to these young, super-talented and dedicated musicians play on with the music that is truly American, sustaining a spirit that refuses to be crushed, sustaining all of us who are open to it, I thought of a great response from Kurt Vonnegut. He had said that the purpose of all art was to make people happy, and a sharp-tongued questioner said “What’s an example?” Without missing a beat, Kurt said “The Beatles.” The answer could have been David Linard, Sophie Faught, Nick Tucker, Sammy Phelps and Joel Tucker at The Jazz Kitchen Tuesday night. When they played, no one remembered how cold it was outside.

2 Responses to “The Five Spot” Spirit at The Jazz Kitchen

  1. David Amram January 9, 2018 at 3:15 pm #

    Dear Dan

    After reading this SPLENDID reportage of how an evening of great music at the Jazz Kitchen in Naptown in 2017 tied together many great evenings of music in 1957 at the old Five Spot (60 years ago!!!), you reminded us all that John Keats was on the case when he wrote “a thing of beauty is a joy forever”

    Just like the Lascaux Cave paintings of 25,000 years ago which still draw crowds today and give PLEASURE, all sincere art forms created from
    the heart and built to last will ALWAYS be relevant!!

    Today’s fashion usually ends up in tomorrow’s landfill so thank you for reminding us of the importance of keeping it real.

    I can hardly wait to get back to Naptown to see you again , play with Sophie’s band, take a stroll in Dan Wakefield Park, have a beer at the Red
    Key, a sandwich at the Jazz Kitchen and stroll down Indiana Ave to revisit old haunts from the early 50s

    And see all the great creative young folks in TODAY’s Naptown (and hear Pat’s son play the cello)

    I’m off to Cuba Monday for a week, invited to play at the Havana Jazz Festival.

    my last time in Cuba was 41 ago when my band , along with the bands of Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and Earl Hines all went to Havana as the first US musicians to go there to play with Cuban musicians since the revolution

    Dizzy, Stan and Earl are all now on the other side, so i’ll try to share that spirit of inclusiveness that we all brought with us 41 years ago to celebrate the lasting beauty of Afro-Cuban roots music and jazz.

    Keep up your fine work

    We NEED IT!!!

    all cheers


  2. Aleta Hodge January 9, 2018 at 9:44 pm #

    Hi Dan & David,

    Wow! Sorry, I missed this episode of “The Uncle Dan and Sophie Jam” at The Jazz Kitchen.
    A year ago, I saw Joel Tucker and his band playing a very mellow tribute show in honor of Wes Montgomery. Not very many guitarists can emulate the “Wes style.”

    In my new book, “Indiana Avenue – Life and Musical Journey from 1915 to 2105,” there is a photo from The Five Spot” that David Amram shared with me. He is playing the French horn
    in his younger years and the Five Spot is packed to the rim. I hope you enjoy the photo and memories of the 1950s in NYC!

    Music unites us,

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Dan Wakefield

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