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A Cafe Brewing Fresh Jazz

5th Street Dick's serves coffee, ambience and some of this town's hottest musical notes.

April 02, 1998|TRACY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When it comes to cafes, 5th Street Dick's is one of the places that just beckons coffeehouse junkies. It's not the kind of joint where you can order a latte or mocha six different ways or buy coffee and freshly ground beans from Colombia.

It's a cafe for the java scenester who seeks a more eclectic caffeine scene. 5th Street is a neighborhood cafe that sits on a busy corner in Leimert Park Village. Neighbors who are out walking their dogs stop by to chat with the folks hanging on the plastic patio furniture scattered around the downstairs patio. Starting about 9 each night, they can overhear the music coming from the upstairs performance stage.

It's a no-frills cafe, big on ambience, with some of the best jazz in town.

And it just got bigger. Owner Richard Fulton moved the 6-year-old venue in this artsy Crenshaw District enclave to this two-story building a few doors down the block two months ago so the folks coming there would have more space to spread out.

At the new 5th Street, there is an assortment of poets, musicians and neighbors hanging out down below in the cafe on green patio chairs. There are sofas in the front of the room, candles everywhere and the room is alive with chatter. It's totally casual.

For a few extra bucks, you can climb to the bigger, better but still intimate second-floor loft, where true-blue jazzmen jam next to posters of legendary musicians like Miles Davis. The space is small so the music is right in your face where it belongs.

During the week, 5th Street denizens opt for hanging down below, letting the music of the four-piece Dale Fielder Quartet serve as the backdrop, but as the weekend gets closer, the cabaret-style room with its blue sky and clouds painted on the ceiling fills up with a crowd.

When the weekend rolls around and the Ronald Muldrow Jazz Quartet takes over, 5th Street's in full swing. The band plays into the hour when Cinderella's carriage turns into a pumpkin, and when they're done, a true-blue jazz jam gets underway with all the musicians in the house. On Friday and Saturday nights, the place typically doesn't shut down until 4 a.m.

Outside, the folks chat each other up, sometimes too loudly for the folks on the stage upstairs. But 5th Street is the kind of place where the entertainers can tell the crowd to pipe down and they'll listen. At least for a little while.

Though 5th Street is known best for its great jazz, which takes the stage Tuesday through Sunday nights, it's also an artsy-beatnik sort of place where upcoming talent can try new material. Monday's Coffee, Tea and Comedy is crawling with comics looking for a laugh.

The 9 p.m. show aims to be funny, but not filthy--TV-clean--and the hosts hold the comedians to some pretty strict standards. No swearing, no dirty jokes and no using the "n" word. Anyone who steps out of line gets a mouth full before the punch line.

After all, Fulton strives for good, clean fun at 5th Street.

"This is a place where you can bring a 2-year-old child or a 95-year-old man," Fulton said. "It's a place for everyone in the community."

BE THERE

5th Street Dick's Coffee Company, 3335 W. 43rd Place, Leimert Park. (213) 296-3370. All ages. No cover.

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