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A Perfectly Tuned Evening Every Time...
Opened in 2008, The Dirty Dog is one of the premiere destinations in the United States for world class Jazz and cuisine. It combines the charm of an English-style pub with intimacy and meticulous attention to detail and hospitality.
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The Dirty Dog brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
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October 4, 2016

JAZZ AND DEMOCRACY

 

America’s music, jazz reflects the best principles of our political system when it is working.

 

2016 ELECTIONS

 

This is a presidential election year and my first choices for the office will be missing on the ballot. I have a long list of candidates who possess all the qualities I would be looking for. Some that come immediately to mind are bassist Rodney Whitaker, saxophonist Diego Rivera and drummer Sean Dobbins. I know a lot of men and women who play jazz who have the character traits that are necessary to bring a community together to produce a glorious result. This isn’t all that easy. Keeping a group focused on a common goal requires hard work, commitment, passion, compassion, the acknowledgement of mistakes and the ability to change course. All of these traits are essential to playing jazz and to maintaining a democracy.

 

WE ALL CAN LEARN FROM JAZZ

 

I have had the opportunity to be in the room when some of Detroit’s jazz musicians discussed the roles that the different instruments play in a jazz band. They were surrounded by wide eyed young people who listened intently to these important musical heroes as they demonstrated the importance democracy was to allow these different elements to coexist with and actually enhance one another.

 

The group included Diego Rivera, Sean Dobbins and was led by Rodney Whitaker. Wynton Marsalis had given Rodney the opportunity to bring the remarkable program LET FREEDOM SWING to Michigan and to Detroit’s school children where I saw them in action.

 

“Jazz is like a musical democracy; when you get on the bandstand to play, it doesn’t matter what color you are; what matters is if you can play—and anyone can speak that language.” RODNEY WHITAKER”

 

LET FREEDOM SWING
Sandra Day O’Connor, a Republican and retired Supreme Court Justice, and Wynton Marsalis, an avowed Musician, joined together to create a children’s program called Let Freedom Swing. The program informs the kids about the structure and purpose of our political institutions and how a jazz band relies on the same principles.

 

Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and jazz composer, trumpeter, and educator Wynton Marsalis getting together is something that you would suspect in a functioning democracy and certainly in the jazz world. Their program asks students to think about how many voices from different places and different backgrounds become one. How do you strike a balance between the best interests of an individual and the best interests of the group, in both jazz and democracy?

 

Children in the program are asked to see the push and pull between individual rights and, the “greater good” in both democratic society and jazz performance. Activities and discussion questions center on the system of checks and balances in the Constitution, the importance of listening, and the importance of staying involved in society and music.

 

No other musical form allows you to learn so much about the person behind the instrument than jazz. Jazz is very personable and passionate, allowing for such incredible creativity of expression and style. With this comes the ability to form strong connections with its audiences.

 

THE JAZZ AND DEMOCRACY PROJECT

 

This program uses jazz as a metaphor to bring American democracy to life, enrich the study of U.S. History in elementary, middle, and high school, and inspire youth to become active, positive contributors to their community. Students explore the importance of Listening, Critical Thinking, Voice, Choice, Preparation, Participation, Cooperation, Peaceful Negotiation, and America’s Classical Music . . . Jazz.

 

Kabir Sehgal, who is a serious man wrote a book on jazz and democracy in which he pointed out:

 

“Sometimes a jam session includes trading fours, where each member of the band takes four measures to solo. If someone forgets to play his four, there is a flagrant void of sound. If you play one measure extra, you’re not respecting the form. In the 1950s, jazz musicians became the literal embodiment of American democracy. Through one of the largest ever funded cultural projects, premier jazz musicians traveled to places beyond the Iron Curtain, and throughout the Third World in an effort to promulgate ideals of democracy”.

 

MY TAKE ON JAZZ AND DEMOCRACY

 

I wrote this earlier in the year but it is still true.

 

I grew up without television which left our family with a lot of time to sit and stare at each other. We seldom did. We chose to listen to the news as dinner was prepared after which we sat down for our meal and discussed what we heard.

 

Following dinner we sat around the radio and listened to music. These were the best times. This is maybe why I prefer to listen to music than to the cacophony of the candidates talking about themselves.

 

All the candidates could learn something from listening to more jazz and less of the advice from their handlers. What they would hear in their local jazz joint would be a group dedicated to making joyous sounds together. Together they make the group sound its very best. Each artist will listento the other and make everyone better. This is democracy at work.

 

SOME OF MY CHOICES FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES ARE COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG

 

DIEGO RIVERA will demonstrate democracy this week when he brings his band to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. He generally has musicians who are also band leaders yet can set individual goals aside in the interest of the group. These leaders lead us into some great jazz.

 

John Osler

 

OCTOBER 5 – 8

 

DIEGO RIVERA

 

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November 20, 2014

Award-winning drummer, Gayelynn McKinney is a member of the musical McKinney family and is promoting its legacy as one of the most respected families in Detroit’s cultural community. Her father was the highly revered composer, pianist, and educator, Harold McKinney (1928-2001) and her late mother, Gwendolyn Shepherd McKinney, was an accomplished singer. She is also related to Grammy winning record producer/pianist, Carlos McKinney, Jazz bassist Ray McKinney, trombonist Kiane Zawadi and many others. .

 

Growing up in a musical family was a advantageous for Gayelynn. She started playing drums at age two after her parents bought her a small drum set, and told her “here honey, beat on these”, after watching her make rhythmic sounds with household items. She started taking lessons at age 8 and went on to receive a music degree from Oakland University. She then began performing professionally both nationally and internationally. In the 1980’s McKinney co-founded the Grammy nominated, ground breaking, all-female Jazz group Straight Ahead, who are currently still active.

 

Today, Ms. McKinney is one of Detroit’s most accomplished instrumentalists and teachers. She has traveled extensively, performing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, etc. and has accompanied major artists from Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan to Roy Hargrove, Larry Coryell and Steve Turre. Besides performing, teaching music is another one of her passions. She is currently in-residence at Martin Luther King High School, and told me, how much she loves watching the students learn and develop their own sound. She also finds it rewarding when they continue on to college with some receiving full scholarships – crediting her with inspiring them along the way.

 

This year she was “thrilled” to receive a highly coveted Kresge Foundation fellowship. It enables her to complete her McKinfolk Project, which pays tribute to her father’s legacy by releasing some of his unheard compositions. She says she wants to “re-do his stuff for a new generation”. Incorporating the talents of pianist Geri Allen, saxophonist James Carter and vocalist Kevin Mahogany she plans to finish this first class project by Spring with a release on Detroit Music Factory Records.

 

Ms. McKinney is playing Thursday November 20 through Saturday, November 22  at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. She’s with pianist Chris Codish’s band featuring Ralph Tope on guitar, and Pat Prouty on bass.  You won’t want to miss seeing and hearing her talents in action.  See the Dirty Dog website for set times and information.

 

 

 

Dad_and_Gayelynn

 

Gayelynn and her dad, the late Harold McKinney (1928-2001), a highly revered composer, educator, and pianist who played with such Jazz greats as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Gene Krupa, Sarah Vaughn and many others. He was also a musical patriarch who inspired countless Detroit area musicians with his positive vision and approach

 

 

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Drummer, Gayelynn McKinney, performing at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe

Photo: John Osler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dad_and_Gayelynn

 

Gayelynn and her dad, the late Harold McKinney (1928-2001), a highly revered composer, educator, and pianist who played with such Jazz greats as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Gene Krupa, Sarah Vaughn and many others. He was also a musical patriarch who inspired countless Detroit area musicians with his positive vision and approach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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