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Upbeats With John Osler
April 22, 2019

On April 15 fire ravished Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.




Images of Our Lady of Paris burning filled our screens last week.  We often see fires burning other people’s forests or buildings. This was not the same. This was a safe place that we all shared and for almost a thousand years this beautiful building was a constant reminder that we as a people are OK. and we are capable of creating a peaceful and welcoming space that is filled with art and purpose and is itself a piece of art.




The Notre Dame Cathedral will be rebuilt because we will always need safe harbors.






We need safe places. We need places where we feel embraced yet free. We need a place that is beautiful to our eyes, ears and nose. In sports it is called the sweet spot and in life I don’t know what it is called, but you know it when you find it. When I was a boy I had a tree branch that I could climb to where no one else could bother me. I was tall and farseeing when I was there. I have had places to paint like that later in life.




Artists need places like this. They need people around them that help them find their “sweet spot”





Last week was a holy week for many. Around the world people gathered together to find peace of mind. Families reunited in their homes and in their places of worship. We were forgiven, fed and comforted in familiar safe places.  Monday of last week the Detroit Jazz Festival held their monthly jam session at the Dirty Dog. The club was jammed with players, fans and teachers. All night the door swung open for anyone and everyone. The place was full of good natured fellowship and jazz. No one was denied a chance to be heard. Everyone probably learned something. People moved about, took photographs or videos with their phones or professional cameras. I can safely say that all the photos and jazz came out pretty well. On Wednesday night Straight Ahead started a four day sold out  gig at the Dirty Dog. This was certainly a testimony to their talent but something else was happening. Straight Ahead who has had a history of breaking the mold was playing to a crowd that likes to see molds broken in a place that welcomes innovators.



When I was a boy our family would sit by the radio after dinner and listen to the news of the world. My sister and I were then sent off to bed. World War II was raging and I would have dark images in my head as I fell off to sleep.  I did have real heroes in my life and safe places to go. I knew that I was safe in my home and my school, and I thought of  my parents and my teachers as heroic guides. The principal of our small grade school was a strong man with authority who had a gift of listening and understanding vulnerable students.  He would spend time in our classroom and join us in our studies. We all  got approval from this grand man when we worked hard, so we worked hard, and when we did, we felt good about ourselves. We were safe in that school. It was a near perfect place. I keep finding special places filled with special people. One of those  places is the Dirty Dog Jazz Café






All are welcome as they come through the door and into the Dirty Dog. Artists, customers and staff will all be treated with respect when they are inside. This is a good place to be, surrounded by art and those people who embrace the arts and respect the artists.This is a place where you will not be judged as long as you don’t talk too loudly when the jazz is being played. There are no penalties for not knowing a lot about jazz or food.  Mistakes are made. Silverware and notes are sometimes dropped, but there is an abundance of forgiveness, and opportunities to learn. This week the Dirty Dog will welcome Trunino Lowe’s band for a two day gig starting Wednesday. Trunino will have his first gig at the Dirty Dog. There probably isn’t a sweeter spot to have this happen.


April 24 – 25





The Trunino Lowe Quartet is comprised of four friends who love to play together. The quartet features Trunino Lowe on trumpet, Louis Jones III on drums, Jonathon S. Muir-Cotton on bass and Sequoia Snyder on keyboard. The band will be performing original music and standards.
Trunino Lowe is a young up and coming trumpet player in Detroit. Serving as a composer, band leader, sideman and mentor at the age of 20, his passion for music shows on and off the band stand.  He has played with some big names of Detroit such as Marion Hayden, Wendell Harrison, Rodney Whitaker, Sean Dobbins, Marcus Elliot, and more.


April 26 -27





Ever since 1997, when he moved to New York City from Los Angeles, his hometown, Willie Jones III has been one of the jazz capital’s most prominent drummers. Whether functioning as a savvy bandleader or high-profile sideman, Jones applies to every context an abiding musicality and a tonal personality that, as Wynton Marsalis puts it, is “ever tasteful,” marked by what pianist Eric Reed, his frequent collaborator, calls “a West Coast swagger in his swing, with a looseness that isn’t lackadaisical and an edge that isn’t overwhelming.”

Willie Jones III was born in a musical family in Los Angeles and now lives in Brooklyn NY.

He has played, toured, and recorded with Horace Silver, Roy Hargrove, Hank Jones, Cedar Walton, and Herbie Hancock. He played on Arturo Sandoval’s Grammy-winning album Hot House (1998).




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April 15, 2019





A group of people who genuinely love, trust, care about, and look out for each other.





Fellowship is a friendly feeling that exists between people who have a shared interest or who do something as a group.





Straight Ahead is a  jazz ensemble who genuinely love, trust, care about, look out for each other and play great jazz together.



My favorite definition of the word family  is that thing the jazz group Straight Ahead has. Maybe it is the band members’ quick-to-smile demeanor when in each other’s company that makes one think that they are a real family.

A family of musicians accurately describes this band.  They are such a good story.  They have always remained friends. They certainly have shared many common experiences and values. They are also equally talented individuals. Like any family they have, at times, gone their separate ways,  but they always come back to the nest to play some great jazz together. What pulls them back is fellowship.

This group was formed 25 years ago by assembling some of Detroit’s best musicians who just happen to be women. They earned some breaks because they were just so good.  They have shown the world the strength and inventiveness of Detroit’s female artists. When they got their start women in most fields struggled to be heard. For sure they were great musicians, but it was their power, skill and the adventurous spirit of their music that propelled them into the world’s spotlight. Each member brought world class resumes and fresh ideas.

The steady heart of the group continues to be Eileen Orr, piano, Marion Hayden, bass, and drummer Gayelynn McKinney. In the beginning jazz violinist Regina Carter filled out the original quartet.  They got noticed playing venues around Detroit which led to their being tapped to play the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, leading off for Nina Simone. Soon after Regina left Detroit and began what has been a remarkable career as a soloist. They then added vocalist Cynthia Dewberry  before signing with Atlantic Records where they cut three albums. Straight Ahead has toured this country and abroad playing with musical greats including Nancy Wilson, Jean Luc Ponty, Roy Ayers, Tony Bennett, Dianne Reeves, Max Roach, Stanley Clarke and the Yellowjackets.




Our family became regulars when Straight Ahead played locally to an audience comprised mostly of their friends and family members. Like most musicians and musical groups who succeed, they found an abundance of family support. Family and mentors filled the small clubs they played while they were finding their wings.

Our son, Bill, then a young musician dragged us to a lot of Straight Ahead’s earliest gigs.  There he got a chance to hear and talk to one of his jazz heroes, the drummer Gayelynn McKinney.  I have a vivid memory of seeing both of their smiling faces as they talked about drumming . They both were smiling. So were we. We were all family. It is catching.





The Kresge Foundation is a $3.6 billion private national foundation. Wow! We can sure use their help, and Detroit is getting their help in many ways.

The Kresge Foundation’s steadfast commitment to Detroit is embodied in varied  programs. The foundation was established in Detroit in 1924 and has consistently invested in Detroit for more than 90 years.




The Foundation works toward this goal through their support for the Kresge Arts in Detroit Artist Fellows Program, I can testify that the Kresge Foundation doesn’t pass out the arts fellowships willy nilly. They are earned by deserving artists. It is, therefore, remarkable to me that in one band there are two worthy Kresge Artists Fellows. The Straight Ahead family and friends are all proud and extend kudos to the wise judges.










Straight Ahead is a Detroit jazz ensemble with a name that rings true for them.


“Straight ahead” is a term used to describe any jazz from the ’70s onward that  adheres closely to the historical traditions of jazz. I don’t think this completely describes this ensemble. I think they also have a vision and are actively pursuing it. They will assemble a crew that will not be looking back, that will bring others on the journey, and they will be staying on course. They will be staying true, showing up and bringing it every night.

Straight Ahead doesn’t always follow a narrow path in their music. They have a lot of fun getting to their destination and their audiences will usually be joyfully caught up in their journey.

This is what you can expect when you come out to see these Detroit musicians whose straight line has taken them around the world and straight back to the Dirty Dog.This week the band, starting Wednesday, will be at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café for eight shows over four days. They will make some new friends with each appearance. They have a way of making a fan feel like a friend



It is starting out to be a cold week in our city for April, but by Wednesday it is scheduled to get warmer. At least at the Dirty Dog for the remainder of the week. Waves of warmth will leak out the door as the friendship and jazz overflows the joint.


John Osler




April 17 -20





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Straight Ahead’s founding members, the “Rhythm Sisters” (Marion Hayden on bass, Eileen Orr on piano and Gayelynn McKinney on drums),  will be joined by special guest John Douglas on trumpet and Yancyy on saxophone. These Grammy-nominated artists have traveled throughout the U.S., the Caribbean and Europe, garnering rave reviews. Their dynamic live performances are a celebration of power and joy.



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April 2, 2019




Fear can be debilitating. We can be frozen with fear. We can sometimes let fear get the better of us and cloud our judgement. We can be afraid of not doing the right thing, so we do nothing at all. We have a natural fear of failure and the consequences of failure.




We have real good reasons to let fear alert us to real danger. Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger; it has strong roots in human evolution. If we didn’t feel fear, we couldn’t protect themselves from legitimate threats. Confronting large beasts often led our relatives to deadly consequences. Today we often fear situations where the stakes are much lower, but our body and brain still treat the threat as lethal. This can trigger an extreme, and often unnecessary, fight, flight or freeze response. As a result, people may find themselves avoiding challenges, missing opportunities or holding back during a jazz jam session for no good reason. Jazz musicians can teach us about letting go of our fear of failure. Jazz musicians have few reasons to fear screwing up as failure is just part of the process.


Miles Davis did say –  “Do not fear mistakes, there are none.”



FREEDOM FROM FEAR   Norman Rockwell


The arts can be a safe haven from any of the fears of failing that you may have.



John Cleese – “Nothing will stop you from being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”



Herbie Hancock – “In the world of art there are no wrong choices.”



At the height of the depression FDR asked his nation to suck it up and carry on by stating,  “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” This could have been said by either Miles Davis or Louis Armstrong. Not worrying about what may lie ahead is something that happens moment to moment in any jazz band. Jazz forgives and forgives again on the fly. The note that wasn’t quite perfect becomes the new direction for the music.  Alert musicians see mistakes as opportunities.





Johnny O’Neil isn’t afraid of much.


When Johnnie O’Neil came to Detroit he would sometimes stay with his friend, Jeff Pedras, who is one of Detroit’s great bass players. Jeff told me a story about Johnnie spotting a piano in his house and then asking to play it. Jeff knew that this was a dreadfully out of tune piano that had been unused and neglected for many years. His embarrassment turned to wonder as Johnny teased magic into the living room. Jeff realized that Johnnie O’Neil was a very special pianist. Johnny took the instrument he was given and used its faults  to his advantage. He has faced adversity many times in his life. Johnny was born in Detroit and he plays like it. His piano and singing is beautiful but there is a sadness that sometimes comes through his luscious phrasing.

Pianist Johnny O’Neil will return to the Dirty Dog for four nights this April. If you miss him, don’t worry, you can go to New York and stand in a long line at the club he is playing to see him. He has developed a following that is deserved. Johnny is authentically one of a kind. He is self- taught, and he has had a great teacher. He has a large playlist, and he reintroduces us to the true meaning of each song.

Johnny never learned to read music, but he estimates his repertoire at about 1,500 songs, all  from memory. His education began at his childhood church in his native Detroit  By the time he was 25, he had logged almost 10 years as a professional there, in Birmingham, Ala., and in St. Louis.


Johnny O’Neil has made his living playing the piano his whole life. If that isn’t scary, what is?




Coleman Hawkins – “If you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t really trying.




Musicians and a lot of music lovers are intimidated by jazz. It is hard to play and requires a foundation of hard work and skill that can be off putting.  Jazz can also be difficult to understand for those who are new to jazz. It is easy to find yourself not having a clue where a tune is going and then questioning if the artists really know what they are doing. You may be right. They might not know. Eventually we learn that it doesn’t matter.  Jazz  allows the musician to go fearlessly forward,  wherever the music takes them. We begin to understand that the artists aren’t afraid even though they may be entering unknown territory.  If they aren’t afraid, why should we be?

Jazz audiences will never be comprised of only highly trained musician-types. There will always be room for a lot of us who know only that something special is happening, and we will remain in awe of the fearless adventures that jazz artists will take on.


“In art there are no failures, and therefore there should not be any fear of failing.  Doing away with fear is essential to making truly great art.”

John Osler



No joking  it is April




April 3 – 6




Paul Pearce of Bass World magazine writes that “Pete absolutely ‘sings’ with his drum kit.”



A consummate professional, Pete has an international reputation for his “restless curiosity, attention to detail, and mastery of many different styles,” Pete will be familiar to  Dirty Dog regulars. Pete Siers has played with jazz luminaries such as Russell Malone, Mulgrew Miller, Marian McPartland, Lee Konitz, Benny Golson, James Moody, Kenny Werner, David “Fathead” Newman, Eddie Daniels, Frank Morgan, Scott Hamilton, Bob Wilber, and Barry Harris.  In addition to his expansive performance career, Pete has played on over 50 recordings.  He has played Carnegie Hall, festivals across the U.S.and has toured Europe several times.


April 10 -13






Detroiter Johnny O’Neal is a legendary jazz pianist and band leader.  Johnny has played with: Art Blakey (including a one year stint as a member of Blakey’s ‘Jazz Messengers’ ensemble), Clark Terry, Milt Jackson, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Nancy Wilson, Joe Pass, Lionel Hampton, Anita O’Day, Sonny Stitt, Carmen MacRae, Kenny Burrell, Benny Golson, Sarah Vaughn, Wynton Marsalis, and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis.

His father, Johnny O’Neal, Sr., was a well-known jazz pianist and singer in Detroit.

He started his career at age 13 working at New Bethel Baptist Church in his hometown of

Detroit, MI as church pianist on Sundays for $10 per service.


April 17 -20






Straight Ahead’s founding members, the “Rhythm Sisters” (Marion Hayden on bass, Aleena Orr on piano and Gayelyn McKinney on drums),  will be joined by special guest John Douglas on trumpet and Yancy on saxophone. These Grammy-nominated artists have traveled throughout the U.S., the Caribbean and Europe, garnering rave reviews. Their dynamic live performances are a celebration of power and joy.


April 24 – 25





Trunino Lowe is a young up and coming trumpet player in Detroit. Serving as a composer, band leader, sideman and mentor at the age of 20, his passion for music shows on and off the band stand.  He has played with some big names of Detroit such as Marion Hayden, Wendell Harrison, Rodney Whitaker, Sean Dobbins, Marcus Elliot, and more. Trunino is currently a student at Wayne State University.


April 26 -27





Ever since 1997, when he moved to New York City from Los Angeles, his hometown, Willie Jones III has been one of the jazz capital’s most prominent drummers. Whether functioning as a savvy bandleader or high-profile sideman, Jones applies to every context an abiding musicality and a tonal personality that, as Wynton Marsalis puts it, is “ever tasteful,” marked by what pianist Eric Reed, his frequent collaborator, calls “a West Coast swagger in his swing, with a looseness that isn’t lackadaisical and an edge that isn’t overwhelming.”

He has played, toured, and recorded with Horace Silver, Roy Hargrove, Hank Jones, Cedar Walton, and Herbie Hancock.



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March 26, 2019


Life is generally pretty good. I spend most of my life enjoying lolling about and sometimes doing the things that allow me to happily loll about.



A few times I have actually gotten to a place where I could perform with more focus.

In the arts we call this place ‘the  zone”.




A state in which one can or feels as though one can perform with exceptional focus, skill and energy.


As a painter I have suffered through periods of abject failure. Canvases covered with bad starts began to pile up against  basement walls. They wait quietly, reminding  me of my ineptness. They are a result of my hand holding a brush loaded with the wrong color going to the wrong place. This can last for long periods of time. It is important at these times that I don’t quit trying to paint, when painting is an act that can bring me such great pleasure. It will take a lot of slogging to get through to better times.






Then there are the times when after we work very hard and we persevere that we stumble on our best efforts. It is as if an outside force directs us to excel. At these moments we can’t miss. At these moments our vision is clear, and our hand is accurate.  I heard Wendell Harrison and Vaughn Klugh play a gig at the Scarab Club in Detroit, and I was the audience of one. They started out with some standard stuff, but then they seemed to anticipate each other as they took off to new places. They were playing for themselves. They came up to my studio after the gig and we talked. I told them that I thought they were playing at their peak. They both smiled and said that it was good, but they didn’t quite get in the zone. Only those in the zone know when they are in the zone. Everyone has these moments but no one can explain them.



In the zone is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, the zone is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.



I can attest to  losing all sense of space and time while being lost in “the zone”. I was alone in an idyllic situation for a painter. I had rented a small house in an apricot orchard on a hillside in the South of France. I had fresh food, good wine and all the art supplies I needed to paint great paintings. I had nothing standing in my way to create something worthwhile.

For three days I turned bright oil paints into poorly placed pools of mud. Nothing worked. My visions didn’t appear on the canvases. I drank more wine and then tried skipping the wine. At the end of the day I set up outside as the sun was still above the hill. Surrounded by beautiful light I started to paint. I had a black and white photo I had taken in a small rural church early one morning near Jonestown, Mississippi. The photo was of a man who stood with dignity and from time to time gave an affirmative “Amen” to the children attending the Sunday School class. He combined the quiet strength, dignity and grace that working men often have.

I had been floundering, but now I started painting with surety, using only one wide brush that I cleaned with a rag. As the evening light faded I stopped painting and with a glass of wine in one hand and a the paintbrush in the other, I started to walk. A little later I found myself in the middle of a cherry orchard. The last of an orange glow in the west was my only clue how to get back home. Here is the painting.



The zone is not only my place but a place where all creative people find themselves, with luck, after working hard. When it happens to a visual artist we end up with something tangible like a painting, a photo, or a sculpture. A writer has their writing to show. Great actors sometimes find their characters using them, and their performances are taken to a level that can’t be explained.

In music, except on rare occasions when recording, it is an experience known only by the musicians and those who happen to be there and can discern the moment. You have to be there. It will make you smile.




I had a conversation with the young phenom Grace Kelley when she was at the Dog. We talked about how the best work comes out of a place when one is alone and has a single task. Later, while performing, she got noticeably lost in her music. She then told us a story about the song she was playing, a story was about about being alone in a motel room with her thoughts when suddenly the song emerged fully formed. She wrote the song down in just a few minutes. After she finished the story she looked over at where I was standing with my camera and smiled.


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Jazz artists have their own language when they speak to each other while playing together. Notice when their eyes close and and the corners of their lips curl up. Something pretty good is happening. On these rare occasions they may have entered the THE ZONE.


John Osler






James Dapogny showed up at the University of Michigan with a one year appointment in the music department and stayed on for forty years. James is best known in Ann Arbor for his ragtime jazz piano. I heard him some time ago on the Prairie Home Companion radio show on Saturday nights. Everyone was cheered up thanks to the “good time” music Jim favored. The jazz he played  was light hearted but not thoroughly studied. Professor Dapogny fixed that. He was a serious scholar, and thanks to James’ heart and scholarship, jazz pioneers like “Jelly Roll’ Morton will get their due recognition.




March 27 – 30





Planet D Nonet is a down & dirty little swing band from Detroit. It was founded by  a familiar face at the Dirty Dog, drummer, RJ Spangler, and his long time friend, trumpeter James O’Donnell. The Planet D Nonet is about swing, blues, space-age jazz and classic American songs all served with plenty of good humor with an eye toward turning people onto this kind of music. It’s worth coming out just for RJ’s  explanations of each tune’s origins and the stories behind the music.


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March 18, 2019



Just over a week ago Willie Jones passed a note to a visiting pianist from New York, Emmet Cohen. Emmet then informed a sold out audience at the Dirty Dog that George “Sax” Benson had died. Emmet knows a lot about jazz and has always been drawn to Detroit’s jazz, yet when I asked him about George, he told me that he didn’t know either George or his music. He did know that the loss of any Detroit jazz artist is a major loss for jazz.


This news had the same effect on me as listening to country music often has, I was knocked back with sadness that was followed by a warm feeling that everything is going to be all right. The mention of George “Sax” Benson will bring a smile to the face of anyone who has been touched by his story and his music.



GEORGE “SAX” BENSON  1929-2019


One of the reasons that George isn’t a household name in America’s music history is because he was never interested in the spotlight. George had no problem playing in front of or talking to a throng of admirers, but reserved the right to also lead a satisfying private life. Important facts about George are that he retired from the post office after 30 years of service, that he was happily married for almost 64 years and that George could really play the sax. He was so good that he was asked to play with:


Lena Horne, Aretha Franklin, Debbie Reynolds, Glen Campbell, Milton Berle, Ella Fitzgerald, Edie Adams, Dinah Washington, Mel Torme, Nancy Wilson, Johnny Mathis, Diana Carroll, Four Tops, Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Kenny Burrell, Lionel Hampton, Benny Carter, Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons, Errol Garner, Quincy Jones, Nelson Riddle, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Brook Benton, Jackson 5, Diana Ros, Bill Cosby, Lou Rawls, Tony Bennett, Betty Carter, Carmen McRae, Sheila Jordan, Rosemary Clooney, Mildred Bailey, Vic Damone, Martha Reeves, Rich Little, BB Queen, Regis Philbin, Michael Feinstein, Tommy Tune, Steve Allen, Della Reese, Sammy Davis, Jr., Louis Armstrong, Tommy Flanagan, Benny Golson, Earl Bostic, Pepper Adams, J.C. Heard, Ernie Wilkins, Peter Duchin, Hank Jones, Yusef Leteef, Doug Watkins, Willie Anderson, Paul Chambers


This long list of America’s most celebrated entertainers all thought that George was someone special. As important to George was knowing that he was special to his family and friends. George was successful at living the life he chose to live. Wouldn’t be nice If we all could be so lucky?






George Benson chose a life in music but would never allow music to choose his life. He told me once that he was a very lucky man. He came into music at a time when there were a lot of gigs. Early in his life Detroit was a good town to be a musician. TV shows needed live bands, people liked to dance to live music, and there were plenty of jazz clubs.

George realized that he could finish a mail route by 4PM and still get a couple of evening music gigs. He had a plan. He could get out and share his music and his family would have a secure life.  He didn’t have to go on the road.  He would never be so famous that Emmet Cohen would have heard of him, but his family and local jazz fans sure knew that this was a remarkably gifted man.


The last time I saw George was at his last gig at the Dirty Dog.


George just had his 87th birthday and his birthday gift to us was his tone and phrasing. When I watched George play,  he sometimes seemed to disappear from the moment and take us on a trip into his past. I felt his emotions even though I didn’t know what episode in his life had just reappeared in his thoughts. Listening to George play a ballad we know that George has experienced some love. As he played, George’s face showed his story as much as his saxophone.


Here is a blog that I posted after George played his last gig at the Dirty dog.



“No problem, he will be here.”  Willie Jones


There are situations that spring up and test us. Everyone looks around for a way out of the mess. Sometimes the monstrous obstacle that is thrown in our path isn’t as big as we think it is, and we just needed someone to bring the problem into perspective. Willie Jones, the manager of the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe, often is that someone.

That night a pretty full house was settling in to see one of Detroit’s legendary jazz-men, George “Sax” Benson. As showtime was approaching,  George was missing. The piano player didn’t know where he was, the drummer said he was coming on his own and the bass player said, “Oh…oh…. this is unlike George.”  All eyes turned to Willie. Willie will certainly handle this. Everything will be alright. The lights dimmed which is the signal to us that the musicians are on their way to the bandstand. Happy clinks of knives and forks on porcelain mixed with laughter as the celebrants  waited for the music to start. No one including Willie knew where George was or if he would be there.

I watched in semi-panic as events unfolded. I looked at Willie who looked as calm as our old cat lying in front of the fireplace. He reminded me of those other kids that had really studied before a test. Nonplussed, unshaken, his attitude was calming and reassuring.

Whew, no problem, things will be alright, and they were. It turns out that George got waylaid in traffic and did arrive late. Willie had the piano trio go on until George arrived, and then George played an extra 30 minutes making this a great night for those who came to hear this master of the music. George’s unbridled joy in playing to an appreciative and understanding audience was on full display.

Willie’s lesson for all of us is that old saying, “Opportunity seldom rises with blood pressure.”





 Detroit Jazz Festival will be jamming at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café on the 3rd Monday of each month until the Detroit Jazz Festival.








The third Monday of each month the Dirty Dog Jazz Café opens its doors for the Detroit Jazz Festival sponsored OPEN JAM. This Monday the house band will be once again filled with some of Detroit’s finest jazz artists and educators. Anyone lucky enough to hear about this evening will be treated to some serious musical strutting as the young musicians unpack their best stuff and put forward their challenges to any old thinking. The evening always seems to build in intensity as the night goes on.

When Bing Crosby would attend jam sessions, the musicians would say he was “jammin’ the beat”, since he would clap on the one and the three. It is thought that these sessions became known as “jam sessions”.


In February after the jam ended some tips on “jamming the beat”were handed out. Two of Detroit’s very best jazz artists stayed around to spend some time with a group of earnest young drummers. Marion Hayden brought her bass a little closer to Sean Dobbins drum kit and started playing the song that the young drummer being instructed by Sean had played earlier that evening. She pointed out to him that he had not supplied the beat during the jam when she gave him a signal that she needed it. Sean demonstrated and the young drummer will not forget the lesson nor will those watching. No ones feelings were hurt. Jazz artists seem to be able pass on the rules of the game from generation to generation more as a gift than an admonishment. Come on out and watch the torches get passed.

John Osler






March 20 – 23





Rayse Biggs will bring his gravity defying music  to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café for four nights of authentic Detroit jazz. Rayse has always attracted talented musicians to play alongside him. Come and hear why.


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March 11, 2019



Global warming has become a sexy subject


There is a lot of talk about rising temperatures and the effect that this will have on our planet. I know global warming and our local weather are separate subjects. All I know is that in Michigan we would like a little more local warming and less weather.

Spring is almost here. However, nobody has told the weatherman.




It looks like Detroit will have temperatures in the twenties to the sixties this coming week, Your car and house windows may have an icy glaze that will scatter the sun’s rays,  if we ever get sunlight in March.



There is some good news for our jazz community because Kimmie Horne will be coming  to warm things up in the the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. To get some relief from the heat she generates one can step outside the club into our Michigan spring, but only for a moment as it will still be cold outside. This dog took too long a break outside the Dirty Dog during last year’s Michigan springtime. Be careful.



It is officially still winter, and too much winter can be depressing.


Polar bear




Bears gather up some stuff and climb into holes for the winter.



Polar bear 2


Being holed up can make all of us grumpy.




We do have some better choices. We are an active people and being holed up usually doesn’t fit our nature.






We need to get out. We don’t like being grumpy and feeling hemmed in, but we need a pretty good reason to leave our warm homes and navigate the icy roads. We need to find a place that will get our juices flowing again. We need to get warm to our bones.




Just yards from where your car is left for the Dirty Dog Jazz Café’s complimentary valet parking  is one of the warmest places in town. The warmth comes from the heating system, the music, the food, the pub-like atmosphere and most of all it comes from a genuinely pleasant  staff.


The Dirty Dog has assembled a staff that has rid themselves of any winter blahs.  On these cold evenings these are the folks who will welcome their guests into a serene and uplifting experience. This process begins long before any patrons shows up. The management sets the tone with their respect and good-natured work ethic. It is contagious.




I often have a chance to watch the staff prepare for an evening’s upbeat event. They go about their tasks with a great deal of independence and purpose. The service at the Dirty Dog is a team effort and so is the preparation. This kind of service is not an easy task, and success is not an  accident.  Gretchen, Tom, André, Willie and all the staff seem to like being around each other. The Dirty Dog is a warm place even before the guests arrive.




Once they get settled visitors to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café often find a smile sneaking across their faces, especially this week with Kimmie Horne’s music.




Starting Wednesday of this week Detroit’s own Kimmie Horne will bring her alto to the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. Kimmie’s voice is a powerful thawing device.



Kimmie may be home grown, but she isn’t a secret to to her jazz and R&B fans around the world. This local girl is an internationally acclaimed artist and puts in her share of time away from home. When she returns home she shows her love of her hometown, and nowhere is she more at home than when she plays the Dirty Dog. She knows she will get lost in the warm embrace of family and friends. It happens every time she shows up.




You will get a chance to hear Kimmie’s voice,


Kimmie was well into a career in R&B when Betty Carter inspired her to include jazz standards in her vocabulary. Kimmie says “ She encouraged me to know what the song’s story is and approach it as if it were mine.”  Kimmie has been a good student, letting her natural gifts soar.



You will get a chance to get connected to our jazz heritage,


When Kimmie  acknowledges her debt to Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Ella and, of course, Lena Horne.

“These five ladies exude vocal richness, clarity in telling a story through warm, beautiful, heartfelt tones and impeccable phrasing that still leaves me breathless,” Kimmie Horne.


You will get a chance to meet Kimmie’s band,

It is going to be like a family affair as Kimmie and the musicians around her all speak the same language. Kimmie has immersed herself in studying all facets of jazz including most of the great horn players. In her voice we can hear the phasing and tone of these masters. When she and her friends take off together on a tune they are starting from the same platform. This band of musicians are indeed friends, this allows them to be a little playful




 You will get a chance to smile,

The band’s friendship is contagious. Even though some of the tunes are soulful stories and you can feel the blues origins, you end the evening feeling good.


You will get a chance to thank Gretchen Valade for all she has done, and you will get a chance to support live music, while having the time of your life.

John Osler



March 13 – 16



A small club gives the musicians a chance to Interact with the audience. Kimmie takes full advantage. She sings and talks directly to each night’s guests. Everyone leaves friends.

Here are a few of the photographs I have taken of Kimmie in past years at the Dirty Dog


            _DSC3832   _DSC3904 _DSC4186 _DSC4237 _DSC4852SONY DSC





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March 7, 2019





This week New Orleans will come alive with music and parades and along with much of the world folks will go outdoors and into the streets to party.



In Michigan our march into Spring can feel a little different.



Scene from Game of Thrones



is one crazy month. Named for Mars, the god of war. It was the time that armies could gear up and return to battle after a long pause for winter. It is the start of Lent when we are asked to give up something we like very much,  just after we have overindulged on Fat Tuesday/ Mardi Gras.




I have spent some time in New Orleans. They take March more seriously because they are asked to give up more than we do in Michigan. We can give up our winter overcoat, galoshes or hot breakfasts. They have more to lose so they make up for it by having a fun fest for several weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday. I have noticed that they seldom give up their music for Lent , nor do we.

In Michigan we will still have snow and freezing rain. It is a confusing month. Flowers and critters poke their heads up and don’t know what to think. The best thing we can do is just get through this month. We must remember all the disappointments in past years when we had that one warm day followed by our biggest snowstorm of the year. We will have to walk through the snow to retrieve the snow shovel that we just put in the garage attic.

Uncertain and severe whether can make us stronger. We develop character traits that come in handy when March rolls around. We tell ourselves that things can’t get any worse and learn to appreciate what we have.



After all in only six months we will have the return of cool nights and Labor Day weekend with Detroit’s Jazz Festival to shake us out of our summer doldrums. Meanwhile Detroit’s jazz artists will be informing us of all the things that they have learned while holed up all winter. Michigan will bloom again better than ever. Anyway this is what Willie Jones tells me.



Willie Jones

is one of those people who get things done by nudging everything and everyone around him in the right direction. Anyone lucky enough to spend time with Willie knows that there will be little small talk and plenty of optimism. Through the force of his calmness things will get better and problems will get resolved.  Here is Willie’s message this month.



The Dirty Dog is poised to bring in this spring and summer season with a bang. March will be highlighted by hometown favorites such as drummers Skeeto Valdez and RJ Spangler, along with vocalist Kimmie Horne and Trumpeter Rayse Biggs. April will showcase pianist Johnny Oneal, drummer Pete Siers and Detroit’s very own all-female group Straight Ahead. May will bring in vocalist Kathy Kosins, saxophonist Dave McMurray, drummer Sean Dobbins and the youngest musician ever to headline at the Dog, Trurino Lowe.

With that kind of a line-up coming at you, I won’t begin to tease you with the line-up slated for June, July and August, as we creep toward the mega jazz event to close the summer, The Detroit Jazz Festival. Of course, with all this talk about great Detroit jazz, the Dirty Dog is more than that. We hope to continue to deliver what we are known for, great jazz, good food, good company and an overall experience that you won’t find anywhere in the United States.

Keep an eye and ear out for our annual collaboration with the Detroit Jazz Festival as we will host an evening with the yet to be announced 2019 Detroit Jazz Festival Artist in Residence.

Willie Jones




March 6 – 7







Skeeto Valdez will return this week leading one of his Fun House Bands. He will bring his unabashed good nature and solid drumming.  Get ready to call the roof repair guys!



Skeeto Valdez will bring his unbounded energy and uplifting smile. Wear your most comfortable shoes for tapping.





March 8 – 9





Multifaceted American jazz pianist and composer Emmet Cohen has emerged as one of his generation’s pivotal figures in music and the related arts.  A recognized prodigy, Cohen began Suzuki method piano instruction at age three, and his playing quickly became a mature melding of musicality, technique, and concept.  Downbeat observed that his “nimble touch, measured stride and warm harmonic vocabulary indicate he’s above any convoluted technical showmanship.”  In the same spirit, Cohen himself has noted that playing jazz is “about communicating the deepest levels of humanity and individuality; it’s essentially about connections,” both among musicians and with audiences.  He leads his namesake ensemble, the “Emmet Cohen Trio,” is a vibrant solo performer, and is in constant demand as a sideman.  Possessing a fluid technique, an innovative tonal palette, and an extensive repertoire, Cohen plays with the command of a seasoned veteran and the passion of an artist fully devoted to his medium.




March 13 -16




The second week of March Detroit’s own Kimmie Horne will bring her alto voice back home. Kimmie may be home grown, but she isn’t a secret to to her jazz and R&B fans around the world. This local girl, an internationally acclaimed singer, is in town and will be singing for us at the Dirty Dog.

It is recommended that you make your reservations as soon as possible. Kimmie Horne is fast becoming a Detroit legend. Put off your spring vacation this week.



March 20 – 23





Rayse Biggs will bring his gravity defying music  to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café for four nights of authentic Detroit jazz. Rayse has always attracted talented musicians to play alongside him. Come and hear why.




March 27 – 30





RJ Spangler will give us an in depth description of the sources for the music before Planet D Nonet plays each tune. RJ Spangler will speak to the roots of the tunes, and then Planet D Nonet  will play their music in a way that we will be able to feel the life of the time each tune was written.  RJ and most of his bands have a serious appreciation for the jazz artists who wrote music that reflected the lives, the times and the places that these pioneers passed through. Stories of America’s music never stop inspiring us.




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February 25, 2019


Photo from The Japan Times




This week I read of the passing of Kiyoshi Koyama. Kiyoshi Koyama isn’t a name that will jump off the page in our country. In Japan he was regarded as the nation’s preeminent jazz journalist. In the U.S. he was a friend to a lot of our best jazz musicians. He had a passion for jazz, and he filled his life with a search to find all he could about the artists who have created music out of perseverance, grit, hard work and freedom of spirit. In his lifetime he accumulated over 30,000 jazz CDs and vinyl albums. He also recorded hundreds of interviews with the best jazz musicians in the States and in Japan. He had a peculiar interest in getting to know the person as well as the musician. It was so important to him to somehow figure out what made jazz artists tick. He travelled back and forth from Japan to the US to Japan all the while bringing the music and the artist’s stories to his jazz loving island. He was the editor of Swing magazine and was a keen writer and critic. Kiyoshi produced many archival albums that were compilations from his huge personal collection. From the jolly photo above he appears to have had a pretty good life immersed in jazz.




Jazz was banned in Japan during World War II, along with other  music from the West. After the war, however, Japanese jazz musicians took up their instruments again and began playing bebop, a new style of jazz coming out of the U.S.


Following the war,  Kiyoshi Koyama was introduced to jazz music through the US’s Far East Radio Network which was run in part by our military. The music was intended for our troops stationed in Japan. It changed the course of Kyoshi’s life. In 1952 he heard his first live jazz played by by one of our country’s most important diplomats, Louis Armstrong. Louis was a symbol of all that was right about America at a time when the world needed an upbeat message. The world could relate to the jazz that Louis Armstrong played that came out of shared pain and struggle. Louis was living evidence that jazz might just help bring us back to life. Good times might be back again. Music has a way of straightening things out. The world welcomed and embraced jazz. Jazz brought the honest goodness and inclusiveness of the best of America into full view. Jazz was an American export. It was democratic, forgiving and expansive. It was very appealing to think that anyone can tell their story and vision and be heard and seen. The jazz artists that broke new barriers were seen as giants in recently  oppressed nations.


Kiyoshi wanted to know everything about the new cats who were bringing all the fresh energy to jazz He wanted to meet and write about the new wave of free thinking jazz musicians. He got his chance.


He was asked to fly to New York to write an article about the city’s avant garde jazz scene. There he met saxophonist Ornette Coleman.





Kyoshi arrived at a time when Ornette Coleman was playing “free jazz”. He also was starting a free spirited way of life in NYC when he created one of the first “jazz lofts”.

Artists sometimes have to make do with just having music in their lives, and not much else. Sacrificing the good life for a life filled with music isn’t for everyone. Jazz lofts supplied an affordable place to crash, share costs and create.

Kiyoshi liked to interview artists in their homes. Koyama explained, “My style is to meet a musician and see his home, and find out how they live. That shows me another side of the musician. That’s interesting to me. That’s why I visited Ornette’s place. You can find a different side of a musician from the one on stage.”

Ornette Coleman’s home was  over his studio space in his large loft on Prince Street. Ornette’s loft became a venue for free jazz and an art gallery. It  was quickly replicated in dingy affordable spaces that dotted New York. The first journalist to tell us about the energy in these lofts was not local, it was Kyoshi. Since then there has been much written about the goings on in these spaces where artists could crash and learn. Cheap rent, freedom of expression and sharing of creative ideas can still be found in lofts in cities around the world, at least until success intervenes and rents go up.




Kyoshi and Ornette became friends and visited each other many times. Kyoshi’s interest in what makes jazz tick is shared by fans and musicians around the world.

Here is Richard William’s description of a solo concert in the Prince Street loft by South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim that Ornette had arranged for journalists. It may explain the international appeal of jazz.


“Calmly, the South African seated himself at grand piano in the middle of the light, spacious loft while the visitors drew up their chairs in a semi-circle around him. He placed his hands together, bowed his head for a moment, and then he began. Perhaps he played for ten minutes, or perhaps it was half an hour. Nobody in that room would have been able to say which.

He began with a hymn tune direct from the African Methodist Episcopal Church in which he worshipped and sang as a child: a slow, wise tune, its melody moving with a graceful inevitability, supported by simple harmonics that resonated with the richness of entire choirs. Then he changed gear, into dance tune that moved to a swaying, sinuous beat and gathered momentum until it sounded like a whole township stepping out. Changing up again, his hands began to hammer great tremolos at both ends of the keyboard, the air in the room seeming to shimmer and the floor to shudder as his big fingers rolled harder and harder in a gigantic crescendo until suddenly bright treble splashes fell across the dark patterns, like sudden bursts of sunlight piercing a storm. Now pure energy took over, the melodies broken into angular abstract figures which leaped,tumbled and fought with a ferocious intensity, bypassing the logic centers of the brain to reach some place that responds only to kinetic stimuli. Just when it seemed that the intensity might burst the windows, Ibrahim came off the throttle, returned to the doubled-handed tremolos, rewound slowly and with infinite care through the dance tune and the hymn, and deposited us back where he had found us, in silence — except that the silence now sounded completely different. As each listener raised his head, he saw something in the others’ eyes: an emotion that linked the German, the Brazilian, the Japanese and the Englishman to the most profound recesses of what Hoagy Carmichael called jazz’s “deep, dark blue centre.” Thanks to a South African pianist in a New York loft, they had touched the core.”






This past Saturday I spent time in an artist’s loft in Detroit. Luis Resto has a space in Eastern Market on the third floor of DeVries Cheese building. Luis is one of Detroit’s overly modest musicians that seem to be important to everybody but themselves. He has earned his place at the top of his profession. He also is a Detroiter and a loft guy. so he listens to others. On Saturdays he opens up his magical space for anyone who wants to to have their moment in his world. Lofts like all common places can sometimes be restricting to the free expression that you have when noone is hearing or seeing your efforts. Ornette and Luis make it clear that free expression is OK.

I have a space next to Luis’s music loft where I can store canvases and paint. I am not sure what kind of magnetic pull lofts have for bringing in interesting people but it seems they find themselves sucked in. Free jazz and freely done art continues to bring in the best people. In Detroit at this moment that means people from all over the world are likely to show up. Not much has changed since Kyoshi first told us about it.

John Osler




February 27 – March 2





Gerald Gibbs loves what he does. He plays the Hammond B3 organ, and plays it, and plays some more.

Here is what James Carter said about Gerald: “Gerard is basically a continuation of the organ tradition. Playing with him is like getting together with family. He is an individual that is always looking for new things in the music,” When Carter assembles an organ trio, Gerald is the organist he wants.


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February 19, 2019




Expect the unexpected along with the expected when Dave Bennett brings his band to the Dirty Dog this week. Earlier in the week on Monday night there will be a jam session that will run from 6:30 PM to 9:45 PM.




This Monday the Dirty Dog Jazz Café will open its door to some young musicians. They will  be joined by some of Detroit’s best jazz artists for this month’s jam session.

The Detroit Jazz Festival sponsors the jam sessions as part of their year long effort to help keep jazz alive in our community. We get a chance to support both the kids and the teachers and mentors who will make a special effort to show up on a forecasted cold winter night in February. We also get a chance to see jazz blossom in our backyard. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Starting this week until September the Dirty Dog Jazz Café will host an open jam on the third Monday of each month. Anyone lucky enough to have heard about these evenings will be treated to some serious musical strutting as the young musicians unpack their best stuff and put forward their challenges to any old thinking. The evening usually seems to build in intensity as the night goes on. What will be on display will be a room full of wisdom and enlightenment.




Anyone who can get their car door unfrozen, their instrument loaded in their car and can find their way to the Dirty dog will get a chance to share some music with their peers. If you stop by you will get a glimpse of something pretty uplifting. Young people of all ages will be alternating between playing musical instruments and listening to others. There will be some cats just starting to find their way and others who will deserve to do a little strutting.

The house band band will include Buddy Budson on piano, Marion Hayden on bass, John Douglas on trumpet and Sean Dobbins on drums. This is an assemblage of Detroit’s finest players and teachers and an unexpected treat for some young musicians and lucky fans of jazz. There will be some serious teaching by by example and inclusion.







I had one teacher that always comes to mind when I have been asked who was my favorite teacher. I don’t remember her name and I didn’t really like her. She was one tough egg. She never let anyone off the hook. When I was one of her math students, I thought that she was ruthless. Even the weakest student was asked to publicly search for the right answer. She was relentless. The more hesitant you were, the more you were called on. Even when I had the answer I never raised my hand. I went to the board often, as she regularly had the seemingly least prepared go up to the chalkboard and complete the equation. Despite her lack of people skills I will always consider her  the best teacher I have ever had. She cared about us so much that she wanted each of us to understand math as well as to learn math.





My favorite teacher did what good teachers do, She engaged and involved the individual students. We were asked (well not quite asked) to contribute. I would have learned something just listening to her instructions, but I really understood the math because I had been asked to participate. To succeed in her class I  had to conquer  the subject and learn to raise my hand. The students came up with the answers and left her class with an understanding of the process. I have read of many studies that show that  an effective teacher is that teacher who draws the students into the conversation. They have a willingness to allow the students feel that they are equally responsible for their education.


I am not sure I got a chance to say “thank you”. I probably had the chance, but this wasn’t part of my teen age vocabulary.


Lately I have been witness to a slew of young musicians entering Detroit’s jazz scene. They obviously are products of today’s teachers and mentors. Jazz has always been taught in Detroit just like my favorite teacher taught. They know and understand their subject and seem to instinctively understand how to engage their young students.

Detroit has a tradition of tough instruction that demands hard work and focus combined with a sense of tradition


I have always thought that Detroit is where jazz chooses to go to school. Detroit certainly has always had a tradition of producing A list jazz artists. More importantly, for decades they have had A list teachers. They are in the schools and in neighborhoods and playing alongside the young players at the clubs and on their recordings.




Detroit gives talent a chance to shine. Come on in out of the cold and catch their light.


John Osler




February 20 -23







For all four nights the place will be packed. it will be jammed with those who have an appreciation of our jazz roots. They will be treated to being only feet away from musicians who share their love of jazz and will be playing it about as well as anybody can. They will unabashedly play music that makes one feel good to be alive.





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February 12, 2019


The jazz club on the hill in Grosse Pointe will be one year older this week. Eleven years ago it was nudged into being by Gretchen Valade with a little help from her friends. Today it is a fixture in metro Detroit’s very alive jazz community. It is a destination for jazz fans, gourmets, revelers and  folks with birthdays / anniversaries to celebrate. It is a feather in the cap and a step up the ladder for many local, national and international jazz artists. This upstart venue is now recognized as one of the best jazz clubs in the world. How did this happen? It probably didn’t seem like a good idea considering the economic climate at the time.




The whole world was beginning to experience an economic tsunami in 2008. In our corner of Michigan there was little traffic on the roads and even less traffic in upscale stores or restaurants. For most of us the mention of the year 2008 still sends chills up our spine. It was exactly at this moment in one of the hardest hit places in the world that the idea of a creating a jazz club in an upscale neighborhood was born. How it came about is such a good but sort of crazy Detroit story.





If you have been to the Dirty Dog you already know how the story ends. Most jazz artists proclaim that this is the best jazz club in the country and perhaps in the world. Customers try to keep it a secret so that they will find a place at a table or a seat at the bar the next time they come. It has become a symbol of excellence in the delivery of music, food, service and smiles.


In 2019, after 11 years of respecting both the musicians and everyone who comes in the door they have established a refuge for kindred spirits. Here in a posh neighborhood where they consider a 60 foot elevation a hill sits a giant magnet bringing in all kinds of folks to hear America’s music, jazz. With its humble roots jazz still has the power to inform our souls. It has complexity and intensity and its appeal is growing. Jazz is uniquely expansive, difficult to play and it thrives in the hearts of the curious.


The Dirty Dog Jazz Café remains the home for those seeking good jazz and good ideas.






So where did the DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFE get its name?  Is there a deep meaning behind the name?. Is there an underdog story here? Probably the only honest answer will come from knowing proprietor Gretchen Valade and understanding that her response to such a silly question would be, “Why not?”.


The Dirty Dog required a lot of “why nots” on its journey to success. For many people the very existence of a jazz club on the Hill in Grosse Pointe would be considered a long shot. However, Gretchen Valade had a conviction that everything is possible. Let’s just do it! With limited space but with unlimited will, Gretchen gathered the people necessary to create one of the world’s great spaces to hear jazz. It would be the best!  And so it was built with first class acoustics, warm lighting, a great kitchen, and good sight lines for the guests, along with a green room for the musicians. Oh, and while they were at it, they included a meeting/waiting room.




  Gretchen Valade                                Tom Robinson



Andre Neimanis                                       Willie Jones


In 2008 Gretchen Valade  had to decide what to do with a piece of property. She checked in with a friend, Tom Robinson, who was helping her with some construction and shared Gretchen’s  interest in music. Sometimes they  wrote music together. No one remembers Tom saying, “Start a jazz club.” No one did. Gretchen, however, didn’t hesitate to fulfill her passion to have her favorite music just down the street. She thought about the possibility of having her empty building serve good food and good jazz. Her answer was, “Why not?”. Gretchen as usual thought about what it would mean for others. This directive continues to keep the Dirty Dog moving in a positive direction. Tom has made Gretchen’s ideas work. Tom took care of all the how tos while Gretchen concentrated on the why nots, like why not give a jazz joint an English pub feel?  Against all odds with trust and patience they have together stumbled on a pretty good plan.


Gretchen and Tom began their task of converting a toy store into a jazz club.  Construction was started and the job of assembling the right people began.


Success sometimes comes to those who just stumble on it.


Gretchen , once she had the vision for her place, had to make some key hires. She didn’t waste time. Why not get her favorite sous chef from down the street, Andre Neimanis.  With Andre on board she would need someone to run the front of the house.  Andre had recently worked with  a pretty square guy for only two days. Those two days were enough, and Willie Jones, one of the city’s most respected restaurant managers, soon got the call to come and talk to two people who had a  dream.


He remembers his meeting well. Gretchen, hoping to give the project credibility, asked Willie if he knew about Mack Avenue. He thought that this was a curious question. He lived close to Mack Avenue. He said, “Of course I do.” Gretchen was referring to her jazz label, Mack Avenue Records and liked the answer. He was hired. Trying to find common ground, they found a common road. They have stayed on track ever since.


One of the first hires and one of the first persons  that you might meet at the Dirty Dog is the guy behind the bar, Carl Williams.


Carl has an ability to size people up. Long before the internet and government surveillance there was Carl,  someone who somehow seems to know a lot about you and your needs. He soaks up info with a glance. He senses when to be there and when not to be. He knows when you need to be understood. When your spirit needs a boost, serious Carl becomes Carl with a smile. Not just any smile. A Carl smile. It can make your day.


Carl can keep a secret and he can share a story. He can listen, and he can appropriately disappear. Carl tends a great bar, keeps the supplies up to date, buses and serves when needed as part of the great Dirty Dog team.









Do it really well

Respect the music

Treat everyone with dignity

Enjoy the experience





Maybe they knew what they were doing


Throughout the life of the Café, Gretchen’s good natured spirit has guided the management, the staff and the music. Decency, listening and sharing have always  been the bulwarks of jazz. Using these strengths the Dirty Dog Jazz Café has becoming possibly the greatest jazz club in the world.



John Osler




February 13 – 16




What a pleasure it is to watch Detroit’s young jazz artists come into their own. Anthony has become familiar to anyone that frequents the Dirty Dog. He seems to be on everyone’s go to list. He will be bringing his trumpet, his ideas and his pure sound for four days this week.



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Visit the Dirty Dog Jazz Channel on YouTube to view our collection of videos. Watch Now
The Dirty Dog brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
        Drum legend from Pontiac, Mich. Elvin Jones / photo: UK   [..]
On April 15 fire ravished Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.       Images of Our Lady of Pari [..]
  Vintage album cover/poster with Dizzy Gillespie;     Of all of the Jaz [..]
Each week the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe hosts live performances from the greatest jazz musicians across the country.
Ron English : Tuesday Nights
STARTS: Tue, January 01 2019
ENDS: Tue, December 28 2021
Dave McMurray
STARTS: Wed, May 01 2019
ENDS: Sat, May 04 2019
Sean Dobbins Modern Jazz Messengers
STARTS: Wed, May 08 2019
ENDS: Sat, May 11 2019
Michael Zaporski
STARTS: Wed, May 15 2019
ENDS: Thu, May 16 2019
Jason Marsalis
STARTS: Fri, May 17 2019
ENDS: Sat, May 18 2019