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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.
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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Upbeats With John Osler
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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February 5, 2019





Something called the polar vortex sent dangerously cold weather into the north central states last week. Flesh left exposed to the cold wind for any time was susceptible to frostbite. We were warned to stay put and go outside only if necessary. Many Detroiters stayed at home exposing themselves to cable TV showing us endless explanations of the polar vortex and pictures of icy empty city streets. Living in the Northern Hemisphere we survive because we know that February is the last full month of winter, that the dangerously hot days of summer are way down the road, and that we are better for having the ability to stand up to winter. We feel sorry for those in the Southern Hemisphere and the tropics as they will be soon be facing the start of winter.






Jazz guitarist Randy Napoleon showed up last week at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. The temperature outside the club was indeed in negative territory. The wind chill was maybe 30 degrees below zero. Inside the cozy Dirty Dog it just got hotter and hotter for four nights. The brave musicians surrounding Randy were young and energized. Those who were not curled up with a book on these bone chilling nights and wandered into the club had a heck of a good time listening to jazz music. February in Michigan can help us appreciate the great indoors. When Randy Napoleon and friends got done playing on Saturday night, they had helped drive the vortex away and the outside temperature went up 50 degrees from when they started on Wednesday.  Well done.




It was so cold outside the Dirty Dog last week that dogs were frozen in mid stride.


When the frigid weather sweeps in we tend to hunker down. The streets become empty and, sometimes, magic moments are missed. Again this past Wednesday night was one of those events that those who risked the storm will not forget. Randy was joined by three up and coming young jazz musicians. They played jazz and no one thought about the weather.




They turned out to be the right bunch at the right place on the right night. They lit up the place. There was some well deserved whooping and whistling coming from the bar area. The band had a great time connecting with their music, and their joy was contagious.


Last week at the Dirty Dog give us a chance to be part of a magical process especially in such an intimate club. The musicians tested each other and found common grooves. These were special moments.


I hesitated before putting on my gloves and heavy coat. I was rewarded for my effort and I will carry the experience of that night for a long, long time. I am glad I ventured out that night and richer for having taken the risk.


Maybe the greater risk would be to not go to the Dirty Dog.

John Osler


In February we are expecting more cold days followed by warm nights inside the Dirty Dog Jazz Café.


February 6-9





Rob Crozier is a jazz musician/composer/arranger living and playing bass, percussions and whatever he can find that makes music in the Southeastern Michigan area.


 The Rob Crozier Jazz Ensemble is emerging as one of Michigan’s premiere jazz ensembles. Expect a heavy dose of hard-swinging jazz mixed with Rob’s unique mix of funk and world music.




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.




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.




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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January 28, 2019



Most days, I am besieged by noise and constant announcements of “breaking news”. I hear music and see a lot of art that is violent, forceful and sometimes off setting. Too many drivers behind me are in a hurry and think tailgating is the answer. I notice a lot of grim people standing in line at the grocers, some glowering at their children. We are often so driven to succeed that we miss out on the pleasures that surround us. Then there are people like Randy Napoleon. Randy is a role model. He reminds me that life is good and everything will be alright. Randy, by example, shows us what someone going gently through life looks like.



Randy Napoleon (born 30 May 1978) is an American jazz guitarist, composer, and arranger.


He works sitting down, often with a smile on his face. His job is playing the guitar and teaching others how much fun it is to play jazz guitar. Randy’s guitar is an extension of his calmness and joy. Randy’s temperament is a gift to all that come in contact with him.


I know Randy mostly through his gigs at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café and listening to his CDs while I paint. I did have a chance to spend time `with Randy when I took pictures of him for his album THE JUKEBOX CROWD.


Randy and his wife Alison joined me and my camera for a walk around the Eastern Market and then a visit to The Carr Center.




Jazz musicians are usually in a hurry or like you to think that they are. They are in reality some of the busiest people you will meet. Photo shoots can be an inconvenience. This was not the case spending time with Alison and Randy that magical day. It was less a task than a shared moment when we could enjoy each other’s company. It was a shared adventure. It explains why Randy has been sought after as a sideman and collaborator in the jazz community.


It is in this role that I first heard Randy play live at the Dirty Dog.




Randy was touring with the legendary singer/pianist Freddy Cole. Freddy Cole’s naturally calm but sure, gentle but strong approach to life perfectly matched Randy’s. I had a chance to spend time with them in the club’s green room, which became a no conflict zone with their presence. This happens often in that room, as mutual respect is essential to playing good jazz. Randy and Freddy both understand this. It shows in their music.


Here are some other comments which attest to my take on Randy Napoleon and his music.


Washington City Paper reviewer wrote that “Napoleon’s unhurried, light touches lace perfectly with Cole’s, whether he’s answering the pianist’s melodies in short phrases or taking the stage with longer improvisations.


Guitarist George Benson calls Napoleon “sensational.”” He has an all-fingers approach; he doesn’t use just thumb or pick.”


Washington Post critic Mike Joyce praises his “exceptionally nimble finger-style technique.”


Mark Stryker helps us understand Randy’s style: “Napoleon plays with a gentle, purring tone that makes you lean in close to hear its range of color and articulation, and his improvisations are true narratives, a collection of shapely melodies rather than a series of prepackaged licks”.


Critics have also commented on Napoleon’s preference for restraint, as demonstrated by his not showing off by playing fast or being self-indulgent when soloing.


“His melodic lines are clean and uncomplicated. He shows a sensitivity for song rather than a desire to show off.”

Bob Karlovits, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


“Randy Napoleon’s golden-toned guitar lines carry Cole or frame him in all the right places.”

Kirk Silshee, Down Beat Magazine


“His guitar lines are soulful and smart.”
Marc S. Taras, Current Magazine

“Guitarist Napoleon, fresh-faced and youthful, solos finger-style, mixing complexity with swing, echoing his heros, Montgomery and Kessel.”
Peter Vacher, Jazzwise magazine


“From Randy Napoleon’s boyish appearance one might think he’s just starting out. In fact, he’s one of the more accomplished and well-rounded jazz guitarists of our day. ”
David R. Adler, Philadelphia Weekly





Randy’s combination of being good natured, being constantly curious and having a positive attitude is infectious. Just ask his students.He is currently an assistant professor at Michigan State University, where he teaches jazz guitar. He also holds  master classes at universities and music schools throughout the country.


Randy grew up in Ann Arbor and studied at the University of Michigan School of Music. He moved to New York City after graduating in 1999, enjoyed success, started a family and returned in 2014 to his home state after his appointment to Michigan State University’s College of Music as the first full-time professor of jazz guitar in the college. The program has attracted promising students from across the country. He has already begun populating the jazz scene with well adjusted and highly skilled guitarists. He will give us a chance to meet some of these strong young musicians at to the Dirty Dog this coming week. Randy told me that as much as he enjoys playing with his peers and elders he is especially pleased to share the music with those he thinks have arrived.


Randy Napoleon will have  some brilliant young talent join him this week


Wed-Thursday,  Liany Matteo will be on bass, David Alvarez on drums and Luther Allison on piano. Fri- Sat it will be Stanley Ruvinov on bass , Zach Adleman on drums and Luther Allison on piano.


Randy Napoleon will probably find it difficult not to smile as he has a habit of doing when listening to others play. He probably will smile because he knows how fortunate he is. He will smile because he knows something that playing jazz has taught him, nice jazz guys can finish first.


After a day of shoveling,  you may need a dose of hot jazz and warm smiles.


John Osler





January 30 – February 2





Randy will bring his guitar, his smile and some young talented friends to the Dirty Dog this week. You may have already heard Randy as he has played on over 70 CDs. Wow!









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January 21, 2019







This week we celebrate the life of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Few Americans have achieved as much change for the good of the country. We can count on only one hand the Americans who have a national holiday dedicated to remembering their lives. Dr. King’s legacy has grown each year since his tragic death. Each year we get a chance to rediscover anew the depth of his purpose, the truth of his message and the sacrifice of his actions. Dr. King sought to correct the course of our nation, he stood fast and he succeeded. We honor him with a special day to express our thanks for his clarion call to embrace change when it is needed.







Dr. Martin Luther King’s opening address to the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival:


God has wrought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create—and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations.

Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.

This is triumphant music.

Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.

It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.

Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.

And now, Jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith.

In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.

Everybody has the blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for Faith. In music, especially that broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone to all of these.  








Every year on Martin Luther King Jr Day we continue to honor the man and his words.


My mother’s voice was always calm and soothing. She took time from her life to read to me. I still can curl up inside the memory of her pleasantness and the choice of her words.


My father had less time for extended warm moments. His voice was firm, authoritarian and final. It was also loving because he was loving which was reflected in his choice of words.


Martin Luther King Jr came along and just reinforced my appreciation for the spoken and written word.


Martin Luther King Jr had many gifts. He seemed to see truths clearly. He fearlessly shared these truths and directed us to take action. We are so lucky that one man seemed  to know so much and also had such eloquence?


Martin Luther King Jr was challenged every day of his life, as many of his messages were inconvenient. Others dismissed him for being an inappropriate messenger. He may never be accepted by some, but the words that he chose will survive for many Martin Luther King Days to come.


Martin Luther King sought the truth before he spoke the truth. He listened. Maybe that is why he admired jazz musicians.






January 23 – 26





Steve Wood and Carl Cafagna, a couple of Detroit’s finest artists, will bring their tenor saxes to the Dirty Dog. for four nights. They will help us celebrate MLK’s life by listening and learning from each other. They are really good at that.







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January 14, 2019





Early in the new year I saw a headline in the New York Times. The article made the case that jazz was possibly entering a new golden age, or at least jazz is getting interesting again. From what I have heard in Detroit, jazz has always been interesting.




It’s a Great Age for Jazz, but Don’t Call It Golden


by Nate Chinen

When was the last time you saw a jazz musician electrify a crowd? For me it was a couple of weeks ago, during Esperanza Spalding’s exultant concert at Town Hall, in midtown Manhattan. Singing the deftly intricate songs from a new album, “12 Little Spells,” she was the picture of vital intensity well before the encore, when she re-emerged in a jumpsuit emblazoned with the catchphrase “Life Force.”


Ms. Spalding is exceptional in every sense of the word, but she’s also part of a cresting wave. The music we call jazz has been undergoing an explosion of creative possibilities, carried out by musicians with an impressive range of new skills and ideas. Some of them have found traction with impassioned young audiences, achieving a rare balance of popular success and critical approval — enough, in some corners, to bring talk of jazz’s new golden age.

I just wrote a book about jazz in the new century, so I might be waving that banner, too. The music’s plurality of style, embodied by Ms. Spalding and so many others, amounts to an extension of the jazz tradition rather than any kind of heretical crisis. The music is meant to evolve, and we’re in the midst of its most wildly adaptive, thrillingly unruly evolutionary phase in some 40 years.


Nate Chinen went on to say.


So why do I balk whenever someone declares that jazz has entered another golden age? On some level its reflex: a resistance to hyperbole, and an awareness that whatever my convictions, we don’t have enough distance to see our moment with total clarity. On some level, too, it’s wariness about any exercise that weighs one era against another, brushing aside the broader context.




I agree with Mr Chinen that you can’t take a snapshot and see a true picture of what is happening. Especially in jazz. Something game changing is probably happening somewhere every night, it is something we would only know if we were in the club or basement when it happened. This is why we go to see live jazz. I believe that golden moments in the life of an artist are only known by the artist. We can only recognize and acknowledge the results


Last week at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café we witnessed some jazz that makes the case that we are living at a pretty great moment to hear jazz in Detroit.





Ian Finkelstein is a Detroit jazz musician. Ian is a phenomenal musician and is part of our current golden age. I first heard Ian when he played piano at the Dirty Dog with the great Benny Golson. Ian was a U of M student at the time. How the heck did Ian get a gig like this? How the heck could a young guy like this know all Benny’s tunes? I don’t have a clue. I do know that word gets out when the next players are ready and they do get invited to the dance. This answer probably is the same answer to the question of, are we in a golden age of jazz?. Jazz is only as good as the generosity of its best players. Great musical knowledge keeps getting passed from one great player to a younger artist, who then spreads the knowledge to his/her fellow sponges, and so it goes.


It keeps happening and the new guys keep not just carrying the ball but moving it forward. Right now Ian is in fourth gear. Ian is usually on the move. When he is not gigging or composing , he is listening intently to all kinds of music. I remember watching Ian go by  me in Ann Arbor hauling his keyboard I swear that I thought he was composing a tune in his head as he sped to his class or a gig. Ian Finkelstein is part of a Detroit renaissance that includes many of our young players hanging around, joining forces and adding new ideas. Fortunately today there are venues where they can be heard.


After hearing them play at New York’s Dizzy’s Coca Cola Jazz Club, New York Times Jazz writer Ben Ratliff wrote, “the band also included two young Detroit musicians, the tenor saxophonist Marcus Elliott and the pianist Ian Finkelstein, convincing and confident, evolved in touch and tone, the kind of musicians New York would be lucky to have. But they were practicing restraint, too, playing in service to the song, and the bandleader”.





Last week Ian had four a day gig at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. The consensus among those who were listening was that we will look back at the experience and remind ourselves how lucky we were to have been at the Dirty dog that evening back in 2019.






Playing bass last week was another young player, Jonathon Muir-Cotton . Jonathon is still a student at Wayne State. Last summer Esperanza Spalding conducted a seminar in the morning before her gig at the Dirty Dog. She asked for a student’s card before she left Wayne State. Jonathan got a call and was asked to play the set that evening. That night Ian was on piano, Jonathan was on bass. Teri Lynn Carrington was on drums and Esperanza was exploding with creative exuberance and mutual respect.



Whatever era we are in , jazz is alive and well in Detroit.


John Osler





Zen Zedravec along with Charles and Gwen Scales are Detroit jazz artists that will be debuting at the Dirty Dog this month. They will be fresh faces kicking off a fresh year.


January 16-17





Zen is a Canadian pianist and saxophonist who  composes and arranges his very original ideas.

January 18-19






Charles and Gwen are vocalists who have been  headliners in Detroit music for some time. Help welcome them to the Dirty  Dog.








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January 7, 2019




I often put things off that need to be done and some things that I would really like to do…. until the next year. The next year is here.  I am going to start to do those good things that I put off until this year. That means I should right away listen to more jazz, find reasons to laugh and tackle some personal art projects. It also means that maybe I lose some weight and some angry thoughts.


Every year we get a chance to start over. We get one more chance to get it right. We get a  fresh start, and at the same time we get to hold on to the good things that we already have. 2019 seems like that moment. I am looking forward to having  conversations about the coming year and the positive events as they happen. I hope to talk to and photograph those who will be helping make Detroit a better place to live. Music will continue to show us the way. There is something special happening around us in jazz, Detroit and the Dirty Dog. The Dirty Dog Jazz Café will celebrate the resurgence of live music in our city with innovative programs and adventurous menus.






Again this year I will expose my weakness for jazz and all the really nice people who play the music in my home town. There will be blogs aboutfood. Chef André and Chef Eli will help us better understand their approach to preparing the special fare served at the Dirty Dog. They will share with us techniques, processes and recipes.


Willie Jones tell us what to expect at the Dirty Dog  each month in Willie’s Corner.


We will explore the reasons that musicians and fans make the claim that the Dirty Dog Jazz Café is the best jazz club in America.


The creative process in the arts and music will be discussed with other artists. We will also meet many of the staff and musicians that provide such a perfect environment for all that jazz. We will continue the search to find what makes it tick.


An important ongoing story will be the growth of jazz and the incredible programs  and teachers in our schools. We will spotlight these teachers. The folks at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe will continue to do what they can to bring the story of jazz and its force to the communities.  Jazz will be in good hands in 2019.


We have an opportunity to define our future. I will ask Detroit artists what their vision is for Detroit and its music. We will talk to some of the Detroit jazz fans who are known for being the world’s most knowledgeable. In 2018 they knew what they were hearing and filled jazz venues and our remarkable Detroit Jazz Festival.


We will all have new stories to tell about the upbeat happenings all around us.


The Dirty Dog will continue to be the place to unwind, to celebrate and to be reinvigorated.


Stay tuned,


John Osler






THIS WEEK January 9-12





Ian is a Detroit based pianist, composer, producer and educator. He’ll be playing a mix of Jazz standards and his own compositions. In past gigs at the Dirty Dog Ian has created and played an original piece for the occasion. Ian is a class act.

Ian has regularly been seen at the Dirty Dog leading his own band and showing us his head nod. Recognizing and then providing a place to help launch Detroit’s home grown talent has been one of the Dirty Dog’s roles.


January 16 -17                                                  January 18 – 19



ZEN ZEDRAVEC                                             GWEN SCALES


Zen Zedravec and Gwen Scales are two Detroit jazz artists that will be debuting at the Dirty Dog this month. Zen is a Canadian pianist and saxophonist who  composes and arranges his very original ideas. Gwen is a vocalist who has been a headliner in Detroit music for some time. Zen and Gwen will be fresh faces kicking off a fresh year.


January 23 – 26





Jazz at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café in this first month of the year will continue at a high level. It is fitting that Steve Wood and Carl Cafagna, a couple of Detroit’s finest artists, will help us kick off this new year at the Dirty Dog.


January 30 – February 2





The Dirty Dog gets the year off to a fast start with Randy Napoleon at the wheel. Randy has guaranteed us that he will bring some mellow sounds and his magical smile to all those coming in out of the cold.



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December 31, 2018

DSC_new year


Saying goodbye to 2018


It was a year of change. For many, things seemed to be getting better, for others it was at best confusing.

Detroit continued to find new energy, and the music in the city picked up on it. In our expanding  environment we felt confident to take more risk and also to pause and enjoy life.

There were also transitions as we celebrated the lives of friends that we lost, leaving holes in our  hearts to be filled. In the coming year we will welcome in some new voices.


Detroit’s heart cried out in pain for some losses and then it sang out in joy for their lives.





Music lost too many artists and  innovators in 2018 including Nancy Wilson and Roy Hargrove.



The Dirty Dog lost a good friend when we said goodbye to John Dana.





Detroit’s great Aretha Franklin


We know that their music lives on, but all the same it isn’t easy.




This was a significant year for Dirty Dog Jazz Café, a place that doesn’t change, a place you can count on, a place where you can get lost in the music, a place where there is always  a parade of great musicians and satisfied customers, a place where smiles and laughter were up this past year with pure joy continued to trend in the right direction. And they were ten years old.


Here are some things that helped to make 2018 memorable for me at the Dirty Dog.



Carl’s smile




Andre’s food




The Dirty Dog’s remarkably good natured staff





The stream of young players who have benefited from a chance to try out their chops at the Dirty Dog.


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All the times I have watched Detroit jazz fans listen with so much appreciation, knowledge and respect.





Each time I listened while an artist gave back to a rapt and respectful audience.




Willie saying: DIRRRRTY DAWG!!!




Willie gently coaxes everyone at the Dog to do their best.




Gretchen Valade continues to inspire.  She remains Detroit jazz’s principle advocate.




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In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship and never in need.


John Osler





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December 30, 2018



Santa 12 21 15

DECEMBER 26                            JOHN OSLER   OIL/CANVAS




It is our good fortune to live in Detroit where one can experience one of life’s great  pleasures  –  coming in out of the cold. On one of our cold and blustery days we are fortunate to be able to go to a warm and cozy place with good food, good drink, good music and good friends.



This is particularly true at the holiday season. The Dirty Dog Jazz Café makes sure that  jazz, joy, good food and beverages is available for its customers. They actually seem to have a good time doing this.

I really had a good time painting this jazzy Santa.










The Dirty Dog Jazz Café wishes all our regulars, and those who are planning to show up, and all those who won’t be able to get to the Dog yet have the spirit of the holidays in their heart a very merry holiday.


May your heart be filled with warmth, goodwill, joy, and may you find lots of reasons to smile.




Please join us at The Dirty Dog Jazz Café for our annual before Christmas smile exchange.


The week before Christmas can be a testy time what with a mass of procrastinators trying to complete their tasks. We all want to make this Christmas the best holiday ever. It is also a time of of kindness and joyful gentleness.


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We wish all our friends the warmest holiday season.


John Osler




December 26 – December 29 + New Years Eve





Gene Dunlap will be our drummer boy this week.  Gene has a history of enjoying playing jazz in Detroit. You don’t have to ask him , just watch him at work. His bio shows us that a lot of jazz musicians have enjoyed playing with Gene.



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December 18, 2018




As the holidays loom and undone tasks build. it would be easy to slip into grumpiness. We will have to make space and plan to feed a lot of our family again after having it all to ourselves, or try and find a convenient affordable airfare and get out of town.


We are at a time of year when things pile up, and we are up against a very real deadline of December 25. This is a difficult period with its unspoken demands that this coming holiday season should be a constant joyous celebration of life. Starting in December it seems that everything is stacked against us. We will have little sunshine and more darkness in Michigan. We are asked to shop at a time when stocks of goods are running short and the only parking places are at the other end of the mall. Exiting the shopping center your spirits probably won’t be lifted by the gloomy bearded guy by the cauldron eying with disapproval your donation of what was left in your pocket.


You should be watching your weight and your alcohol consumption exactly when you  need it the most. There will be little solace and understanding drifting your way from your nearby family and friends who don’t really have time, what with all their shopping. It seems that understanding, merriment and glee won’t be back in our lives until probably after Christmas dinner, right after we have had a chance to chat with that contrary uncle. if we live that long.



December sweeps in and challenges us all to remain civil and supportive of others. and we are inclined to go into our protective mode. We add layers of clothes to protect us from the chill early winter winds and pad ourselves against our inability to get everything done in time.


This is the season for decorating, forgetting, procrastinating, and neglecting.


Every year we are starting to decorate for the holidays a little earlier. Shops and front yards have had strings of lights strung, new bangles have been dangled and a lot of green  and red objects have suddenly appeared. This is intended to lift your spirit but can sometimes just remind us that we should be doing more.



What we need most at this time of year is some support and comforting smiles.



Finding peace while getting all your shopping done.


At my darkest moments of falling behind in my assigned holiday tasks , I am often lifted by observing a kind act or friendly word. It happens when someone offers to help me carry my purchases to my car at Eastern Market. It happens when I get a card in the mail with a message from someone that I had lost touch with, and it happens when I listen to some carols and hear the joyous message. It happens when I hear the silly songs that remind me that we sometimes take life too seriously. It happens when we see the glee in children’s faces.


At times like this I try to be around creative people who welcome challenge and confront obstacles as part of their gig. I have noticed that so many relaxed jazz musicians who slide out of the cold and into the Dirty Dog seem thrilled to have this gig added to their busy schedule. This makes me wonder what is it about musicians that they can shake any  anxiety and just get lost in their music.



To play jazz you must carefully listen to one another, and you must be free to focus on the task at hand. Jazz musicians are remarkably good at clearing their heads. It could be that they just know how to enjoy and relish the moment. This allows them to smile their way through December.





Some people like the idea of having a more tranquil holiday. They would choose to seek out a peaceful place where they can think deep thoughts. The Dirty Dog Jazz Café would not be  that place. Not that there isn’t any deep thinking there, but just that there is a lot more frivolity than quiet.



Break the cycle and take someone with you for a night out for some good food served as if you deserved the best. Top it off by getting lost in some jazz. Each week the Dirty Dog Jazz Café hosts spirit lifting live performances from our greatest musicians.




This week the Dirty Dog will be prepared to help you celebrate this glorious season. Forget about all the anxieties that tend to well up at the holidays. They will make sure that once you pass through into this cozy and comfortable place you will find a genial staff, a kindly bartender, tasty food and good fellowship.  Shahida Nurullah and her band  will chase the loop of bad seasonal jingles out of your head.


We hope that you will join us for an evening of good will and good fellowship at the Dirty Dog, and that you find peace and comfort in your home all through the holidays.


John Osler




December 19 – December 22





Put your snow shovel aside and  discover what Shahidah Nurullah is up to. Sometimes we overuse the word resilient . Whatever, resilient is the first word that comes to mind that best describes Shahidah. Hers has been a life of bouncing back and then being asked to bounce back again. The bumps in her life included a serious accident that left her challenged to speak. Well, her beautiful voice is a testimony to the recuperative power of music. Don’t miss Shahidah. We are blessed to be able to hear her inspirational voice which will be on display Wednesday through Saturday.



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December 10, 2018


JAZZ BOOK cover4

Cover photo of Will Austin at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café


One of Detroit’s greatest assets is her first class hard working musicians. Jazz drifted up the Mississippi River from New Orleans through St Louis and Chicago and spread to the bustling city of Detroit. The music found fertile ground and the city has played a key role in the development of the music from the early 30s until today. A tradition of discipline, good mentoring and living the stories has made Detroit the schoolhouse for jazz. Through good times and tough times the motor city has driven the world’s music machine. Hardship has only strengthened our jazz.  The music has always been passed on by respected and tough taskmasters to eager young musicians. From time to time there have been moments that have challenged keeping jazz alive in Detroit. A major threat happened about a decade ago.


Detroit’s defining music was at a crossroads following an exodus of businesses, jobs and people from our city. One of Detroit’s greatest assets, its jazz, was as powerful and robust as it had ever been, with many young artists ready to carry on. However, Detroit was reeling. Detroit is a city where even in tough times we keep showing up and showing up. Sure enough someone showed up, stood tall and helped save one the world’s great treasures.





Gretchen Valade’s love of the music carried the day . Mack Avenue Records was founded, The Detroit Jazz Festival was saved from extinction and The Dirty Dog Jazz Café opened its doors. The story will be told over and over by the musicians who have been touched by Detroit jazz’s angel.


It was my good fortune to have  been given access  to photograph the musicians who were playing at venues that had been made possible by the generous acts of Gretchen Valade.  A few years ago I assembled these photographs in a book,  DETROIT JAZZ  Documenting the legacy of Gretchen Valade. The book is a collection of my photographs of Detroit’s great jazz artists shot during the years when Detroit and jazz were recovering, thanks to Gretchen’s generous actions. It is my  attempt to document the results of one woman’s dream,  I wanted the world to know that Detroit’s jazz community has never faltered. This book is an attempt to document this time of renewal. I hope that the book respects and honors all of the artists, Detroit and Gretchen.



Documenting The Legacy Of Gretchen Valade


To help document what Gretchen has accomplished all of the photographs selected for this book were shot at the Dirty Dog and the Detroit Jazz Festival. Detroit has so many other musicians and venues which also deserve recognition. The rich lode of talent that play in Detroit has barely been touched in this book.


I would like to thank all of the local and national artists  who performed in these venues. Opening the door to this remarkable world were Gretchen’s right hand, Tom Robinson, Chef André Neimanis, Manager Willie Jones and all the staff of the Dirty Dog. Thanks also to the Detroit Jazz Festival and it’s director, Chris Collin. Of course, thanks to Gretchen, whose strength and foresight have provided the gentle push for both the music and this book. I hope that the book respects and honors all of the artists, Detroit and Gretchen.


If you ever want to be reminded of this great story of jazz and Detroit in photographs, you might consider picking up the book.




When you come by the Dirty Dog ask to see the book. They will be pleased to show you the book and give you a chance to get a first edition copy. This book makes a great gift to anyone who likes jazz, Detroit or photography.


You can order the book online on Amazon or for a signed copy contact us at or call John at 313.886.4728 and we will get books out to you.


The book can also be purchased at the DIA.


Thank again to Gretchen and all those whose passion for jazz and Detroit helped me to produce the photographs that make up this book. I would also thank the citizens of Detroit who remind me every day that those things that seem out of reach are possible.


John Osler


Here are some pages from the book.


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December 12-15





One of the jazz world’s greatest spirits will strip away any of your late winter blahs this week. Bring your most youthful attitude. David deserves and accepts applause







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