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Upbeats With John Osler
June 19, 2017





One of the advantages of hanging out at a jazz club taking photos is that I also hang out with jazz musicians. I often have a chance to listen to a group talk about those people whom they have gigged with. Sometimes the talk turns into some bizarre road experiences and quirks of personality which then brings on a lot of head nodding and understanding guffaws. They all seem to have had similar experiences. Sometimes the conversation turns to those who have influenced and encouraged them. Each jazz musician, like all artists, takes his/her own path, yet the lives of musicians are full of similar thank you moments. Few musicians haven’t been nudged in the right direction by a friendly hand. One thing that you almost never hear is a derogatory comment.


Musicians also are generally mobile. They are exposed to a lot of travel and varied cultures. How they incorporate this in their music varies artist to artist but it is going to find a way into at least the beat of the music or the sway of their body.


This week at the Dirty Dog  saxophonist T. K. Blue will play with the Detroit Jazz Festival All Stars.







I didn’t know T.K. or his music, so I Googled his name and went to his biography. His was filled with a lot of familiar jazz artists, false starts, trying different paths and a lot of gentle nudges from helpful people.. It started me thinking about all the times that I have looked at artist biographies that looked a lot like T.K’s. So many talented musicians come through the Dirty Dog’s door who have been seen with a long list of jazz legends.. If we look at the influences in their lives, we will find all varieties of folks. Diversity is the word we use now for what was natural to most jazz artists and certainly to T.K.




The thing that stood out about T.K.’s bio was his seemingly constant and respectful adventures with new ideas, places and cultures.. He has remained in motion throughout his life and his music reflects his inquisitiveness into what has past and what is about to be done.


I think we can learn from his background.


T.K. Blue, also known as Talib Kibwe, was born in New York City of a Trinidadian mother and Jamaican father. T.K. began playing music at the age of 8 years old on trumpet.  In High School he played the flute. He took lessons from Billy Mitchell, the legendary tenor saxophonist with Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. At New York University he began playing soprano & alto saxophone. He earned a bachelor’s degree in both music and psychology, and a  master’s degree in music education from Teacher’s College at Columbia University.


T.K.’s bio goes on to list his education, his mentors, his travels including living 10 years in France and a page full of his important accomplishments. In his bio live many of the jazz world’s legends.


Please look at T. K. Blue’s complete bio at:


T.K.’s bio confirms that he is certainly a musician of the highest caliber who is at the peak of his creative output. T. K. Blue can be found on over seventy recordings and he has performed with a long list of great international artists




T.K. Blue just came out with his new CD “Amour” which was released May 12, 2017.




A life like T.K.’s is chock full of stories.


I put a call into T.K. to see if I was on the right track trying to figure out what or who were his greatest influences. He is obviously a well educated cerebral cat who has worked with poets, historically important figures and artists. I asked him if his music has been informed by more than  just other jazz musicians. He replied, “You are on to something”.


He began our conversation by telling me that while In high school he worked with a young poet who was part of NYC’s Last Poets. The Last Poets are considered the precursors to Rap. Then while T.K. was at NYU the two of them formed a band, the first of his many collaborations.


He started to go on and maybe realized that he was giving me his bio. T. K.’s voice paused  and he veered away from his written bio. He told me that one of the most powerful influences in his life was his father in law. His father in law was one of New York’s first black firemen. What T.K.saw was a man that was an anchor in the community, a rock solid husband and a loving father to his kids. The subject stayed on his family. T..K.’s mother returned to school to get a degree in art appreciation, an act that obviously filled him with enlightenment and purpose. As much as his adventurous spirit took him around the world and allowed him to meet influential people, he retained the values and purpose that was most important to him.


Finding purpose in the things and people around them is a common trait of jazz musicians  Jazz artists know how to include both adventure and home in their lives and  their lives show up in their music.





Yesterday was Father’s Day, and my son Mark wrote this tribute to his parents, using a part of one of my recent blogs. It was sure appropriate.


“Not long ago, my dad wrote this on his blog:


Our kids are especially vulnerable as they take their long road to emotional and physical maturity. As members of the human race we use up a quarter of our lives figuring things out, longer even than those much larger than we are like the blue whale.
Our instincts are to shield, nurture, educate and protect our children. We are at a crossroads right now. We are being told it is OK to be concerned with our own safety and enrichment, but we don’t have an equal fervor to invest in our nation’s children, especially in the music and the arts….



Wayne Shorter had just been in Detroit in his role as the Detroit Jazz Festival’s Resident Artist for 2017. This remarkable jazz saxophonist offered to be part of a master class held at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. When he entered the club he was greeted with awe and respect. Great artists can be a little intimidating. Any intimidation melted away under the weight of Wayne’s manner and words, while the awe and respect carried on throughout the evening. At this moment in his life Wayne Shorter has little to prove. He still can’t enter a room without having something to say that needs to be said. Wayne came into the room where the young musicians were preparing to play and sat down in a chair facing them. Without speaking he waved to them to start playing. While they played he did what jazz artists do best.  He listened. He responded to what he just heard by saying that it is what you personally bring to the gig that is more important than your instrument and all your newest tricks. He told them to live life so that they would have something to say and know when it is appropriate to say it. They learned that their music would be only as good and as big as their lives.


I love that last part, where he hears what Wayne Shorter really meant. That’s what artists do. I remember once he told me that a good painting will represent the truth of a subject better than a photograph would. I didn’t understand what he meant then, but I do now.”


John Osler






JUNE 21 – JUNE 24



T.K. BLUE with the DJF All Stars


We get four days to learn more about T.K. playing with  some of Detroit’s greatest jazz artists whom we already know a lot about. They include Buddy Budson,Marion Hayden and David Taylor.


  TK-Blue-gallery-14-1024x683   david_taylor



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June 12, 2017




Once an artist has put his final touches on a piece of art he is faced with a choice, to add it to the pile in the basement or offer it up as an important piece of art. Neither of these come naturally for a creative artist.


Certainly there are those who can go deep into the creative process completely immersed in their art and emerge transformed into a marketing giant. For these lucky folks the high from their success carries over to the final step of the creative process, that of sharing their work.


For the rest of us who create art, music, poetry, etc. we find our comfort zone is limited to the first stages of the creative process. For us this is where the excitement lies. The process can be tortuous, but the final result can elevate one to satisfying heights. Stepping back and reveling in this grand  moment of success is often short lived. The reality of what you do with your creation is upon an artist much too fast. Fortunately there is often someone to partner with artists to help get them through this potentially ego busting exposure of their newborn creation.


Marketing, promoting, and encouraging art is an art in itself. I have found that those who  bring good art forward have a passion for art and an understanding of the difficult.process. The challenge for the artist is to find that person or organization.


One day I found that I had run out of room for all the canvases that I had accumulated and found that I sure could use some refunding for my life. I started to look for a gallery to peddle my art. I had reason to be in Washington DC, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles,Taos and Carmel over some time and made a point of visiting as many galleries as I could. I found some really well curated  galleries but none were receptive because I was unknown and didn’t fit the current market as they saw it. I took solace in that this put me in the same league as Van Gogh and early jazz pioneers.


It is refreshing to come upon those whose interests go beyond what’s selling or being played in New York.


Here are a few:





In 1537 the young Cosimo de’ Medici (1519–1574) was plucked from relative obscurity in the Tuscan countryside to lead Florence. He elevated himself to absolute ruler of Florence. By 1569, when Cosimo convinced Pope Pius V (1504–1572) to bestow on him the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany, he had expanded his totalitarian rule throughout the Tuscan territories, sometimes violently seizing control of neighboring cities.


Cosima had a lot of power to get things done, but fortunately Cosimo also had a  wide-ranging intellect, including a deeply rooted interest in art and literature and a keen fascination with botany, chemistry, and zoology. He became the prototype of the arts patron. His family’s patronage of the arts rather than their overbearing power has left a glorious legacy.





Lorenzo was the grandson of Cosima de’ Medici who became the most powerful and enthusiastic patron of the Renaissance.


He was a magnate, diplomat, politician and patron of scholars, artists and poets. He is well known for his contribution to the art world by sponsoring artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo


Michelangelo was one of many artists whom the world can thank the de’ Medici family for.  Because of their support Florence became known for its art, just as Detroit continues to be known for its music thanks to the contributions of Gretchen Valade.


Without Lorenzo’s help Michelangelo probably would have ended up selling  miniature frescoes in a square in Florence. The large hunk of marble that is David would be a large piece of marble in the quarry.


Michelangelo’s works from this period continued to influence sculptors and painters throughout the late Renaissance and Baroque eras, all thanks to the passion that the de’Medici family had for art.


Closer to home are two friends that have given so many artists the help that they needed when they needed it. They are also a lot nicer than the folks the Renaissance artists had to deal with.







Much gentler than the sometimes ruthless de’ Medicis, Gretchen has become Detroit’s angel for jazz and has shared Detroit’s jazz artistry with the world.


Out of her passion for jazz she has successfully promoted our local artists and also offered them her friendship. She has always had an unconditional love for the music and a deep empathy for the artist. She has helped Detroit jazz to maintain its role in the growth of jazz. She has been  the ultimate partner for jazz musicians especially when they needed a lift.


Detroit is a city that prides itself on being resilient. We are the comeback city. We get knocked down, and we get back up.  We need some help sometimes. We look for a champion to appear. Sometimes we get lucky and one of our own steps up. They tell us we count and that we are special. They get strong when the weak walk away.


In 2005 a champion appeared. Gretchen Valade said  “PHOOEY” to the people that thought Detroit was dying. She saw the vibrant talent in the Detroit jazz community and she knew that the people of Detroit have their hopes permanently entangled in the city’s music.  She was all over this task. How lucky that it was someone of Gretchen’s integrity who took charge. She was determined to keep the Detroit Jazz Festival distinctively Detroit’s. Today it remains free for all to enjoy and is celebrated around the world as a symbol of the best side of Detroit’s character.




She made me aware that the festival doesn’t just happen. It takes planning, hard work, attention to details and oversight.  Not just casual oversight but oversight that comes with purpose and a respect for the music and the people of Detroit.


She gets things done with grace and authority. The festival is the result of the right people doing their best to provide Detroit music lovers the best free Jazz festival in the world.


When Gretchen saved the Festival she was just getting started. She has continued to be the jazz artist’s best friend.





My wife and I just returned from France where we accompanied  J.C. Mathes on a tour of the Rhone Valley vineyards whose wines he imported.





In the spring of 1992 I heard about this clever U of M professor who had worked out a way to  travel to the south of France, sip wine, enjoy the good life and get paid for it. He eventually turned his avocation to find the best local wines into a full fledged wine importing business, J et R Selections




 The winemakers have a personal relationship with the land and ask for the same personal attention when doing business. J.C. learned to be one with his growers. He was always a friend first because that was what counted. In a place where nature can steal away your season of hard work with an ill timed rainstorm at harvest time, friendships and mutual support are essential.




This spring when we visited J.C.’s friends they brought up their personal stories of meeting and working with a different kind of man. A partner that never got involved with their wines but rather tried to better understand them . They were never asked to compromise to appeal to an audience. They got respect from J.C. for their process of creating their wine and with J.C.’s help their wine has been shared by many in the form that these wine artists intended.



It was a great trip. It revealed to us what a life of sharing and  passion looks like.

John Osler




This week at the Dirty Dog will be two Detroit musicians who have received a gentle hand up from their friend Gretchen Valade.


June14 -June15





Scott is a major talent who was given a chance to be one of the first to play the Dirty Dog. Every time he has played the Dog he has given back for the opportunity he was given. Scott, as usual, will surround himself with other remarkable players.







Dave has so much talent that he probably could play anywhere in the world, playing any kind of music. Fortunately for his myriad of fans he will return to the Dirty Dog and show his appreciation for the support they have given him.












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June 5, 2017



SKETCH #4    SPRING 2017


In my thoughts on the four stages of the creative process this final stage is where most of the fun lies.

After artists (1) find a subject (2) use all their senses looking at or listening to all the possibilities, (3) edit to clarify the story, (4) they get to put their stamp on the creation and it becomes uniquely theirs. They can go wild and add dabs of color, twist a phrase or add a new note as long as it is in the artist voice. No one who came into a room and heard  Louis Armstrong or Frank Sinatra would have had to ask who it was. A Woody Allen or Coen Brother movie is pretty easy to spot. A Van Gogh painting shouts Van Gogh. A Mark Rothko painting is sublimely a Rothko.

This act of interpreting is when  craft becomes art.

Artists don’t always set out to  insert their individual stamp on their creations. It is just that creating freely is generally allowed, usually encouraged and often liberating.  When you create for yourself you get to do anything you want. I enjoy  art most when I see what the artist wanted to say in his/her work.



I have been fortunate to be around artists at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café who remind me what interpreting sounds like. They remind me that it is OK to express myself. Every artist who shows up at the Dirty Dog comes with a style and an attitude that is his/her own. I usually leave the club inspired.

While I have been away in Provence I have been equally inspired by friends with creative souls.


France 07 Panosonic 020_edited-1




While I am in France I will spend time with a friend of many years, Pascal Balay. Pascal has supported herself and successfully raised three children with her skill as a potter. Pascal is more than a potter, she is an artist. Her work is uniquely hers and each piece stands on its own as a work of art. Her spirit comes with the purchase of everthing she produces.

Pascal was trained in England so I can understand her when she talks about her art. She makes it clear that her art is always going to be her art. Even though the potter’s wheel goes round and round in exact circles it is her hands that will create a Pascal Balay piece. There will be no perfect circles nor repetitive color glazes. It will be easy to know whose hands did the work. For Pascal each pot, bowl, plate or platter will be a new adventure. She has a healthy respect for keeping art in her craft. I have spent some time rummaging around her workshop. She has any number of discarded pieces thrown into the bushes and along the studio wall. I would love to own most of her rejects. They are Pascal’s and they are unique and they are special.


Many artists like Pascal will probably never be wealthy. They will be satisfied with rich lives, lives that they define. The decision not to produce products but to follow your vision has benefits. Among the benefits are the  respect of other artists, users, listeners and viewers. Pascal Balay has always willingly shared her passion with students.


Watching her with eager young potters reminds me of Detroit’s master teachers working with up and coming jazz artists.



Jean Paul Versino is a very good friend of mine. I have learned to admire him for his respect for the people and land around him. He is easy to like even thought his surety can be intimidating. He grows grapes in probably the most honored wine region in the world, the designated appellation of Chateauneuf- du-Pape. The vineyards in Chateauneuf stay in the family generation to generation. The vines are mostly ancient and grow in the rocky terrain that has produced sugar rich wine grapes for thousands  of years. The restrictions on the production of the wines are severe and traditional methods of blending the grapes are highly regulated and enforced. The wines are almost guaranteed to sell and be liked.

John Paul agrees that this is all good. He adheres to all the traditions and rules. They help guide him as he makes extraordinary wine. John Paul’s hand is on the wheel of the tractor, pruning shears, tasting pipette and can be seen in the design of the wine itself. The wine is labeled Bois De Boursan for a forest near the domain.

John Paul is an artist. His art is making wine. His is a personal creative venture and he is assuredly in charge of the whole process. He has a lot of chances to screw up. His decisions will determine how the wine tastes when opened years from now.

I once asked John Paul who helped him taste the wine to keep him on the right track. John Paul laughed as he made it clear that it is his wine. Only he can taste when it is on the right track and he will end up with another great Bois De Boursan.

Being around highly skilled but wildly creative artists like Pascal, Jean Paul and the jazz musicians at the Dirty Dog I am able to detect a playful attitude, a freedom to express themselves that borders on bravery. They lack a fear of failure. They are very fortunate.

We are always very fortunate when we bring these creative people into our lives and get to see what is possible.

John Osler





Shahida will be the first of two of Detroit’s best interpreters of jazz USC. She will put her personal stamp on many standards along with seldom heard but should be heard tunes.

JUNE 9 – JUNE 10


This week the Dirty Dog has programmed two of Detroit’s finest jazz artist back to back. Alexander will follow Shahida with his one of a kind act. Alexander Zonjic will challenge his pals to keep up with this true Detroit icon.






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May 29, 2017


Modeling in clay adding and taking away


One of the hardest tasks a musician, writer or artist has is to edit ideas, feelings and discoveries. Sometimes it means you throw out some beautiful stuff in order to simplify and make your message more easily understood. We are often arrogant souls who believe all our experiences and ideas are important and would prove to others just how interesting we can be. Unfortunately this approach only proves just how boring we can be. We also can have the a thought that  is strong enough to stand on its own but gets in the way of telling the story at hand.

Editing your work will ask your listener or reader to fill in the blanks and will get them more involved. The longer an artist works at his/her craft the better they are at editing. I am aware of the art of editing, especially when I hear a master of the piano like Charles Boles play a ballad. When I paint I sometimes get too close to the  canvas and create a great bit of painting but it is out of scale, and out it goes. The great John Singer Sargent wiped whole canvases away and started over, and he never painted anything bad.  Away would go all the terrific stuff that was inappropriate to his subject. I would like to someday find his discarded pieces.



Ernest Hemingway said “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.”


Greening is what editing when writing for publication is often called. This phrase originated when editors used a green marker to indicated what copy needed to be cut to fit the column length. It took young writers a while to get used to having to having their beautiful words chopped out of their prose. John McPhee wrote about his experiences with the New Yorker magazine. Here are some of his thoughts.

Choosing what to leave out.

By John McPhee

“Writing is selection. Just to start a piece of writing you have to choose one word and only one from more than a million in the language. Now keep going. What is your next word? Your next sentence, paragraph, section, chapter? Your next ball of fact. You select what goes in and you decide what stays out. At base you have only one criterion: If something interests you, it goes in—if not, it stays out. That’s a crude way to assess things, but it’s all you’ve got. Forget market research. Never market-research your writing. Write on subjects in which you have enough interest on your own to see you through all the stops, starts, hesitations, and other impediments along the way.”

Michelangelo: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I’m just taking away what doesn’t belong there.”


Le Beaucet


I am still in Provence, France where we are barraged by exceptional images. This is a place where hundreds of memorable moments are thrown at you every day. It is a dry climate with a steady stream of cool air that is funneled down through the Rhone valley by the Mistral winds coming from the Alps. When you step out of the sun and into the shade, you feel this cool breeze. There are hills and mountains and flat fields of vines and crops. Villages sit atop high places and cling to sides of cliffs. They perch defiantly against the march of time and tourists.
Nature and man have seemingly combined to eliminate the ugly and include only things that are sublimely beautiful.
I have come to paint to the same villages for over 25 years and have become friends with some truly remarkable people. 
Many of the people in my life have shown me the benefit of editing both in their art and their lives. I have come to realize that editing is just aother word for choosing.



Ernst Sillem, a Dutchman and a friend to us in France has lived in his words, “an amusing life”. 
Ernst will soon turn 94 years old and still lives a vigorous and independent life. He has a glint in his eye and pep in his stride. His life has not been easy and in his positive nature we can learn some lessons in life. 
Ernst learned the skill of editing while being held a prisoner in German work camps throughout World War II. Ernst was saved from dying along with all the occupants of Dachau as the scheduled slaughtering of the prisoners was interrupted by the early arrival of American troops. He is a rare case of someone surviving the whole war despite being overworked and underfed in these hideous camps. He has many stories of grit and some good luck. His survival and subsequent life were a product of mind over matter. 


In prison Ernst learned to edit. He learned to put yesterday out of his mind in order to have the strength to face the day ahead of him. This was a skill that he would need in his life that took him to pioneer new agricultural techniques in Morocco and a rabbit farm in France. His ” good head” would help him cope with the loss of three wives, a son and many friends. Each day he wakes with good cheer and adventure in his heart. What a gift. What power good editing can have.
I have watched jazz artists edit on the fly and as a group. This is a skill that I don’t have. I have the luxury to edit at a later date once I realize how much unnecessary stuff I have included.  Maybe I am going on a little long about this.
John Osler




Dave McMurray edits everything out except his personal thoughts, his power and his compelling spirit. Detroit knows David and Detroit know jazz.



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May 22, 2017

May 22

Just before I left to go to the south of France last Thursday I had a chance to catch one more group at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. I was put in the perfect mood to start a new adventure by a group that Anthony Stanko put together. if you don’t know who Anthony is you likely soon will.  That Wednesday evening Anthony and friends gave me a preview of the life I hope to be living in Provence. I will be in surroundings that are quiet / tranquil but can be also intense. Gentle warm breezes  move the tops of the linden trees pointing you to the shadows where the most brilliantly colored flowers are hidden.  Anthony played all of this on Wednesday in one ballad.

2 (1)



Last week I described what my version of the creative process looks like. It started with the idea of getting away from your comfort zone and entering the first stage of EXPLORING.

IMG_0454My friend JC Mathes

I wasn’t sure I was ready to explore after finding out how comfortable it is sitting in warm weather surrounded by vines, under blue skies, in the company of good friends, good food and good wine.  At moments like this it seemed like the right kind of exploring to me. I still wanted to see the wind in the fields and the trees . . so off we went.



Sometimes obstacles are put in your way. There is a lot of lamb and goat cheese dished out in this lush agricultural area. It seemed every time we got in the car we ran into the source. All traffic stops and gives way as the dogs and their masters use the narrow roads to bring the beasts to higher ground each spring. No one minds as the world slows down at times like this. No one creates a new law to prevent this from ever happening again. Smiling people ran out of their shops to observe this springtime tradition. This is the way that life is here.



Everyone has an artist’s ability to see the beautiful and meaningful things around them. We don’t always see the same things when we look closely. Some things are better off being seen at a distance. It is important to see what is in front of you and not what you hoped to see. An artist gets a chance to create what he wants to say later in the process. The creative process requires a keen sense of observation. At times an artist sees things that are overlooked in a busy life.  That is the reason that being in a place like Provence where it is part of the culture to take the time to look. Artists get in the habit of seeing, listening and discovering. It will all be used.

Portfolio july 25 deacon, dewrag, santa ,cassis Madison 001_edited-1

CASSIS                                                                                                           OIL/CANVAS

A few years ago on a Sunday morning in the village of Cassis, France there was almost no one out and about. The reason probably is that Cassis is a small fishing village on the Mediterranean. It has great seafood with restaurants that encourage boisterous conversations at all hours. Saturday night is a night to sample some of the fresh catch cooked by great chefs. A meal like this leads to having long conversations with plenty to drink, which can lead to rocky Sunday mornings. I was flying out of Marseille that day and got up early. I had time to go down onto the the beach and take one last look at the sea and the magical hazy light. One lone walker came slowly down the beach. I didn’t greet him or disturb him I just observed him. I don’t know whether he was reliving some happy moments or was still  in the fog of a rough Saturday night. All I know for sure is that he was deep in his thoughts.

When I painted that moment I included the color of the region rather than the gray and rather drab colorless morning just before I would have to leave this radiant place.

This act of watching and observing was very much like any jazz musician listening to the life and sounds around him when he composes his music.

John Osler


May 24 – May 25



The Dirty  Dog is proud to bring Jeff Canady back one more time.  This week he will be leading his own band. Jeff has become  a regular sight  at his  drum kit as he has supplied a steady Detroit groove behind many of our favorite artists.

May 26 – May 27

c Sandsjpg c-sands-nyc-00199-web-1200x675-e1495397721366.jpg



Recently added to Mack Avenue Records jazz label, pianist Christian Sands will be bringing us the music from his latest Mack Avenue release ” SEARCH” This young but seasoned musician has a mission to interpret his roots in his uniquely fresh way. He played professionally at age 10 and hasn’t stopped learning. The great pianist Billy Taylor took him under his wing and introduced him to all his influences. We will hear these roots when he plays the Dirty Dog’s intimate room. Christian is constantly reaching for new ways to let us hear his story.

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May 15, 2017

For a very long time I have been fascinated by the ability of jazz musicians to create new music on the fly and make it look easy.


We all watch as another guy steps up and adds to the first guy’s thoughts. Soon they are joined by others who move the groove in a new direction.  Each time I hear Happy Birthday played at the Dirty Dog it is in a new form. No one plays it straight. It is approached like we have never heard it before. Bands that play a club like the Dirty Dog know that they will be free to wander from the conventional play list. They will have a chance to try out a new tune. Last year Ian Finklestein wrote a new tune each night and played it in the evening. The band somehow plays each new song as if it were a familiar Cole Porter song.  At times like this the musician’s creative juices are on full display. This is why we chose to listen to live music.


Sometimes it is magical. I think, however, that it is more a result of preparation, and from that preparation comes the confidence to joyfully go down new paths. They have mastered the creative process.


They first found a story they wanted to tell. They understood the depth of the story. They then constructed the story so that it was clear to them and could be shared.  Then they told it in their own unique voices.


All creative artists suffer through a creative process.


I have observed that poets, writers, musicians, actors, painters and all other artists are seldom conscious of their deliberate creative process. I do think there are definite stages most artists follow.  Over the next few weeks I will try to explore them.



STAGES (my version)


I feel the creative process can be broken down into the following four stages. We are constantly exploring, observing, editing our observations and putting our observations into our own words. All of these actions are equally important and affect each other.




This is where the subject is found. We have to make an effort to get out and experience the things around us.




It is important to clearly see those things that we have found and soak them in.




This is the process when we eliminate and include pieces of information.




This is where we put our personal stamp on our creation.





PROVENCE                                               OIL/CANVAS




When I am writing this I will be in the South of France. It is a great place to find inspiration. good food,  good wine and some wind.


The beginning of a creative act comes from the artist’s personal journey. Everything in ones life prepares that person to make something out of it. We  accumulate piles of subject matter as we go along living our lives. Some people can create from looking out the window of their favorite room if they have a passion for that view. I tend to search outside the familiar.




Through the years we have been lucky to spend time in other artists homes where I have found plenty of inspiration.





Jacques Shapiro’s magical home.



Jean Castan’s equally magical home




I am in the first stage of exploring – the getting out of your chair stage. This will be the time that I stumble on the the subject or direction that I will be taking. I left Detroit with the idea that I will be painting large canvases filled with movement and color. The motion of the trees, fields and vines as the strong clear winds of the mistral sweeps through them has always captured my imagination.. The wind turns the leaves over and over as the sunlight comes through them. While we are here the pace of our lives becomes slower and we give more of our time to seeing, smelling and hearing nature all around us. This is a wonderful place to explore and create.


In the coming weeks, I will begin to paint in a friend’s atelier and keep you posted. When I start to paint I often stand back and spend a lot of time looking at an empty canvas. I will often stop and wipe out an ugly start. Sometimes find myself staring out in space. Is this staring at my empty canvas part of my creative process?  I think so. I will find out.




I will miss my time listening to live jazz. Jazz music is in a constant stage of exploration. The music is a result of the artists getting out of their comfort zone and discovering the joy of exploration. To fully understand jazz and exploration you just have to listen.


John Osler




May 17 – May20





A wondrous spirit, Ralphe Armstrong will bring a good argument that Detroit’s  jazz is on  the rise .Ralphe is a true champion of Detroit and of its greatest export, its music.



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May 8, 2017


Gretchen Valade

For me, nothing rings truer to explain the magic of art and music than the idea that you have the freedom to explore and go in any direction  Gretchen Valade, when asked why when she sees a need she then tackles the problem, says without hesitating “Why not?”. She takes action, and it usually works. Gretchen’s attitude allows her to get past obstacles because she is a good thinker and probably because she is a musician.


Jazz is simply the question “Why not?” asked over and over. Jazz musicians  have to make decisions without time to really question them. They constantly have to have “Why not?” as the answer. Music can certainly be an exciting job.




TV pioneer Norman Lear finds joy in creative stress


I happened this week to catch 94 year old Norman Lear talk about his rich yet challenging life. Norman Lear took on everything in his path. What we learned was that he found his greatest joys while he maneuvered around the obstacles in his way.



This may explain his ability to keep us coming back to watch Archie, Edith, Gloria and Meathead somehow surviving their extraordinary everyday kerfuffles.


Norman Lear has just published a book titled Even This I Get To Experience.  The title refers to his experience when because of bad investments he almost lost everything, including his house. Fortunately Norman Lear had the same approach to life that I found in Gretchen. He saw his tragic turn of events as an opportunity to grow. His history of trying new things had become a pattern, and his personal misfortune was just one more interesting obstacle, one more thing to experience. Why not keep going on triumphed and on he has gone on to do great things.




Henry Ford




I read  a weekly blog from Dan Mulhern who teaches leadership at the University of California at Berkley. This week he talked about reminding yourself of your goals and checking from time to time to see if you are on a straight path or need a new way to the goal line.


In an earlier blog he seemed to define Gretchen when he stated:  There was a moment in my life when things felt near perfect. My family heard me say how lucky we were all too often. I realize now that I was really trying to convince myself that things were good enough. I was physically healthy,  reasonably secure and surrounded by kind and caring friends and family. I had a job that I had figured out and I could envision  the day that I could retire. I was content. The only problem that I had was that I wasn’t comfortable being content. There was a hole in my soul. I didn’t have a goal.




This week I will exercise my freedom to go in a new direction by taking off for the South of France for a few weeks.





In the spring of 1992 I heard about this clever U of M professor who had worked out a way to  travel to the south of France, sip wine, enjoy the good life and get paid for it. He eventually turned his avocation to find the best local wines into a full fledged wine importing business, J et R Selections.


John Charles Mathes needed a place to write a textbook while on sabbatical. This was his “Why not?” moment. Why not go where a serious Francophile like J.C. would most like to be, a year in Provence?  In that year he learned some lessons that changed his life. He started drinking more wine than beer and he found that knowing the wine growers personally made the wines taste all that much better. J. C. sampled hundreds of small Côte du Rhône wines. These wines are some of the world’s great values. The wines have evolved through trial and error since before the Romans arrived . Several varieties of grapes seemed to thrive through the dry windswept summers in the valleys and hills. The rich juice of these grapes are blended by the growers in the fall in a time proven way. The smile inducing Rhône wines are as much a result of these hardy growers as the traditions and favorable landscape. The winemakers have a personal relationship with the land and ask for the same personal attention when doing business. J.C. learned to be one with his growers. He was always a friend first because that was what counted. In a place where nature can steal away your season of hard work with an ill timed rainstorm at harvest time, friendships and mutual support are essential.


When I was given the business card of this man who traveled to see his friends in the vines every spring I thought I would give him a call. He answered my call on the first ring.


I asked him if I could join him on his next trip. He said “Why not?”, . . and I did. We saw 16 domains , had picnics in the vines with new wines, and met the free spirits that created them.



My wife and I are accompanying  J.C. on a a revisiting tour of these good friends.




Every jazz musician, wine maker, artist and truly alive person has opportunities and obstacles in their life. Seeing a good path and thinking ” WHY NOT?” is the start of an adventure. The creation of something new begins with a decision to go forward, followed by more choices. When a path appears, take it and avoid the rocks in the road.


For the next three weeks while in France I will compose my thoughts on the creative process.


My hat is off to those who have said “WHY NOT?” including Getchen, Norman Lear, Dan, J.C. and all the wine growers musicians and artists who every day make the decision to go ahead and do something really good.


John Osler


May 10 – May 13





What a pleasure it is to watch Detroit’s young jazz artists come into their own. Anthony has become familiar to anyone that frequents our jazz clubs. He seems to be on everyone’s go to list. He will be bringing his ideas and his pure sound for four days this week. Why not?




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May 2, 2017




Maturation means the ordinary development of growth and aging. It occurs naturally without any conscious effort on the part of the individual.


Our kids are especially vulnerable as they take their long road to emotional and physical maturity. As members of the human race we use up a quarter of our lives figuring things out, longer even than those much larger than we are like the blue whale.


Our instincts are to shield, nurture, educate and protect our children. We are at a crossroads right now. We are being told it is OK to be concerned with our own safety and enrichment, but we don’t have an equal fervor to invest in our nation’s children, especially in the music and the arts.


We are watching as policies are being put in place that too often favor the protection of the caregiver over the child.




The Dirty Dog April 20, 2017




Wayne Shorter had just been in Detroit in his role as the Detroit Jazz Festival’s Resident Artist for 2017. This remarkable jazz saxophonist offered to be part of a master class held at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. When he entered the club he was greeted with awe and respect. Great artists can be a little intimidating. Any intimidation melted away under the weight of Wayne’s manner and words, while the awe and respect carried on throughout the evening. At this moment in his life Wayne Shorter has little to prove. He still can’t enter a room without having something to say that needs to be said. Wayne came into the room where the young musicians were preparing to play and sat down in a chair facing them. Without speaking he waved to them to start playing. While they played he did what jazz artists do best.  He listened. He responded to what he just heard by saying that it is what you personally bring to the gig that is more important than your instrument and all your newest tricks. He told them to live life so that they would have something to say and know when it is appropriate to say it. They learned that their music would be only as good and as big as their lives.















Later that evening Wayne Shorter played what he preached to a rapt crowd that included these same young musicians. I watched their faces as he played.


I think that the students got it.


I think I got it.


I left my safe place the following Monday to see if he was right.




Inspired by what Wayne shorter said I spent last Monday morning finishing up a blog about good things trickling down and good things trickling back up. I wrote about things that had turned out right because of good people doing good things. I did this while sitting in my safe room with my computer. I wrote that things will be OK because of all the caring musicians and artist that I was coming in contact with. It turns out that I was somewhat prophetic. When I wandered out later in the day I found really good moments and kind acts taking place, and most involved young artists.












I have been joining a group of Detroit graphic artists at Noni’s family restaurant down the street from Baker’s Keyboard Lounge on Livernois Ave. It is an impromptu support group. As word has gotten out more and more artists have shown up. Old cats and younger artists sharing their work and helping each other. There are a lot of conversations mixed in with reserved admiration for each artists work, except when a young child’s work is held up for all to see. Children’s art is greeted universally with deserved approval. The children who show up are welcomed and affirmed.


















The fourth Monday of each month the Dirty Dog Jazz Café opens for the Detroit Jazz Festival sponsored OPEN JAM. This Monday the house band was once again filled with some of Detroit’s finest jazz artists and educators. Anyone lucky enough to have hear about this evening was treated to some serious musical strutting as the young musicians  unpacked their best stuff and put forward their challenges to any old thinking. The evening seems to build in intensity as the night goes on. What was on display here was a room full of wisdom.











Wayne Shorter was sure right.


John Osler






 Kimmie Horne is an International Artist with a Detroiter’s skill and heart. Enjoy.







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April 24, 2017





It was a beautiful day to go out into the big part of the lake. I placed my wife and three young children into the small power boat that we would use to go to see Silver Falls. The boat needed some help to get going. Hitting the starter with a hammer did the trick, and off we went into a perfect day. With with the help of a map and still water we traversed the large lake and finally entered Cache Bay in Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park. The bay narrowed into a river. This was where we thought we would get a good view of the falls. Nothing, the majestic falls were not tumbling down into the river. I turned the boat’s motor off and sure enough we could hear the sound of a waterfall, getting louder and louder as we drifted towards the noise. We were at the top of the falls. I turned the key and nothing happened.


In our arrogance we assumed that all water ran into our lake, not out of it. It does make a difference if you are at the top or at the bottom.


I did have a hammer to hit the starter and as we approached the edge the boat motor kicked on and we turned around safely.


Closer to home I have often watched jazz artists hit the starter with their hammer and get things going again. They call it improvising, I call it scary.





It does matter whether you are at the top or at the bottom.


While nature has strict rules, we get to make up our own rules on the fly. For a while now good meaning folks have played with the idea of a trickle down economy.  It seemed like a good idea. The assumption is that the economy would follow the good rules of nature. That those at the top had a finite capacity that when reached would overflow.


Unfortunately sometimes for those at the bottom stuff hasn’t always trickled down. When that happens, the lake of stuff at the top just gets bigger and bigger.


This causes the rivers to dry up.







The people who set up our parks’ hiking trails think it is important for us to see the waterfalls. It is always uphill and a long climb. We do it because we will get a chance to watch the water tumble down the mountain. Waterfalls and cascades always travel from upstream to downstream. They go from the snow or lake at the top of the hill to the lake or stream at the bottom.



Water has a high level of obedience to the laws of gravity. It finds its way around and through all barriers, sometimes with tragic results like into our basements or over the banks of our rivers.. Generally you can count on water to do the right thing. In nature the rules are always followed. Mother is always right.




The will of musicians can be stronger than gravity.


Jazz music has a power all its own, in a good way. It challenges the ordinary flow of things. It also wants to see what is upstream and downstream.


That is why when I see a sign for a jazz club I go straight in. It will be a place where things may go up, down, sideways but the music always moves straight ahead. Goodness and respect trickle up and trickle down. Large lakes feed small lakes who turn around and give back to the big lakes when they need it. Stature doesn’t seem to matter as much as it does outside the club’s walls.


I have witnessed the results of the generous spirit of the artists over and over. It is fitting that the Dirty dog Jazz Cafe is a place that operates in the same spirit. I have watched as the kindness of the proprietor and the management has trickled down to the staff and respect has trickled back up in return.




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Music makes such good sense sometimes. Two years ago about this time in April Marcus Belgrave played for the last time at the Dirty dog Jazz Café. Shortly after that magical evening we lost Marcus. He was one of Detroit’s greatest ambassadors of jazz who passed on to others much of the good fortunes his life had given him. Many generations have benefited from his wisdom  What a gift.  What a legacy.


Marcus came to the club that night just a couple of hours after he had been discharged from the hospital, He came into the club on the arm of his his long time friend, the great Detroit trumpet player Rayse Biggs. The band paused as he was seated at a table. This could have been an awkward moment .. but it wasn’t. The fact that his life had touched all those on the bandstand was evident in their music and on their faces. The capacity crowd knew what was going on and that it was a special moment. Rayse handed him his horn and he started to play. Grins replaced looks of concern. Joy filled the room along with Marcus’ great tones. They finished with a raucous version of Summertime… and the living is easyA fitting ending to one of our first warm spring days. Smiles and hugs followed.


That night we witnessed the healing power of music. We also saw many random acts of kindness trickling down and then trickle back up, defying gravity.


John Osler







Rayse Biggs will bring his gravity defying act 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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April 17, 2017




Where are we going and why do we want to get there?


I drove down Detroit’s Cass Avenue the other day, and in 10 city blocks I glimpsed the changing face of my hometown. For most of my life Cass Corridor was where the city placed all those things that didn’t fit into its plans, like students, Chinese restaurants, artists, musicians, derelicts, beat up vets, and those who cared for them. It was available, affordable and for some a free place to crash. The Cass Corridor was always just temporary. There have always been plans to fix it. It has always been vital to too many people to change it too fast.


One of my first memories was of spending time in an old Victorian house in the corridor     where a piano player named Dewey broke all the ladies’ hearts with songs of unrequited love. I remember Dewey’s name because our friends named their dog after this singer. Their new puppy shared Dewey’s gift to control other people’s emotions.  Dewey’s sparse piano playing didn’t get in the way of his charming smile and smooth delivery. He took all requests and immediately owned them. Few of the guests could resist raising a glass and ordering another. This was in a house near Temple which is no longer there. .. like so many other things.




Stretching from the the campus of Wayne State University to almost downtown was a  neighborhood populated by some fifty to seventy-five working graphic artists, student musicians,  their mentors and the kind of people who like to be around artists. Many of these artists were from Wayne State University’s art and music departments. Social life centered on local gathering places and bars such as Cobb’s Corner, whose owner Robert Cobb supported the local art scene and sometimes traded drinks for art.  Cass Corridor artists developed a pride and affection for their area of the city, fostered by a shared sense of community and a passion for art.


The Cass Corridor created and showcased raw, gritty, and sometimes startlingly unrefined art.  Cass Corridor provided Detroit a distinctly urban aesthetic that has continued until today.





Detroit artists carry an obligation to the history and character of the city with them throughout their careers. On a spring night one of these artists, Scott Gwinnell, stopped by my house to discuss a cover design for his new CD, The Cass Corridor Suite, which would soon be coming out on the Detroit Music Factory label. Scott played each track with an explanation of how the Cass Corridor inspired him to write, arrange and produce each piece.  It was a powerfully moving evening.  It left me with an understanding of how much  a place can influence the creative process.


Here is how Scott described the process.



“Detroit’s Cass Corridor, the pseudonym for a section of Cass Ave., is the street running parallel west of Woodward Ave. through mid and downtown. In its modern years, the two mile long street developed a reputation for its embrace of poverty and crime.


I had, mostly, the pleasure of living in “the corridor” for two years in my young adulthood while I attended college. I lived in a location that demanded that I either walk, ride a bike, or drive almost the entire corridor to reach school. During my time there I saw what reality was, both good and bad. Being a child of a sheltered suburban community, the Corridor was my growing up, my awakening into adulthood.


I’ve always been an avid student of history, and wanting to learn about my surroundings, I discovered the rich past of Cass Ave; I started understanding its own identity from its more famous brother, Woodward. Besides being book-ended by Detroit landmarks such as the Masonic Temple and Fisher Building, the area boasted small music clubs, galleries, and an array of artists, shining through a spectrum of vocations.


The most wonderful thing I discovered about the Corridor was that its artistic influence was not designated to the pages of Detroit history books, it was alive in the many young artists and musicians, like myself who were living their passions.


If you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you are seeking poverty in the Cass Corridor, you will find it; you may even pass negative judgment, and never give it a second thought. This is to your own detriment; I hope your listening to this recording, showing my impressions of this area will make you see it in a different light. The Cass Corridor is spark; it is legacy; it is pain, guile, patience, optimism, and most of all in my experience, duality.


I am a different person for having lived there, and I’d like to think a better one. The Cass Corridor Suite speaks in my clearest, most articulate voice, my jazz composing. I hope you enjoy it.”      Scott Gwinnell.




Detroit is becoming  a handsome city filled with galleries, restaurants and shopping destinations. It is becoming a great place to be, not a place to do.


Maybe it is a good time to step back and make sure that we aren’t going to lose something truly valuable, our creative juices. We have an opportunity to grow our city and still retain some room for artists on the rise, creatives who fine themselves living  on the edge and who often lead our renaissance.


John Osler


Speaking of getting things right, look what’s happening at the Dirty Dog.









And by the way,

















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The Dirty Dog brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
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Each week the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe hosts live performances from the greatest jazz musicians across the country.
Detroit Jazz Festival Jam Session
STARTS: Mon, June 26 2017
ENDS: Mon, June 26 2017
Michael Zaporski
STARTS: Wed, June 28 2017
ENDS: Sat, July 01 2017
Closed for the 4th of July Week
STARTS: Tue, July 04 2017
ENDS: Sat, July 08 2017