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Upbeats With John Osler
February 18, 2020

THE MASTER WHO TOOK PICTURES

 

MILT HINTON: PART TWO

 

“When I first started out in the ’30s, I took pictures so I could show my family and friends that I’d really been to all those places and knew all those people. Several years later, the guys I was traveling with became my friends and I shot things we all experienced so we could share them later.”

Milt Hilton

 

 

Photo courtesy of  The Milton J. Hinton Family Collection

 

 

Milt Hinton was considered to be to the dean of American jazz bass players. He was also a prolific master photographer.  Last week I wrote mostly about his goodness. I was moved when those who knew Milt best told me what a decent man he was.  This decent man carried a camera around with him. It seems that everything he did, he did well. When he brought his camera out he didn’t get many scowls and turns of heads. The musicians knew he could be trusted. Milt Hinton had an unfair advantage when it came to getting up close photos of musicians. He was one them. He honored them by taking pictures of them as he saw them. He spent time playing alongside them, he spent time traveling with them, he shared a coffee or beverage with them and he was indeed their friend. It showed in all his photos. Musicians valued Mr. Hinton not just for his musicianship and versatility but also for his easygoing nature and his professionalism. He earned his nickname, The Judge.

Sure The Judge started taking pictures as a hobby, but make no mistake Milt Hinton took his role as chronicler seriously. He was aware that he was participating in a serious undertaking of historical significance and was always ready to snap the shutter on it.  If you are planning to be part of an era or movement it is important to have someone in your midst that will take notes, Milt raised his hand, He saw his role and filled it. It didn’t hurt that Milt Hinton was one of the most recorded musicians of all time and one of the first great bass soloists in jazz.

Milt said, “I was always concerned about keeping a record of all of this,” “Not to sell it to anybody, not to exploit anybody.”  His good friend, David G Berger said, “I just think he was amazed by what he saw in his life, and he wanted to share it with other people.”

“By the time I was playing in the studios regularly, I had one or two cameras with me all the time. Record companies had great professional photographers come in and shoot sessions, but they kept a close watch on these guys. They’d usually let them in at the beginning and end of a date, or during five-minute breaks. Sometimes I’d see a makeup artist work on a performer for an hour and someone else setting up a background to stage a candid shot. Of course, as a musician hired to play, I could get pictures whenever I wanted. During all those years, I don’t remember anyone ever trying to stop me.”

Milt Hinton

 

Here are some folks who never took Milt’s camera away from him.

 

Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, Pearl Bailey, Charles Mingus, Bette Midler, Duke Ellington, Barry Manilow, John Coltrane,  Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Art Tatum and Paul McCartney.

 

As a freelance musician in Chicago in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Milt worked with and musicians with great names like Jabbo Smith, Zutty Singleton and Fate Marable.

With the help of his friend actor/entertainer Jackie Gleason, he became one of the first black musicians to work in the predominantly white studio recording industry.

Count Basie, 1959 (Sound of Jazz rehearsal)

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

“I continued working wherever and whenever I could and then I got a job offer I never expected — a chance to work with [Count] Basie…

“Basie wouldn’t let me get bored. Onstage we’d always be a couple of feet apart and he’d kid with me all night. If we were playing up-tempo and I was walking fast and starting to sweat, he’d tinkle a couple of notes, then lean over to me and say, ‘Go ahead, hog, you’re gonna take it anyway.’ I always broke up.”      Milt Hinton

“ The photos show the way musicians see each other. You look at the pictures, and you can hear the music.”        Milt Hinton

JAZZ PHOTOGRAPHY

Jazz has been able to look back at itself through the eyes of some great photographers and writers.  We have also had many compelling stories that musicians have passed on themselves. This happens everytime musicians gather when there is someone who happens to be around to chronicle the tales.

Photographers, however,  have to be there when musicians are interacting to capture the magic. This  is what Milt Hinton was able to do. As a musician, he was allowed in spaces and at times that pro photographers might not be.

“I always tried to capture something different. Whenever possible, I liked to shoot people when they were off guard or unaware. Of course, I was limited in some ways. I didn’t have a flash in the early days, and the film speed was so slow you couldn’t take photographs indoors without using a long exposure. Even so, I did get some unusual shots inside, like pictures of the guys sleeping on the train. There were also times when the stage lights were on and I could use them to get a better indoor exposure.”

Milt Hinton

Wynton Marsalis and Branford Marsalis, classroom, New Orleans, c. 1978

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988 The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

 

MILT HINTON KNEW THE IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CAPTURING THE PERFORMANCE AND CAPTURING THE ARTIST

 

” Although I took a few posed shots, I was never much for taking formal pictures. Everybody was shooting the band onstage in uniform, and if you went to a professional photographer for your own publicity shot, he’d ask you to smile and act like you were playing your instrument. I’ve never wanted to get those kinds of photos because I don’t see musicians that way.”

Milt Hinton

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

 

MILT TOOK PICTURES LIKE HE PLAYED THE BASS

 

Milt’s music and photography are indistinguishable from one another.

 

The assets that Milt needed to be a great bass player and those that he needed to be a great photographer where one and the same. He had to respect his bandmates and earn their trust. He had to listen. He had to have skills with his instruments.

In the foreword to Milt Hinton’s autobiography Bass Line, jazz critic Dan Morgenstern describes perfectly the psyche of an artist like Milt by enumerating the skills that made him a legendary bassist and, inadvertently, a legendary photographer:

“A good bassist knows how to make the soloists sound better, and thus must be someone who can sublimate his ego for the cause. A good bassist must also be a good listener, able to discern the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the players he is there to support – in sum, a team player. It’s plausible, I think, that this professional perspective also became a personal point of view. In any case, Milt Hinton is a man who knows how to listen well, a man who observes and remembers, and who is compassionate.”

Jazz critic Dan Morgenstern also wrote, “Even the earliest photos… demonstrate [Milt Hinton’s] talent for composition within the frame, his skills as an observer, and his perfect sense of timing — the latter a gift surely akin to his mastery of jazz rhythm.” Just like playing that single note at the right time that fits the chord, harmonizes with the rest of the instruments, and gives the song meaning, so too do photographers click their shutters at the brief moment their subjects line themselves up, the background settles, and the scene achieves its one split-second of consummate poetry. In music, this phenomenon is called swing, taste, and pocket. In photography, this has famously been called “The Decisive Moment.”

Cannonball Adderley, recording studio, New York City, c. 1958

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988 The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

 

MILT FOLLOWED SOME RULES

 

What started as merely a hobby morphed into a conscious effort to master his craft. He usually shot without flash, so he wouldn’t bother other players. He shot almost exclusively in black and white. Milt followed some personal dictates. His task was to leave an honest account of experiences he shared with his subjects. He had some rules. He would listen and observe but he would never exploit his friendship. Milt would never be intrusive, he would not search for their narrative at the subject’s expense.

Jazz critic Dan Morgenstern shares this.

In none of Milt Hinton’s photographs is there ever a sense of voyeurism or glamorization. His photographs of Dizzy sleeping on the train, of Cab Calloway having fun with the community, of Louis Armstrong sitting proudly next to his hotel recording rig, or even of the late Billie Holiday on her last recording session, never feel glamorous or grotesque. He lets the subjects speak for themselves and provide their own human beauty”.

“To call Milt Hinton a historian is not stretching the term. He may not always have been conscious of this role, but his ability to listen, to ask key questions, and to remember well was there almost from the start.”

Dizzy and Cab Calloway baseball team. On the road with Cab Calloway’s band,          Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988 The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

Friendship exudes from so many of his images.

“…very few [jazz photographers] were privy to so many informal shooting opportunities as Milt, who manifests a trait rare to photographers — discretion. Even when he took those lovely shots of his sleeping colleagues on buses and trains, he never took unfair advantage of them, and his heart rending studies of Billie Holiday nearing the end of her life are devoid of intrusiveness
and cruelty.”

Jazz critic Dan Morgenstern

MILT HAD A PURPOSE

 

 

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

Making the most of a pretty crummy situation, Milt captured the Jim Crow world that he and his fellow musicians had to endure. Only someone who lived through the horrors of segregation themselves would feel free to capture this light hearted moment.

Carol Drake said when showing Milt’s work: “The genius of Milt Hinton was not only in his music, but in his wisdom and foresight to document this era and these icons through photography.”

His images were built upon the simple act of listening and observing with compassion, and for the purpose of lifting his subjects up.

“At some point, probably in the late ’40s, I saw that jazz was changing quickly and there were new faces coming on the scene all the time. Some of the pioneers like Chu [Berry] and Jimmy Blanton were already gone, and some of the other greats were well on their way to early deaths. For some reason, I felt strongly about using my camera to capture people and events from the jazz world that I was lucky enough to see. I guess I realized I was actually living through jazz history.”

– Milt Hinton

THE RESULTS

 

 

There are over 60,000 photos in the Milt Hinton Photographic Collection. There are several published books filled with his written and spoken insights. Here are a few.

 

 

 Gillespie, Grande Garde du Jazz, Nice, France, c. 1981

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988 The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

This photo reeks of humanity. I have learned more from Milt’s image about Dizzy Gillespie and jazz than I have from all his album covers. Milt has shown us why jazz pereserveres

 

Billie Holiday in the studio holding a drink, looking down, world-weary

Billie Holiday, last recording session, studio, NYC 1958.

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

 

All of the books, stories, movies and recordings of her are summed up in this one powerful image. It shows the great vocalist’s pained expression as she listens to the playback of her voice with the full realization that this may be her last recording.

 

Danny Barker and Dizzy Gillespie, train, c. 1940

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988 The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

Even when he took those lovely shots of his sleeping colleagues on buses and trains, he never took unfair advantage of them, and his heart rending studies of Billie Holiday nearing the end of her life are devoid of intrusiveness and cruelty.”   Jazz critic Dan Morgenster

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

Willie “The Lion” Smith and Eubie Blake, backstage, Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, Rhode Island, c. 1971
Milt Hinton, Pittsburgh, c. 1948. Photo Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

“…very few [jazz photographers] were privy to so many informal shooting opportunities as Milt, who manifests a trait rare to photographers — discretion“  Dan Morgenson

Eubie in D.C. at the White House 1979   Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988 The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

 

Eubie could hold a crowd in the palm of his hand.

 

AGAIN, I WOULD LIKE TO THANK DAVID G BERGER AND THE MILT HINTON PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION

 

David was Milt Hinton’s good friend and collaborator. He put it into Milt’s head that his snapshots and knowledge had value.  When Milt died in 2000 he was confident that his legacy was in good hands, he was deeply aware of his own good fortune and debt to all those who took a chance. Thanks David.

 

“When I look back at where I’ve come from, I still can’t believe how things have turned out — what I’ve experienced in almost nine decades on this earth, and how lucky I’ve been.”–Milt Hinton

 

MY PERSONAL TAKE

 

 

I have been given a task of talking about what goes on inside the walls of the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. I take pictures and listen. Sometimes I am included in the conversations. My job is to listen and look. My occasional success comes from moments when I feel I belong. This is something Milt Hinton always felt.

John Osler

 

COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG

 

 February 19,20

 

Allen Dennard

 

ALLEN DENNARD

 

Twenty-four-year-old trumpeter Allen Dennard has one foot firmly planted in the classic jazz canon. The 2016 graduate of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance leads his own rotating jazz ensemble while also regularly playing with the likes of Detroit legends Marion Hayden, Wendell Harrison, and David McMurray. This April saw his first release Stepping In, which evokes the sounds of Miles Davis’ classic quintet.

February 21,22

 

 

FOUR FRESHMEN

 

These undergraduates are perennial overachievers, especially in making us feel good. Corners of mouths start to turn up when they get in a groove. Even those who are smile challenged find themselves grinning. It’s the perfect group for lovers with memories.

67 years ago The Freshman were formed and began replacing barbershop quartets with their new sound. I was a fan of Stan Kenton, and he heavily influenced the young group. It was Stan Kenton who eventually gave the Freshmen a lift up.

Their sound is secure in the hands of the current group who might be the best set of musicians to date. More than just another vocal group, these are jazz musicians who sing. Throughout their history most members of the Four Freshmen have played more than one instrument.

Pack up your gloom and bring your memories to the Dog this week. Help us celebrate  with some good food, great jazz and a lot of smiles.

 

 

NEXT WEEK AT THE DIRTY DOG

A VERY SPECIAL EVENT

 

February 25 only

 

 

THE DIRTY DOGS

 

Seven of our best traditional jazz artists were assembled by drummer Pete Siers as a show of gratitude for one of jazz music’s greatest supporters, Gretchen Valade. For one night Gretchen was treated to the music that brought back fond memories of her first introduction to jazz while a student in New York. The band have named themselves: ” The Dirty Dogs”.

 

February 26 – 29

 

 

JEFF CANADY

 

Don’t miss this chance to witness some high energy jazz that comes only from Detroit and our young artists.

 

 

 

 

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February 11, 2020

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

THE IMPORTANCE OF DECENCY AND TRUST

 

For a long time I have had a beginning of a blog about jazz bassist Milt Hinton sitting on my computer. Many times when I would Google a famous jazz artist, Milt’s photos would pop up. I knew that he was a legendary jazz musician who had taken legendary photos of legendary jazz musicians. I also knew that he was not a professional photographer, he was just a trusted friend with a camera. I did think that he would be an interesting guy to write about. What I didn’t know was how important Milt was in chronicling the history of jazz and how must his kindness played a part. His natural goodness permeated his life. His upbeat attitude drove away his demons and defined his life.

 

This blog has taken many turns.

 

Milt Hinton’s abject decency changed what started out as an homage to Milt Hinton’s talent.

 

Here is my first start writing about Milt Hinton.

 

I  admire pro photographers who can stage a photograph that will leave us with an accurate and sometimes beautiful image of their subject, but I do have a special prejudice for snapshooters like Milt, people who have earned the trust of their subjects.

 

Rayse Biggs   Photo John Osler
At least one night a week I will spend some time standing in the corners of the Dirty Dog Jazz Café with a camera in my hand.  I don’t want to become a nuisance, so I retreat to the back of the room and try to be invisible. I stay put and avoid colliding with the staff carrying loaded trays. Being considerate and safe are not the best formulas to get great jazz photos.
Great photographers get us close to and often inside their subjects.
We are fortunate that throughout its history jazz has been chronicled by writers and photographers who have had an intimate understanding of what goes on inside the heads of our most influential jazz artists, musicians and the chroniclers.

Some writers and photographers have the gift to gain trust, get access, recognize what they are seeing and know enough to edit the results. One photographer who had this gift was Milt Hinton. He also happened to be one of our greatest bass players….

I think that a lot of my attraction to jazz came from photos that made me aware that jazz musicians  live more freely and more intensely than anyone has a right to. I know this because I have seen so many b/w pictures of them sitting alone lost in their thoughts or in someone else’s music. I have seen pics of them in groups engulfed in more friendship than an average guy will ever experience. Thanks to a handful of photographers who gained the trust of jazz artists, we all have images inside our heads of the characters that created the music we love, images that are  honest and fair, ones  that you only get with still photography, frozen moments that we can each take our time to study, consider and absorb

Then I realized that everything that I wanted to say, Milt had already said in his photos and writing, and he said it better.

 

 

Here is what he said:

 

“I know you can get the program on videotape and I’ve seen it a dozen times. But photos are different. You can study them. You can analyze the expressions on people’s faces, and to my way of thinking, you can see what they’re really all about. That’s one thing which always attracted me to photography. Milt Hinton

“I got my first camera in 1935. It was a 35 mm Argus C3, and it was a present for my twenty-fifth birthday. I had the Argus with me when I started on the road with Cab in 1936. Although I took a few posed shots, I was never much for taking formal pictures. Everybody was shooting the band onstage in uniform, and if you went to a professional
photographer for your own publicity shot, he’d ask you to smile and act like you were playing your instrument. I’ve never wanted to get those kinds of photos because I don’t see musicians that way.” 
Milt Hinton

I wrote

Milt Hinton was deeply aware of his own good fortune and debt to all those who took a chance. Like so many jazz artists, He was devoted to helping younger musicians carry on the jazz tradition. He taught jazz courses at Hunter College and Baruch College in the 1970’s and 80’s. In 1980 he established the Milton J. Hinton Scholarship Fund for young bassists.

 

Milt said

“Music involves more than just playing an instrument. It’s really about cohesiveness and sharing. All my life I’ve felt obliged to teach anyone who would listen. I’ve always believed you don’t truly know something yourself until you can take it from your mind and put it in someone else’s. I also know the only way we continue to live on this earth is by giving our talents to the younger generation.” Milt Hinton

 

I was pretty young when I realized that music involves more than just playing an instrument. It’s really about cohesiveness and sharing. Milt Hinton

I wrote

 

Milt Hinton was a giant in jazz and storytelling. Milt Hinton told his story with recordings, photos and words. He saw things as a child that could have disabled his curiosity.  He rose above the assaults of racism and economic inequities that he and many of his fellow musicians suffered. He saw the goodness in others and wanted us to see it too, so he carried his camera wherever he went.

Milt said

“I was only interested in seeing us the way we see ourselves,”
“Photography is the closest a man can come to having a child.”
Milt Hinton came to the point. He wrote, played jazz and shot pictures with a sureness that only someone who has lived the story can bring.  I realized  that everything that  I am writing about I have learned from someone. Someone who was trusted to record Milt’s recollections of those who in turn had trusted him. This process takes a truckload of trust. Milt could be trusted and I found that I could trust a friend of Milt’s, David G Berger, who helped Milt preserve the words and photographs that I will be using.

Trust me.

 

 

HERE ARE SOME FACTS ABOUT THE MASTER MUSICIAN WHO TOOK PICTURES

 

“When I first started out in the ’30s, I took pictures so I could show my family and friends that I’d really been to all those places and knew all those people. Several years later, the guys I was traveling with became my friends and I shot things we all experienced so we could share them later.”  Milt Hinton

 

 

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

 

MILT HINTON WAS FOREMOST A LIKABLE GUY

 

When I mentioned Milt’s name in the Dirty Dog Jazz Café’s green room, bassist Paul Keller offered  that he was one of the nicest guys in the business.  When a guy is liked his buddies  will give him a nickname. His nicknames included “Sporty” from his years in Chicago, “Fump” from his time on the road with Cab Calloway, and for his easygoing nature and his unflappable ability to keep a steady rhythm he earned the nickname, “The Judge”.

He was loved, admired and honored. Milt received eight honorary doctorates as well as countless prestigious national and international awards. He and and his wife Mona were together for 61 years. He was a good guy.

 

Milt never said

that he was a good guy because he was too humble.

 

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

MILT HINTON WAS A REALLY GOOD MUSICIAN

 

Here is what his New York Times obituary recalled him as:

 

“One of the most recorded musicians of all times and the dean of American bass players.”

Milt Hinton had plenty to say in his thousands of recordings, in his own words and in 60,000 black and white candid photographs of fellow musicians.

Here is something Milt understood:

“A person has to have lived to play great jazz.. Unless you’ve lived, what could you say on your instrument?”

 

Milt Hinton lived a long, rich and fulfilling life. It had its challenges which Milt overcame with uncommon grace.

 

 

He was born in Vicksburg, Miss., on June 23, 1910. His childhood in Vicksburg was challenging, he encountered extreme poverty and extreme racism at a time when lynching was common. One of Milt’s clearest memories of his childhood was when he accidentally came upon a lynching. Like many jazz musicians who suffer oppression, Milt lived his life with a dignity above and beyond the confines of the oppressive segregation he encountered throughout his life..

“The word ‘base’ means support, foundation. If you put up a building, the foundation must be steady and strong. I must identify the chord for everyone, and only after that can I play the other notes. You learn to have a lot of humility. You must be content in the background, knowing you’re holding the whole thing together.” Milt Hinton
Out of necessity, Milt learned the technique known as slap bass, in which the strings are pulled back at high tension and released suddenly. Slapping the bass allowed one to be heard in dancehalls that didn’t have amplification

”Studying the violin gave me the ability to play melody on the bass, and it also gave me a great deal of dexterity,”  ”All the guys I heard used their arms to slap, but I developed a way to slap with my wrists.” Milt Hinton

His slap bass style gained him entre to the greatest musicians in both jazz and pop. The long list of artists he worked with begins with Cab Calloway.

 

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

It was 1936 and Cab Calloway was one of the biggest stars in jazz. He was on his way back to New York from Hollywood. His bassist abruptly left and Calloway hired young Milt Hinton just a few hours before the band’s train was to leave for Chicago. Milt remembers  that Calloway told him he planned to ”find him a good bass player” once the band got to New York. Instead, Mr. Hinton played in Cab Calloway’s band for 15 years. During his time with Calloway, Milt was featured on dozens of recordings with Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins and Billie Holiday, among others.

David G. Berger, Milt Hinton and Holly Maxson, Queens, N.Y., 1989                  © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

MILT HINTON AND DAVID BERGER

 

I have found the best way to tell Milt Hinton’s story is to let Milt tell it. The only way to get permission to get Milt’s words and photos is to contact his trusted friend, David G Berger in NYC.

Between. 1935 and 1999 Milt took thousands of photographs, approximately 60,000 of which now comprise the Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection, co-directed by David G. Berger and his wife Holly Maxson. The Collection includes 35mm black and white negatives and color transparencies, reference and exhibition-quality prints, and photographs given to and collected by Milt Hinton throughout his life. Beginning in the early 1960s, Milt and David  worked together to organize the photographs and identify the subjects of the photos.

David Berger and Milt Hinton were two peas in a pod. They both loved life and jazz.

 

Here is David’s story of their meeting:

 

In 1956, David G. Berger was a Queens, N.Y., 14 year old determined to become a bass player. David first called Arvell Shaw, Louis Armstrong’s bass player, and asked about possibly studying under him. He referred Berger instead to a jazz bassist who was kicking around the New York studio scene at the time.

The man was Milt Hinton, and every Saturday for several months, Berger took the subway, then the bus, to where Hinton was living. He would hang out, sometimes until 10 or 11 at night. David recalls “In those days, it was commonplace for legends like jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie or pianist “Count” Basie to drop by Hinton’s place”. He still vividly remembers a particular day when Count Basie who lived around the corner from the Hintons  stopped over, and Milt began playing a silent movie.

“Basie sat down at the piano and just started playing an accompaniment,” David said. “That’s just the kind of thing you never forget.”

David G Berger and Milt Hinton remained pals, swapping stories and grins and enjoying each others company until Milt passed away. David told me most of what I learned of Milt’s generosity and kindness.

On visits to the Hinton’s basement studio in Queens, young David met legendary artists including Ben Webster, the Hintons’ longtime houseguest. Milt Hinton took his wide-eyed student along to record and club dates.

Those visits forged a lifelong friendship between Berger and Hinton, who could swap stories on just about everyone who was anyone in popular music. When Paul McCartney gave him a fancy new bass guitar to him by, Milt said, “… it had all kinds of knobs on it, it could boil coffee and everything.”

Milt Hinton and David G Berger kept watching out for each other, that is what friendship is about. We are the beneficiaries. These two guardians have  given us a great gift.

Thanks to David G Berger and The Milton J Hinton Photographic Collection for all your help.

 

 

NPR host Liane Hansen talks to author David Berger about the photography of the late jazz bassist Milt Hinton. Berger has co-authored the book Playing the Changes: Milt Hinton’s Life in Stories and Photographs.

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/90167651/90167602

 

Milt Hinton lived one of the fullest lives anyone could imagine.

 

He had some kind of secret juice that people were drawn to. He was always included and no one told him to put his camera away. From what David Berger has told me Milt Hinton always found time for others. He was a serially decent man.

 

John Osler

 

 

Next week I will take a look at his photography.

NEXT WEEK PART TWO

MILT HINTON: THE MASTER PHOTOGRAPHER WHO PLAYED JAZZ

 

COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG

 

February 12 – 15Panema Homecoming

THE DETROIT JAZZ FESTIVAL ALLSTARS

Detroit Jazz Fest All-Stars Generations Band Panama Homecoming featuring Chris Collins, Chuck Newsome, Wesley Reynoso, Marion Hayden, and Nate Winn. (*Sean Dobbins- 2/14 and Tariq Gardner- 2/15)

 

 

Last month, the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation All-Star Generations band once again expanded its international outreach with performances and workshops at the world-renowned Panama Jazz Festival. Since 2013, the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation has been engaged in an ongoing cultural exchange with Panama. Artists and students from both countries have collaborated on workshops, exchange programs and International performances. This week we welcome All-Star Band back for four nights at the Dirty Dog

 

 

 

 

 

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February 5, 2020

 

JAZZ TALK

 

I have always assumed that musicians were special people because they had their own language. I don’t think that I have earned the right to call someone a cat. I hear jazz artists use jazz slang less and less, but they have a way of putting words together that comes out making sense and a little jazzy. Jazz musicians have used a lot of shortcuts in conversation probably because they can’t afford to waste their time. Many of their jazz terms have found their way into our everyday spoken language.

 

 

Beat, Bread, Chops, Clinker. Cool. Crazy. Crib,Cut,Dad, Daddy-o, Dig,Drag, Gate, Get Down, Gig, Gone, Hip,Hipster, Horn, Hot, In the Pocket, Jake, Jam,LameLicks, hot licks, Licorice Stick, Lid, Noodlin’, Out of this world, Out to Lunch, Pad, Rock, Rusty Gate, Scat, Swing, Tag, Take five, Wail, Walking bass, Wig, Wild, Woodshed

 

 

You have to understand that even though you start using jazzy slang you still won’t be a jazz musician. You will likely still have a hard time understanding what is in a jazz artist’s head. You must live the life of an artist to learn their secrets of communication.

 

GIG” and “GIGGING”

 

“Gig” is slang for a live musical performance, recording session, or other engagement of a musician or ensemble. Originally coined in the 1920s by jazz musicians,

“Gigging” is short for the word “engagement”, and now refers to any aspect of performing a gig.

Musicians like all artists are free spirits. They thrive when restraints are removed, especially in the workplace where spontaneity is valued. A regularly scheduled job is probably not for them, not when they are creating their art.

In the 1920’s a jazz artist in New Orleans could expect to earn between $1.25 and $2.50 per engagement. Even if a musician was working seven nights and days per week, that didn’t not add up to much. Perhaps this was as pressing a reason as less segregation to move to the northern states during the 1920s. This is not to say that all musicians were lucky enough to earn those top wages, and like today many had to support themselves with trades as well,  A New Orleans jazz musician noted that in Chicago or New York a sideman could earn between $40.00 and $50.00 per week at the top cabarets- considerably more than the average wage. This disparity in pay played a big role in the migration of jazz up the Mississippi to the Northern cities.

One problem didn’t go away. There were more musicians than gigs. Few players could get by without a regular job. Some got lucky. They landed a job with a band that toured and recorded. This wasn’t the answer for every artist.

Here is an example from an earlier blog.

 

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GEORGE “SAX” BENSON  1929-2019

 

George could really play the sax. He was so good that he was asked to play with:

 

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

 

This long list of America’s most celebrated entertainers all thought that George was someone special. It gave George choices to live the life he chose to live. Wouldn’t be nice If we all could be so lucky?

 

 

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A LIFE WELL LIVED

 

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

George realized that he could finish a mail route by 4PM and still get a couple of evening music gigs. He had a plan. He could get out and share his music and his family would have a secure life.  He didn’t have to go on the road.  He  was a remarkably gifted man.

 

 

JAZZ ECONOMICS

 

Jazz musicians have always found a way to survive and play the music they love. It hasn’t been easy. There will always be a push-pull between playing jazz and earning a livable wage. Duke Ellington knew this when he said “jazz is music; swing is business” .Today, less than 50% of a jazz musician’s total income comes from performing. Less than 10% comes from fees from recordings, broadcasting, composing and royalties. Teaching accounts for over 20% of their income.

With the age of the internet, album sales aren’t really a very reliable way to make money, and the debt for a jazz education can be oppressive. Today’s young jazz musician is a bit of a nerd, is friendlier, more approachable and just more ordinary. . Except for a few exceptions like Esperanza Spalding who can pack in an audience for a week-long engagement at a New York club, the average pay is not sustainable.  Young musicians have to improvise their finances while getting a gig here and a gig there.
Every day musicians are having to learn how to manage a gig economy. It isn’t easy, but we can learn something from their trials and successes..

THE GIG ECONOMY

 

 

The definition of work began to change with shifting economic conditions and our new digital and technological advances, This change in the economy has created a new labor force characterized by independent and contractual labor which we call the “gig” economy. 36% of U.S. workers have joined the gig economy through either their primary or secondary jobs.

We are all getting a chance to  live the live of a jazz musician.

 

 

MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN OUR GIG ECONOMY

 

Respect pours over musicians from the moment they enter the  Dirty Dog Jazz Café.

From the very first day the Dirty Dog opened its doors it has scheduled artists for four days in a row when possible. That is a serious gig. This was a decision that came from the Dirty dog’s primary commitment to support the jazz musicians at every turn.

A deep respect for the artists playing at the Dirty Dog comes naturally for Gretchen who always chose her principles over profit.

The Dirty Dog remains an oasis of respect for musicians and a good place to land a gig.

John Osler

 

GIGGING AT THE DIRTY DOG THIS MONTH

 

February 5 – 8

 

 

 

THE DETROIT TENORS

 

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 Detroit’s great jazz by listening and learning from each other. They are really good at that.

 

  

February 12 -15

 

DETROIT JAZZ FESTIVAL ALL STARS

 

 

It is a pretty easy job to assemble an all star band in Detroit. Most of the artists on any Detroit jazz  list are deserving  and usually answer their phones. Chris’s primary job is to bring together talented individuals who will best create the style of music that he envisions.

The all stars will honor a form of jazz that has been part of the music played since the heyday of Detroit jazz. The All Stars will celebrate Detroit’s influence on jazz to the Dirty Dog. The all stars will bring together some of our town’s greatest jazz musicians to play for what is always a knowledgeable house. They will not disappoint us.

 

February 19,20

 

 

Allen Dennard

 

ALLEN DENNARD

 

Twenty-four-year-old trumpeter Allen Dennard has one foot firmly planted in the classic jazz canon. The 2016 graduate of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance leads his own rotating jazz ensemble while also regularly playing with the likes of Detroit legends Marion Hayden, Wendell Harrison, and David McMurray. This April saw his first release Stepping In, which evokes the sounds of Miles Davis’ classic quintet.

February 21,22

 

 

 

FOUR FRESHMEN

 

These undergraduates are perennial overachievers, especially in making us feel good. Corners of mouths start to turn up when they get in a groove. Even those who are smile challenged find themselves grinning. It’s the perfect group for lovers with memories.

67 years ago The Freshman were formed and began replacing barbershop quartets with their new sound. I was a fan of Stan Kenton, and he heavily influenced the young group. It was Stan Kenton who eventually gave the Freshmen a lift up.

Their sound is secure in the hands of the current group who might be the best set of musicians to date. More than just another vocal group, these are jazz musicians who sing. Throughout their history most members of the Four Freshmen have played more than one instrument.

Pack up your gloom and bring your memories to the Dog this week. Help us celebrate  with some good food, great jazz and a lot of smiles.

 

February 25

 

 

 

THE DIRTY DOGS

 

Seven of our best traditional jazz artists were assembled by drummer Pete Siers as a show of gratitude for one of jazz music’s greatest supporters, Gretchen Valade. For one night Gretchen was treated to the music that brought back fond memories of her first introduction to jazz while a student in New York. The band have named themselves: ” The Dirty Dogs”.

 

 

 

February 26 – 29

 

 

JEFF CANADY

 

Don’t miss this chance to witness some high energy jazz that comes only from Detroit and our young artists.

 

 

  

 

 

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January 28, 2020

 

HUNKERING DOWN

 

Maybe it is because I am getting a little long in the tooth, but winter isn’t as it used to be.

I remember when the ice froze over for months of skating, and the snow hung around for skiing and was white.

It looks like we will have temperatures above freezing this coming week. Your car and house windows will still have an icy glaze in the morning that makes it hard to see. a

Again this year there is more slush than crunchy snow. We are active people and being holed up usually doesn’t fit our nature. We can become grumpy. We need some relief.

 

 

 

FINDING WARMTH

 

I have a doctor who smiles when he walks into the small cold room where I sit waiting for my yearly medical exam. The nurse had just left looking like I had failed my electrocardiogram. She had given me a glance full of pity after studying my blood tests. My blood pressure soars with with the potentially bad news. What a relief it is then to see this smiling kind doctor come through the door. He asks me some questions and then listens as if he were interested in what I have to say, things like “It hurts right here a little.” and “I am about to go on a diet.” His warm non responses are assurances that I am not terminally ill. He is a nice guy and can be trusted. I should remember to schedule the visit to the doctor in the winter when I can use some warmth. Fortunately there are some other places that I can go. I sneak out to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café.

 

 

We can stay huddled by the fire with a book, but we really should get out.

 

We don’t want to become grumpy and hemmed in. We need a pretty good reason to leave a warm home, scrape the windshield and then navigate the icy roads. We  need to get to a place that will get our juices flowing again. We need to be warm down to our bones.

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

Once they get settled, visitors to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café often find a smile sneaking across their faces, especially this week when Ralphe Armstrong’s music and good nature can be counted on to pick up our spirits.

 

 

Playing outside isn’t everyone’s first choice.

 

Ralphe Armstrong the great Detroit jazz bassist prefers warm places to hang out and play. He does have real choices as he is often invited to gather up his bass and get to warmer climes when Detroit ices over. When he does hang around town you can find him at the town’s warmest place, playing jazz at the Dirty Dog jazz Café.

Ralph Armstrong travels a lot.When he is in town and has a gig at the Dirty Dog, he will get some friends on the phone and enlist them for his band. Detroit is full of first call professional jazz musicians who have shared the stage with Ralphe. Yet Ralphe remains loyal to his musical partners. These are all survivors of Ralphe’s sort of witty remarks, but all his band mates know they have a chance to play in a welcoming venue with a very warm man.

 

 

Ralphe Armstrong is a genuinely warm guy.

 

Ralph Armstrong is an animated performer and it is hard not to take your eyes off of him. He is hard to miss. He is that gregarious friend in grade school. The one who always got you in trouble. You should never have followed his lead, but his eyes told you that he knew something that would make everything turn out OK. Ralphe has the knack of filling a room with his good natured  warmth. Being around Ralphe is a good place to be.

I happened to notice this Facebook post from Ralphe Armstrong. It tells us something about his heart.

Today I Gave 15 Year Old Cameron Morgan a brand new keyboard,
given to me by organ legend Bobby Wright!  Bobby heard this young man play !! And gave it to me . I went to buy a case , then went to The Dirty Dog to give it to this CASS TECH piano prodigy. I’m exhausted, but this was truly worth it”.

 

 

Ralphe really warms up when he talks about Detroit

 

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.

I am a blatant fan of Detroit, where I was born, but I pale in my enthusiasm next to  one of Detroit’s staunchest advocates, Ralphe Armstrong. Ralphe will certainly mention his love for his town when he takes the stage at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café this week. Ralphe can be, well, glib. He has the gift of gab. It is hard to take his picture without his getting that devilish glint in his eyes. But when he talks about Detroit up on that stage, it is from the heart. Ralphe is one of many of our homegrown talents who are in demand worldwide and have spent a lot of their life on the road. Ralphe always comes home, and when he does he tells us how happy he is to be back.

What is it that keeps an internationally renowned artist like Ralphe Armstrong so rooted? Is it his many friends?  Perhaps he likes being around so many other great artists. Maybe it is because Detroit is a  good place to draw inspiration.

I believe that Ralphe Armstrong is aware of many of the snarly things growing in the soil of Detroit. He knows of the rocks and weeds that make the flowers struggle to bloom. But bloom they do. The children of Detroit when given patience and opportunity work hard and achieve. They are what Ralphe sees happening when he looks into a student’s eager to learn eyes, and it’s what keeps Ralphe teaching and inspiring children in our schools.

 

 

INSIDE THE DIRTY DOG MORE WARMING SMILES

 

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On these cold winter evenings the Dirty Dog will assemble a staff that understands the winter blahs. These are the folks who will welcome the guests into  a warm, serene and uplifting experience. This process happens long before the band or any patrons show up. What I have observed is that the management sets the tone. Their  respectful and good natured work ethic is contagious.

 

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

Every time Ralphe Armstrong comes to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café he reminds us that we  have something really good in our backyard.

 

John Osler

 

COMING TO THE DIRTY DOG THIS WEEK

 

January 29 – February 1

 

 

RALPHE ARMSTRONG

 

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

Ralphe Armstrong will make you forget about your woes when he brings his big bass and big heart to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café for two nights this week.

Ralphe Armstrong makes what he does look easy. That is because his dad built a bass for him when he was little, many others encouraged him, and he worked hard. The result is that we now get to spend some time with a world class musician.

 

 

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January 21, 2020

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. ” 

 

 

 

MARTIN’S WORDS STILL MATTER

 

My mother’s voice was always calm and soothing. She took time from her life to read to me. I can still 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.

 

ALL WORDS MATTER

 

Martin Luther King Jr came along and seemed to find the right words like my dad with the calmness of my mom. He 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  touched nerves and were inconvenient to many. 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.

 

 

 

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

 

Every year on his birthday we continue to honor Dr Martin Luther King Jr. We honor the man and listen again to his words. Few Americans have achieved as much change for the good of the country. We can count on 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 will honor him with a special day to express our thanks for his clarion call to embrace change when it is needed.

 

   

 

“NOW’S THE TIME”

 

When Martin Luther King gave his speech on the Washington mall he used the phrase, “now’s the time” which rings as true now as it did then. He found this command in the music of Charlie Parker. Dr King had a sense of urgency to affect change. He felt that those suffering from injustice deserved justice now. Still true.

 

Charlie Parker

 

DR KING AND JAZZ

 

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

 

HERE IS WHAT HE HAD TO SAY ABOUT AMERICA’S MUSIC, JAZZ

 

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.”

 

 

Most nights at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café  jazz musicians listen to and speak truth to each other. When I look around at those gathered at this jazz club to listen to jazz, I think that it might make Dr. King smile.

 

John Osler

 

COMING TO THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ

 

January 22 – 25

 

 

PLANET D NONET

Planet D Nonet is a down & dirty little swing band from Detroit. It was founded by  a familiar face at the Dirty Dog, drummer, RJ Spangler, and his long time friend, trumpeter James O’Donnell. The Planet D Nonet is about swing, blues, space-age jazz and classic American songs all served with plenty of good humor with an eye toward turning people onto this kind of music. It’s worth coming out just for RJ Spangler’s  explanations of each tune’s origins and the stories behind the music. RJ will give us an in depth description of the sources for the music before Planet D Nonet plays each tune. RJ Spangler will speak to the roots of the tunes, and then Planet D Nonet  will play their music in a way that we will be able to feel the life of the time each tune was written.  RJ and most of his bands have a serious appreciation for the jazz artists who wrote music that reflected the lives, the times and the places that these pioneers passed through. These stories of America’s music never stop inspiring us.

 

 

 

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January 14, 2020

 

I respect all authentic art that is the result of genuine purpose and effort, but I am in abject awe of all artists who can play jazz well.  I don’t understand how they can do what they do, remember what they remember, express what they feel, start and end a tune together and still be friends. I have always trusted that they knew what they were doing. I am seldom disappointed after a live performance. Music lifts me up. Jazz shows me what is there. Because I can’t comprehend how great artists achieve what they do, I discount the amount of effort and time that they invest in their craft. I know that a lot of an artist’s life is spent alone with their instruments, They will spend hours a day hunched over their charts and sheet music. They will write notes on old tunes and compose new music. Then they name them. Sometimes this is where they lose me. I have often wondered why jazz musicians pick the names of their albums, bands and tunes. I sometimes think that they just want to scare off timid customers. Jazz musicians probably think everyone knows what they know. Not all of us do.

 

 

FUTURE VISIONS

Last week when Michael Zaporski played at the Dirty Dog he brought some pals to play in a band he called “Future Visions”. I look forward to Michael’s gigs at the club. He is only predictable in that the music he plays is intelligent, rooted, complex and often created in the moment. I have tried to photograph Michael looking like he is having a good time. This is important to me so that I can later promote the club as a good place to be. Most of the images on my camera screen show a dour man playing the piano. His hands however are all over the piano, spinning yarns and telling mystical stories of his travels. We hear pathos and joy in his playing, yet his face remains a stolid mask as if he were made of granite. His comrades seem to know the stories and pick up his themes when it is their turn to speak. Their heads bob and weave as they play, giving us a clue to what was on their minds.

 

 

After the set I asked a grinning Michael Zaporski why after a tune or gig he can bubble with joy and can’t even give us a grin while playing. He said that he is under serious pressure thinking about keeping up with the other players. I can picture him in a more relaxed moment when he labeled his band “Future Visions” and when he came up with his names for the tunes he has written.

 

 

Why are jazz artists so free to name their bands, albums and songs?

 

The easy answer is that nobody tells them they can’t, and they seem to be good at it. You can usually tell when someone else has  named an album. It will not have the same soulful impact as when the author of a piece labels it. It will look like Ella Sings Gershwin, Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery or Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown. It won’t have the same pizzazz as Charles Mingus’s Mingus Ah Um or Coltraine’s A love Supreme or Art Blakey’s Moaning.

The last thing that I want to do when I finish a painting is to put a label on it. Only when I want to show it to others am I forced to name it. I can’t imagine having to stand in front of an audience and explain my art. A jazz artist will freely let us know what was on their mind. Musicians seem more comfortable with this process, like pianist and composer Michael Zaporski did last week at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. Michael has written tunes with titles that predict the music like Summer Daze, Sonny’s Hustle and Distant Yearning, whereas I have no idea what to expect with his songs Pysch- Loan, Two Worlds, and Persistent Memory.  It doesn’t matter if I ever figure out what the connection is between the song titles and the music that follows, as long as I find myself immersed in the experience.

I have listened to Michael playing Billy Strayhorn’s A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing. This title choked me up even before I heard it played. I thought that the tune was called A Flower Is A Lonesome Thing and conjured up an image in my mind of a beautiful flower all alone in a desert of nothingness. I was ready to get my paints out. Then I have heard Ella sing the words Strayhorn wrote for it and found out that the song is about the wonder of  beautiful flowers.

 

 

 

Billy Strayhorn wrote more than 1,000 works, most of them for Duke Ellington. He is best known for his tunes” Take The ‘A’ Train,” “Lush Life” and “Satin Doll,”  He was a smart, impeccable and  sensitive man whose musical universe ran from classical to bebop.

 

 

Billy Strayhorn’s life in the mid-20th-century United States was challenging. He was a gay African-American jazz artist. David Brent Johnson wrote this for NPR “Despite everything he lived as he pleased, with quiet courage and an aesthetic sophistication underlined by beauty, loneliness and love. In 1967 Ellington, devastated by Strayhorn’s death delivered a moving eulogy that praised his friend and writing partner as an artistic cosmopolitan suffused with humane grace”

“He spoke English perfectly and French very well, but condescension did not enter into his mind. He demanded freedom of expression and lived in what we consider the most important and moral of freedoms: freedom from hate, unconditionally; freedom from self-pity (even throughout all the pain and bad news); freedom from fear of possibly doing something that might help another more than it might himself; and freedom from the kind of pride that could make a man feel he was better than his brother or neighbor.”

 

Billy Strayhorn’s freedom of expression can be seen in the names of his songs, along with the trajectory of his life.

 

“Take the ‘A’ Train” Strayhorn’s and Ellington’s partnership lasted 30 years. Take the “A” Train was their most famous song. In 1939, Ellington offered Strayhorn a job with his orchestra and invited him to relocate to New York City. As the story goes, Ellington then gave Strayhorn directions on how to get to his Sugar Hill apartment with the first line reading, “Take the A Train.” Strayhorn got to Harlem safely and the resulting song would end up serving as an unofficial theme song for the Ellington Orchestra.

“Chelsea Bridge”

“My Little Brown Book”

“Lush Life” Strayhorn was just 16 when he began writing this song. It is a haunting ballad with personal heartbreak.

“Something to Live For” This tune was Ella Fitzgerald’s favorite song.

“Lotus Blossom”

“A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing”

Then as his career and life was coming to an end he wrote and named these tunes

“U.M.M.G” ” was named for the Upper Manhattan Medical Group—the medical practice where Ellington’s doctor worked.

“Blood Count”   This tune was Billy Strayhorn’s final contribution to the Ellington orchestra, completed as the first part of an intended suite while he was in the hospital, slowly succumbing to esophageal cancer. This tune was featured in a memorial album of Strayhorn compositions and arrangements called. And His Mother Called Him Bill.  Bill while lying in the hospital facing death still made beauty out of life.

 

SPEAKING OF NAMES FOR TUNES/ ALBUMS

COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ

 

January 15 -18

 

 

 

IAN FINKELSTEIN

 

Ian Finkelstein is a Detroit-based jazz pianist and producer. He has been an active member of the Detroit jazz community since the age of 14, performing alongside artists such as Benny Golson, Patrice Rushen, Robert Hurst, Karriem Riggins, Louis Hayes, Curtis Fuller, Phil Ranelin, and Shahida Nurullah.

 

 

 

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January 6, 2020

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STAYING RESOLUTE

 

For many years I wrote down my firm New Year’s resolutions. I seldom kept my promises to myself to stand strong and not waver. My commitments became just suggestions. We struggle to change as we find comfort in familiar patterns in our lives, even when we know that we could do better, and even when not taking corrective action can cause us harm. We tend to focus on contentment and happiness..

Maybe that is why we say to friends: “Have a happy New Year”  rather than “Have an improved New Year”.

We are starting a new decade. I have started a new decade eight times. I don’t recall the start or end of any of them. It is also a brand new year, and I have racked up a lot of them.  January 1  has always come with a lot of talk about having a chance to change directions, reboot, recharge, or start fresh. We make some resolutions. We promise ourselves that we don’t have to remain a victim of our bad habits. We want to remake ourselves. By the second week of January I  generally found that I didn’t mind being the same flawed creature that I was in December. In mid January I would misplace my list of resolutions. A few years back I stopped making resolutions altogether to prevent adding more layers of guilt and failure to my life. I could handle continuing to be overweight, rude, neglectful and all the other things my mother and father told me to work on.  This changed two years ago when I had an event that asked me to take a look at the world around me with new wonder and purpose.

 

 

THE GIFT

 

I was given a gift on September 13, 2017 when the medical staff at Harper Hospital got my heart and lungs restarted after I suffered anaphylactic shock caused by an allergic reaction to an injected drug that was used before hip surgery. I  went into cardiac arrest and my body shut down completely. I remember a wash of complete hopelessness come over me, but no pain or fear. l was aware that life was passing out of me. Through a ton of good luck and good emergency medical help my heart and lungs were revived after five minutes, and I miraculously survived. Except for the initial pain from the pounding that I took during CPR, there was no lasting damage. It was a one time event.

 

 

One nurse who applied CPR vigorously was credited with bringing me back. She could have been on her lunch break, but she hung around to give a helping hand.

Since then I have had many timely encounters with strangers who possess a special gift of empathy and compassion. The physical side of this compassion is a healing touch.

There are people who  have the ability to make one believe that everything will be alright, exactly when that feeling is most needed.

 

A GENUINE RESTART

 

I was given the gift of life, a start over, a free pass but I remained unsure what the pass was for or why I received it. I was handed this chance to look again at the world around me, I feel an obligation to take a really good look. I think I will be looking at the wonders around me more intently. My senses seem to have been intensified along with my gratitude.

Since my scary encounter with death I have become more aware that I am surrounded with caring and loving family and friends. They  held me and created a warm place for me to land. There have been others.

 

 

STARTING OVER IN 2020

 

A fresh start comes with some responsibility. This year I have made one doable resolution for 2020. Be there for others. One on one. Kindness for kindness. Smile for smile. This means that I should try to heal when I see hurt and share my good fortune with others. I need to learn to:

 

Listen

Forgive

Forget

Remember

Be hopeful

Indulge idiots

Live and let live

Seek peace

Recognize happiness

Welcome love

 

THE NEXT YEAR IS HERE

 

We are at a time when our city and our country are searching for a direction to take with the stakes getting higher by the day, We hear a lot of grousing about leadership. We lose patience. We can resolve not to lose hope and to bring some light on the good things going on around us. We can make a resolution to add our little piece of sunshine for those around us to bask in.

 

The quality of our discussions is becoming more important.

 

I hope that I will learn to speak less and listen more.  We all have concerns for what lies ahead for our children and grandchildren. We must help their voices to be heard. We must also have concerns for those whose future is less secure than ours.

I will try to structure this blog to be more of a conversation that will include those who have suffered losses yet shared what they had, those who have made  promises and kept them, those who have observed kindness and acted kindly, those who have experienced epiphanies and remained humble, and those who have good ideas and are willing to share them.

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 Detroit, and the Dirty Dog will be celebrating the resurgence of live music in our city with innovative programs and adventurous menus.

 

WE WILL BE CARRYING OLD FRIENDSHIPS INTO THE NEW YEAR

 

 

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I know a place where they don’t make lists. They don’t spend much time talking about changing. They aren’t perfect. The Dirty Dog Jazz Café risks blowing their reputation every night that they open up. They are content to bring jazz to the jazzless and good food, beverages and service to those in need of some comfort and joy.

 

It is a place to hear music where the musicians live with their eyes and ears open to all our trials, and when they play we know that we are not alone.

 

They have already made a commitment every year and every day of the year to:

 

Listen

Forgive

Forget

Remember

Be hopeful

Indulge idiots

Live and let live

Seek peace

Recognize happiness

Welcome love

 

 

The Dirty Dog is looking forward to being part of your New Year in 2020 and wishing that you may  have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.

 

 

COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ

 

January 8 – 11

 

 

MICHAEL ZAPORSKI & FUTURE VISIONS

 

Michael will merge his understanding of the rhythms of West Africa from his travels with the  State Department with his knowledge of jazz he has learned playing with renowned jazz artists as Jackie McLean, Frank Foster, Art Blakey, Pharaoh Sanders, and Donald Byrd.

Michael has always brought something new to the Dirty Dog. Michael won’t disappoint us

 

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January 2, 2020

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WHAT THE HECK DO WE DO DO NOW?

 

In a few days days we will have to remind ourselves to date things using the year 2020. 2020 has a good look to it. It has lots of even numbers and if you can remember the first two numbers you should be OK. I do remember that once my goal was that I would live long enough to see the year 2000. Then my goal was to survive the 2000s. The 2010s were spent recovering from all the missteps of the 2000s. So here we are now. I think the number 2020 is very forward looking and youthful, and I am pleased to be around to find out what we are supposed to do now. Sometimes looking forward is more fun than looking backward, but that is not what we always do. This is good, and it is probably helpful to look back and cherish the good things in our past. We should honor the beautiful flowers that burst out the during times of struggle. Here are some highlights of the last decade.

 

2010 – 2019

 

We are saying goodbye to 10 years of trying to figure out what went wrong. We will be ending a decade of looking back at a world that seems to be changing too fast of for some and changing too slowly for others. We spent half the decade changing out of necessity and half the decade either applauding or rejecting those changes. We have had all our conflicts amplified by our new high speed, overly accessible communications. The 2010s have been irritably loud. Fortunately we have had music. Music remains an oasis in a sea of high tech noise. It reminds us that we have had giants in our midst and now have new adventurers rising up to carry the torch.

 

 

TOP JAZZ ALBUMS OF THE LAST DECADE

 

Jazz musicians are in their own world. They are seldom into messaging. Their strong feelings of how the world can be saved is usually left in the greenroom. How to save the music from the evil forces of sameness overwhelms them on their way to the bandstand. As jazz is all about life experience what is going on around them comes out in their music told in their own fresh voice.

Promises are made between artists that blunders will be forgiven but boring music will not. This is probably why music and art sustain forward motion while those around them go into a static destructive mode. Just look at the top jazz albums of the 2010s.

Mac Randall of the JazzTimes compiled the following list of the decades top jazz albums.He consulted the critics’ Top 10s.

 

FULL LIST

https://jazztimes.com/features/lists/the-decade-in-review-best-jazz-albums-of-the-2010s/

 

SHORT LIST

 

2010

  1. Jason Moran Ten (Blue Note)
  2. Charles Lloyd Quartet Mirror (ECM)

2011

  1. Sonny Rollins Road Shows Vol. 2 (Doxy/EmArcy)
  2. Joe Lovano Us Five Bird Songs (Blue Note)

2012

  1. Vijay Iyer Trio Accelerando (ACT)
  2. Branford Marsalis Quartet Four MFs Playin’ Tunes (Marsalis)

2013

  1. Wayne Shorter Quartet Without a Net (Blue Note)
  2. Cécile McLorin Salvant WomanChild (Mack Avenue)

2014

  1. Sonny Rollins Road Shows Volume 3 (Doxy/OKeh)
  2. Ambrose Akinmusire The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint (Blue Note)

2015

  1. Kamasi Washington The Epic (Brainfeeder)
  2. Maria Schneider Orchestra The Thompson Fields (ArtistShare)

2016

  1. Henry Threadgill Ensemble Double Up Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi)
  2. Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison In Movement (ECM)

2017

  1. Vijay Iyer Sextet Far from Over (ECM)
  2. Charles Lloyd New Quartet Passin’ Thru (Blue Note)

2018

  1. Wayne Shorter Emanon (Blue Note)
  2. Ambrose Akinmusire Origami Harvest (Blue Note

2019

  1. Branford Marsalis Quartet The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (OKeh)
  2. Dave Holland/Zakir Hussain/Chris Potter Good Hope (Edition)

This is only one list of many. Sprinkled throughout all the end of year lists will be young, old and really old artists. On all the lists you won’t find any old sounding music. Take a moment and look at the album names. They are not very conventional,  That is the thing about jazz, it never stops inventing and exploring.

 

   

 

Saying goodbye to 2019

 

It was a year of change. For many, things seemed to be getting better, for others it was at best confusing. In Detroit more street lights came back on. Building cranes could be seen where only hope lived a few years before. Ideas have started to be listened to and financing  has became more generally available. Detroiters have allowed themselves some time to enjoy the good things that have always been here. New shiny things have been added, and music can be heard coming out of newly occupied buildings.

There is less complaining. There are still real unresolved problems and folks left out. We are getting more appreciation and respect, yet we deserve all the criticism that more needs to be done in the neighborhoods. That was the kind of year it was in Detroit.

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.

 

2020 A NEW CHALLENGE AND OPPORTUNITY

 

Every once in a while we get a chance to start over. We get a fresh start, and January 2020 could be that moment.. We have a less wobbly base to set out from and more tools available  to reach our goals, It is a good time not to be sitting on our hands while clinging on to all the things that we already have. 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 to make Detroit a better place to live.

 

All in all, it was a pretty good decade at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café

 

It was a year of change. For many, things were getting better.  For others there was the Dirty Dog Jazz Café,  a place you can count on, a place where you can get lost in the music, a place where there is always a convergence of great musicians and satisfied customers, a place where smiles and laughter were trending up this past year.

 

Here are some things that helped to make the decade memorable for me:

 

Carl’s smile:

 

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Andre’s food:

 

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The Dirty Dog’s remarkably good natured staff

 

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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.

 

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All the times that I have heard Willie saying: DIRRRRTY DAWG!!!

 

 

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

 

  

 

Gretchen Valade continues to inspire.  She remains The Angel of Jazz.

 

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FROM EVERYONE AT THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFE, THANKS FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT.

 

HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR

 

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

 

May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience, and enough coin in your pocket to buy a pint!

John Osler

 

DECEMBER 31  NEW YEAR’S EVE

 

Sean Dobbins

 

THEN THE DIRTY DOG WILL BE CLOSED UNTIL JANUARY 7, 2019

 

 

 

 

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December 23, 2019

FINDING WARMTH AND GOOD CHEER

 

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DECEMBER 26       JOHN OSLER             OIL/CANVAS

 

COMING HOME

 

Traveling during the Christmas holidays is a test of our love of family. Air travel is a nightmare. Winter storms make returning home in a car problematic. Riding in a car packed with grumpy passengers can be taxing.

The loops of Christmas music and good natured questions of “Are we there yet?” seldom make the occupants more jolly. It is the destination that makes it all worthwhile. Arriving home, the hugs and genuine joy at the door make the memory of the journey disappear.

For more than thirty years our three children have made the trip home to be with us. Thanks.

 

 

BEFORE CHRISTMAS

 

 

As the holidays loom and undone tasks build. it is easy to slip into grumpiness. We will have to make space to feed a lot of our family again after having it all to ourselves.

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 eyeing with disapproval your donation of what was left in your pocket.

 

 

 

The holidays sweep in and challenge us all to remain civil and supportive of others. 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 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.

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 the holidays.

 

FINDING WARMTH AND GOOD CHEER

 

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 are available for its customers. They actually seem to have a good time doing this.

I had a good time painting this jazzy Santa.

 

 

 

After Christmas please join us at The Dirty Dog Jazz Café for our annual after Christmas smile exchange.

 

We all want to make this Christmas the best holiday ever. Everyone is welcome at this time of kindness and joyful gentleness.

 

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SEASONS GREETINGS FROM THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ

 

 

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The Dirty Dog Jazz Café wishes all our regulars,  those who are planning to show up for the first time, and all those who 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.

John Osler

 

 

THIS WEEK AT THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFE

 

December 26 – December 29 + New Years Eve

 

 

SEAN DOBBINS

A GREAT HUSBAND, FATHER, TEACHER, BANDLEADER AND DRUMMER

 

Sean Dobbin’s public face is behind his drum kit. Sean is unquestionably a first call drummer when he isn’t leading his own band. He is a powerful figure who visually seems always to just barely restrain himself from beating his drum set into submission. That is just part of who he is. Sean exemplifies what a jazz player and a great drummer should be.

Sean Dobbins has a big heart and a big beat. Sean is the whole package.

 

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December 17, 2019

 

GETTING A GIFT OF KINDNESS

 

It may be just a smile or a pleasant glance that gives you a lift when you need it. It may be one face in a crowd that glows with kindness and calm. It may be someone pausing to give aid to someone who is struggling. It may just be that this is the holiday season. We just have to learn to live with a surge of kind behavior coming our way.

The time leading up to the end of the year holidays can sometimes be magical. I am struck over and over by the many acts of kindness that are all around me. There are a lot of kind people in my life, but for some reason there is an abundance of consideration and offers of assistance this time of year, or maybe I am just more aware of them. While buying a Christmas tree at a lot I was given a better price than the very full tree’s price tag proclaimed. Having bought a tree that was probably too big for our house I found myself struggling to fit it into my van. A father and his two sons walked over and halted my awkward attempt to lift the tree. They easily placed it inside the van. They seemed to enjoy the opportunity to help. I smiled back and thanked them. This time of year the gifting of kindness is a part of everyday life. We  have to learn how to respond to the many random gifts of kindness that we receive.

 

 

The uncompensated gift of kindness.

 

We spend too much time fretting about having to directly pay back a gift in kind. Fretting is a waste of time, and no one has any extra time to waste right now. A better use of our time is to seize on the opportunity to pass on an act of kindness at your next opportunity.

We mustn’t miss a chance to continue giving and miss out the on all the benefits of giving.

 

 

Among the small things that I will never be able to pay back completely are:

 

All the acts of forgiveness and understanding

All the acceptance by strangers

All the openness of friends and family

All the fleeting moments of beauty

All the acts of love given to me freely

All the opportunities to give and prosper

 

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CARL WILLIAMS

 

A VERY PERSONAL GIFT

 

Some gentle nudges of kindness that changed my life.

It was 2008 and the world was in the grip of a serious recession. There were foreclosures and bankruptcies including Detroit’s auto industry. We all felt the downward pull. I went to a place that has always been therapeutic. I went to a local jazz club. It was a new, somewhat upscale place, called the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. I sat at the bar and at some point started talking to Carl Williams, the club’s bartender and therapist. We talked about art and jazz. I asked if it would be OK to photograph the artists for reference for some future painting. He pointed to a bar stool and told me to come back on a Wednesday night and sit there during the first set.  I did as I was instructed. Before the band started up Carl introduced me to the handsome lady next to me. That was how I met Gretchen Valade the owner and  proprietress of the Dirty Dog, a genuinely classy person, the guardian angel to many and the savior of Detroit’s jazz at its darkest hour. It turns out I was to be added to the list of those who have benefited from Gretchen’s big heart.

 

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GRETCHEN VALADE

 

I came right out with my request to take pictures in her club. That was the first time I heard Gretchen use the phrase which I associate with her, “Why not?”

I have brought my camera to the club most weeks and have filled the club’s back corridor with the results. I try to stand out of the way like a fly on the wall. This has given me a chance to observe the staff and management prepare to welcome the artists and customers. I have seen efficiency and laughter. Between sets in the green room I have listened to the jazz artist’s stories that have given me an even deeper appreciation for the players. I have witnessed a continuous parade of joy, kindness and good cheer. What a gift I have been given. This coming week I will be able to spend some time with a guy who spreads good cheer all year round. Randy Napoleon will tee up the holidays for us at the Dirty Dog.

 

 

THE GIFT OF KNOWING SOMEONE LIKE RANDY NAPOLEON

 

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 offsetting. 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 who 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.

 

 

 

SOMETIMES NICE GUYS FINISH FIRST

 

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 Napoleon usually finds it difficult not to smile when listening to others play. He probably  smiles because he knows how fortunate he is. He smiles because he knows something that playing jazz has taught him, nice jazz guys can finish first and giving is contagious.

 

 

LEARNING TO ACCEPT GIFTS

 

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

We all have memories of childhood gifts. Some gifts we played with to their extinction, some we hugged, a few we carefully preserved, and others we cherished until the next great gift came along. Later in life our focus became more on giving gifts. This is the greatest gift.

It is a shame when we lose the joy of receiving gifts. Maybe we just don’t recognize them. One thing we can do is to pause our lives for a moment and accept the gift of the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. Some of us do. Many times I have watched customers come up to Gretchen Valade and thank her for the gift of having given them such a great experience. The musicians playing the Dog certainly recognize and acknowledge the treasure we have in Gretchen and her passion for Detroit and its music.

The next time you come to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café you can wallow in the gift Gretchen Valade has given us. She has created a warm place to hear great jazz and be served with grace. She has honored the artists with four day gigs and the respect they deserve. All that she does is a reflection of her generous heart.

 

John Osler

 

THIS WEEK AT THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ

 

December 18 – 21

 

 

RANDY NAPOLEON

 

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!

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

 

          

 

 

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