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Upbeats With John Osler
October 21, 2019


Expected and unexpected results


When I make pancakes I will be happy if they turn out as described on the pancake mix box. When I cut the grass and the mower gives me the expected results I can feel that I have accomplished something. But, wow, when I paint, write or witness something that was fresh and unplanned I come alive. So much of our lives  we stay in  cruise control, content to execute our tasks as expected and live a life of certainty. However we remain a little envious when we hear about that chef or artist that is always experimenting. Maybe we need to change our routine and add some uncertainty. Most of the people we admire are those who break the mold and change our world.  Explorers in their fields like Madame Curie and Count Basie didn’t settle for the results shown on the box. They didn’t seek the expected. They were deliberately  looking for the unexpected, and they got it.





Here are three guys who were just honored for stumbling on some unexpected results. All three were physicians who got distracted and turned to science to address a need in their practice of medicine. In science they had the luxury of looking for unexpected results.


William G. Kaelin Jr., Peter J. Ratcliffe  and Gregg L. Semenza were just jointly awarded the  Nobel Prize in medicine. These three scientists made important discoveries about how cells sense and adapt to different oxygen levels  Their discoveries revealed the mechanism for one of life’s most essential adaptive processes,


As an embryo grows and develops,  the oxygen available changes as the tissues themselves change. Cells need a way to adjust to the amount of oxygen they have, while still doing their important jobs.


The three physicians “found the molecular switch that regulates how our cells adapt when oxygen levels drop, Cells and tissues are constantly experiencing changes in oxygen availability. These discoveries are of fundamental importance for physiology and could blaze the trail for new strategies to fight anemia, cancer and many other diseases.”


William Kaelin argues that the temptation in medical research these days is to focus on a very specific objective, but curiosity-driven research like his can really pay off


Peter Ratcliffe said  “It is important that scientists have the courage, and are allowed to derive knowledge for its own sake — i.e., independent of the perceived value at the point of creation. And the history of science tells us over and over again that the value of that knowledge can increase” in a number of random and unpredictable ways.


All of this year’s Nobel winners in medicine discussed their approach to their research with glee and pride. As scientist they were searching for unexpected results wiile an engineer’s goal is to get expected results. They looked at their role much like an artist would. Artists look at all the possibilities. They plan ahead but things don’t always go as planned. Then  voila something unexpected shows up and off they go in a new direction. This was the path that lead to the breakthrough in the research by the Nobel Prize winners. Pragmatism, certainty and predictability are valuable virtues but when a new vision pops into your brain maybe you should give it a chance to breathe. Thankfully research scientists and jazz musicians are allowed to pursue all avenues to success.




Jazz musicians are constantly asked to adapt to changing circumstances.  Changing directions on the fly is what jazz musicians do. They take risks. We have all seen the moment when suddenly a bunch of musicians do the unexpected and spontaneously burst into new territory. Jazz can be a little untidy, unpredictable, and sometimes chock full of uncertainty, but is is sure fun to play and to listen to. It is full of unpredictable characters. Here’s one.




 Photograph: William P. Gottlieb


Thelonious Monk was a taciturn man who cared little about staying on course. Probably that is why is so revered.  He saw no reason to verbally explain what he felt his music was saying. He had a habit of getting up and dancing to the solos of his bandmates, He sought new ways of revisiting groupings of notes he’d already put in order, knowing that there were infinite possibilities . He was  stubborn and insisted  on playing slow”when he could play as fast. He played the piano with a percussive, splay-fingered playing style that shouldn’t work. He didn’t see his chords as being different, they were the logical result of countless hours of musical exploration. He was probably his own worst enemy when he refused to do what was expected of him. Unexpectedly he changed jazz.

Tenor player Johnny Griffin said Monk’s music “was like leaves on a tree. His music grew from nowhere else but inside of him.”




Just  this morning in the New York Times there was a full page dedicated to two very adventurous men.




Ed Clark


Ed Clark died last Friday in Detroit at the age of 93. He was an abstract artist who painted with a broom and broke with convention by using shaped canvases because he felt that the shapes were truer to the human field of vision. He was grounded in figurative painting in Paris where he was living hand to mouth. He started using an affordable janitor’s broom on large canvases. His work is in most of the major galleries and museums. in the world.


Dr Paul Polak


Paul Polack died recently at 86 years old. He was a successful psychiatrist who pivoted to advocating training the world’s poorest people to earn a living by selling basic necessities like clean water and charcoal. Dr Polack has come up with countless ideas to make life better for millions of people who survive on $2/day. One of his ideas was to make water containers in the shape of a wheel that could be rolled instead of carried on the head.


These guys didn’t passively seek expected results they actively pursued a path that had unexpected positive results for themselves and others. Bravo.


As a disclaimer, I am not an expert on how anyone should live their life. Not all unexpected results turn out to be life or world saving. There can be really bad endings when you veer off the road on an unknown path, but I think it is worth the risk.

For a demonstrative display  go to your local jazz club. Catch some artists discovering a new note or two, unexpectedly.

John Osler




October 23 – October 29




Chris Collins has the job of putting together an all star band. In a great jazz town like Detroit,  this is one tough editing job. 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

Next week the All Stars will again celebrate Detroit’s influence on jazz. 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.


All stars appearing this week:













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October 14, 2019



Jazz musicians have a way of communicating that is direct and clear. They have to if they want to make music on the fly as part of a group. They don’t have lengthy discussions before playing the next note, instead they depend on nods, glances and musical cues to let their pals know where they are going. When they are done with their tune they continue to use curt phases to talk to each other. This is called jazz talk.

Most families have inside jokes. All it takes is someone using a familiar word or phrase and the whole family cracks up. Tight groups of people sometimes create their own language, All musicians share a vocabulary, and jazz musicians have a language all their own. Many of their words have snuck into general usage, like gig. Now more and more of us are gigging. The words that they pick can be pretty efficient. Let’s take the words that they use to describe two good places to be:  “in the groove” and “in the pocket”. How wonderfully descriptive these jazzy phrases are.






A groove is what your phonograph needle spends time in when it is working right. It can also be used when you get immersed in a task and are working smoothly and efficiently.

Those who study this stuff say that  a groove is” an understanding of rhythmic patterning, feel, intuitive sense, or cycle in motion that emerges from carefully aligned concurrent rhythmic patterns that stimulate dancing or foot-tapping on the part of the listeners”. Guys who talk like this probably can’t actually play jazz. Jazz musicians would probably simply say that a groove is what a good drummer can create when he is playing  solidly and has a great feel. When a drummer can do this for an extended time it is a deep groove. This is what makes even those who can’t dance want to dance.

Being in the groove means different things to different musicians. It can be what makes the music breathe or it can make it boring. It can be supportive with a back beat or drive the band with a front beat. It is generally accepted that it is a pretty good place to be.






All the stuff that finds its way into my pockets has a relatively safe warm place. In jazz being “in the pocket” sort of means the same thing,  a comfy place to be. Jazz artist take a lot of risks, so it must be comforting to be tucked away with good friends. There are times I would like someone to put me in a safe place, but I can’t count on there being many folks interested in creating a comfortable place just for me. At those moments I listen to some piano jazz and envy the camaraderie of jazz artists.

I found this knowledgeable description of “the pocket” written by the All-About Jazz staff :
 “The pocket isn’t a place where the musician holds something — it’s an intangible place that holds the musician. While this sounds a bit odd, the closest thing that I can think of to describe it is a spiritual experience that goes beyond playing the right notes, great timing, or being in tune. The experience of playing in the pocket is more like becoming a faucet through which the music flows. Being in the pocket is not just about “locking together or “syncing up as a band. It goes beyond this to the place where the musician allows the music to take control.Most listeners can tell when a band is in the pocket because there’s a little more electricity in the playing. Being in a room with a band that’s in the pocket is like taking an exhilarating ride. These are the most memorable concerts that I’ve attended or played. When it was time to go I didn’t want to leave, no matter how tired I felt — I just wanted to stay with the music.
 The pocket is particularly important for jazz musicians because so much of what we play is improvised. Whether we’re in the studio recording or playing live, jazz musicians take a number of risks by improvising together. Jazz has more magic, more life, and more verve when the band is together in the pocket.One of my quirks as a musician is that I learn things through music and then later figure out life because of it. The pocket is no exception. I’m convinced that everything has a pocket. The pocket is a way of experiencing life so that you are in it to the fullest extent. Being in the pocket of life is about not isolating yourself. It’s also about listening to others, about not putting your own desires first, and about understanding that you’re part of something bigger. It’s not about what you can create or achieve, it’s about being part of the creative process.”  

I was a shy student waiting for a great love to come along when Frank Sinatra’s hit song In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning came along, It sounded like my biography. Sinatra recorded David Mann and Bob Hilliard’s 1955 song at a time when it would have a considerably melancholy effect on my existence. Late at night, after studies, when I was feeling sorry for myself,  I would listen to Frank sing ” you would be hers if only she would call…in the wee small hours of the morning that’s the time you miss her most of all”




One night at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe  Cliff Monear’s Trio were playing requests. A couple asked  for In the Wee Small Hours. It was played without the poignant words but it still had the same effect on me. I was completely swept up in the music along with all the other patrons who had suffered with a lonely heart at some time in their lives. Bassist Jeff Pedraz bowed the story with feeling while Cliff’s piano took the group into some memories of unrequited love. Steve Boegehold was on drums keeping the pocket secure.


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Before Cliff started the song, he said that he hadn’t heard it for twenty years. How then could the trio give a seven minute rendition of the song? I can understand one guy interpreting a tune as he goes along but several guys. How the heck? I asked the band after the set. I got shrugs. When I talked to Cliff after his set about his trio, he looked like a child opening his Easter basket. With Jeff on bass and Stephen on drums he could ride effortlessly in the comfort of the musical flow. They provide a pocket that gave him creative freedom. He was safe “in the pocket”.

I have always loved live jazz, I like being in the presence of people who make life easier for other people. Jazz has big pockets.


John Osler




October 16 – 19




This week, pianist Cliff Monear will bring his trio to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café.

“Monear’s breathy ideas leave lots of space, girding the music with exquisite tension. What gives the music personality is Monear’s suave touch, relaxed swing, fresh melodic and harmonic turns and the unpretentious way he draws on familiar influences.”

 Mark Stryker, Music Critic and author of the new book Jazz From Detroit

Get your reservations in early as Cliff has a following and they may fill the club this Wednesday through Saturday. Cliff is a piano player’s piano player. He will spend four days challenging his rhythm section to keep up. Having players like Cliff is the reason that the Dirty Dog spent big bucks for their great Steinway.


Here is Cliff.

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October 7, 2019



This coming week trumpeter Walt Szymanski will be playing at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. Walt is exactly like what  a Walt Szymanski should be like. He is an affable, easy going guy from Detroit and is one heck of a horn player. He has a typical Detroit jazz artist’s bio. It is long and full of famous associates, impressive gigs and descriptions of the time he spent in NYC. Walt has gotten around and is now living in a suburb of Quito, Ecuador where he teaches at a university.  Jazz musicians can settle in anywhere and find a common language in their music. It may take a few moments, but most jazz musicians end up on the same beat. The rest of us can just walk through life moving at our own familiar beat,  a rhythm shared by those around us.




I bounced my children on my knees probably with the same rhythm that my dad used to comfort me. My sister and I jumped swirled and clapped to the beat coming from my parents record player. I had  rhythm, we all got rhythm. When the rhythm of life is right, everything else seems to fall into place.

When I watch a group bustling along a downtown street, I am fascinated by the different body types and strides of the pedestrians. If you look at the movement of the group en masse their feet land at the same time and there is a definite rhythm of the stream. You could put a beat to it. The individuals have adapted their movement to match those around them. We live a life sharing a beat with those around us. We are not always aware of the complex rhythmic patterns of life. There are times when we slow down and listen.  On vacation in a quiet place it may take a few days before our beat becomes one with the sound of the waves or the wind in the trees. And then there is a trip to Cuba.


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In the New York Times’ Travel section this week was an article titled The Sweet Sounds of Cuba. It describes a  road trip through Cuba that finds each region of the island moves to its own defining rhythm.Here are some excerpts from the article by Shannon Sims.Her observations mirrored what my son Bill and I experienced on our visit to Cuba.

“Just an hour’s flight from the United States, Cuba is drenched in music. You hear it everywhere, emanating from bars or homes or religious ceremonies. For many visitors, Cuban music is defined by the traditional sounds of the Buena Vista Social Club or Celia Cruz. But Cuban music stretches far beyond those sounds; its roots draw on Africa and Haiti, France and Spain. Genres come together and break apart, like flocks of starlings at dusk, endlessly forming new shapes and sounds.

Cuban music is often described as a tree, with various primary roots that supply life for many branches. But separating the island’s music into distinct genres is an inherently flawed task — they intertwine and cross. And it’s become trickier in recent years: Styles shift with increasing speed as Cubans dive into the possibilities provided by the internet. Across the island, we met musicians taking traditional sounds and twisting them, and finding new ways to reach an audience. Cuban music is in turbo mode.

“I wish you luck in trying to describe Cuban music with words,” Claudio laughed at me as we headed home that night in Gibara, after a stop for a pork sandwich. “The way to know Cuban music is to hear it for yourself.”

Other percussion elements are usually added into a rumba composition, and soon it becomes a crowd of sounds, almost like a cascade of beats. Because rumba is polyrhythmic, with multiple rhythms happening at the same time in one song, to an outsider it can sound cacophonous and disorganized. But if you let your mind give up trying to find the rhythm, you have a better chance of actually finding it.

The percussion of rumba is spiked by call-and-response singing. For some rumba musicians and listeners, rumba is a religious experience. Listeners who are also believers in Afro-Cuban religions like Santería may experience the African gods taking control of their body, forcing them to dance and move in ways typical of that orisha.

The sound of conga is predominantly percussive: Drums of all kinds are gathered (“you just grab anything and start playing!” one onlooker explained to me), but there is usually always a higher-pitched quinto drum in the mix. The earsplitting bang of conga is made by hitting metal sticks on doughnut-shaped motorcycle brakes.

Together the instruments — the six-stringed tres, the conga drums, and the cheese-grater-like guayo scratcher — sound like rain drops, falling in different tones and at different speeds, but ultimately crescendoing to form a rolling storm, one that you can almost envision rolling across the Oriente’s green hills.

The instrument that makes changüí unique is the marímbula. The marímbula looks like a big box. On the front of the box, a row of wide metal teeth bridge over holes carved into the wood. The marímbula player sits on the box, and reaches between his or her legs to pluck the metal teeth, whose vibration builds inside the box and exits the holes with a deep bass note. Listening to the marímbula in the studio, we could feel the sounds in the bottoms of our feet first, a buzzing vibration almost demanding them to lift up and dance.”

My son Bill and I were at an open air concert in Havana, Cuba. Bill is a very good drummer and was studying with local percussionists. He was trying to get a handle on Cuban rhythms. One of his new friends invited us to hear some of the Island’s hottest salsa music. The place was packed and everyone was on their feet. They moved to the music en mass, shoulder to shoulder except for the two doofuses from the USA. It wasn’t that we didn’t make the right moves, it was that we moved at the wrong time. We both moved and clapped out of sync with those around us. We opted to remain still and smile with appreciation for the remarkable complex rhythms surrounding us. With time Bill mastered the complex pulse of the Island, I learned a deep appreciation for Bill and for all drummers.




Bill tried again and again to teach me the son clave. The five-stroke son clave pattern represents the structural core of most Afro-Cuban rhythms. All those at the concert had the clave embedded in their every move. I needed to learn this beat. Bill would clap the beat and I would match him once or twice. When I was alone I could never sustain the beat. It never happened. I guess that I am who I am and I move on my own beat.

When I hear it I can really feel the clave beat. I am moved by this beat, but I just can’t replicate it. What is going on.? What is missing?





Playing for Change features musicians from around the world, all sharing their music. take a look.


Studies have shown that North American adults are not rhythm challenged, We have plenty of rhythm, but we are just more accustomed to a regular meter. It is our music’s underlying beat. We are just challenged by more complex beats that are not common in our music.

“What you find in almost all the world’s music is that at some level, there is a regular beat,” said Edward Large, who studies the neuroscience and psychology of rhythm at Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences in Boca Raton.

“Music might have a relatively complicated pattern of timing. But you still hear a basic, underlying beat—that framework that formulates the rhythm,” Large said. “We have a very strong bias toward hearing periodic regularity. Some say we actively try to impose [that regularity] on an incoming rhythm”. ( like the son clava)




Lange’s studies point out that our culture deeply influences our perception. “Culture encompasses a tremendous range of complex societal constructs, including laws, beliefs, morals, and art.  In addition, music and language from a given culture share rhythmic properties. For example, English and French musical rhythmic structures are more similar to English and French speech rhythms (respectively) than to each other, in the sense that English music is more rhythmically variable than French music, and English speech is more rhythmically variable than French speech  broader cultural linguistic experience can improve rhythm perception. These studies show that enculturation to the rhythmic aspects of music and language occurs early in development and continues into adulthood.” This may explain my struggle learning French late in life.




A recent study found that kids in North American are more adept than adults at recognizing complex musical rhythms. When we are infants we respond to both familiar and more complex foreign musical rhythms. This is good, but we can also lose the ability to discern irregular rhythms. By the time babies celebrate their first birthday, their ears are already tuned to the rhythms and sounds of their culture. One-year-olds in North America, for example, notice subtle changes in waltz-like rhythms but not in the complex dance rhythms unique to other continents. At some point I didn’t get enough Xavier Cugat spun on the Victrola and have suffered rhythmically ever since.



” Because that’s where it all started, and that’s where it all come from – that’s where I learned to keep rhythm – in church.”  Art Blakey

Art Blakey was a professional rhythmologist, he was a drummer with an unwavering solid beat. Art Blakey was as solid as his church building and as spirited as the services he . attended. My rhythm did not come from the time I spent at an all white Episcopal Church. If anyone moved to the music it was because they began to waver from standing so properly for such a long time. I am still trying to learn to go with the beat. I have to find someone who has the beat and clap along with them.




“I’m very much aware in the writing of dialogue, or even in the narrative too, of a rhythm. There has to be a rhythm with it … Interviewers have said, you like jazz, don’t you? Because we can hear it in your writing. And I thought that was a compliment.”― Elmore Leonard


I will be tapping this out on a computer keyboard, sometimes with a latin beat. It maybe never too late to get rhythm.

John Osler




October 9 – October 12




Walt was a student of Herbie Williams and Marcus Belgrave. He became the musical director for the J. C. Heard Orchestra and then spent twenty years in NYC. Walt now lives in Ecuador where he continues to compose, study, teach and chill out. We are blessed when he slips out of paradise, heads north and played a gig in his hometown at the Dirty Dog



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October 1, 2019



When I stand alone in front of a blank canvas, I am seldom aware of something outside of me sending a message where I should make the first brush stroke on the canvas. I seldom stop to question what is motivating me. However most actions we take are a response to an outside influence, or maybe in the case of great art an accumulation of experiences directing the artist. Sometimes we just can’t help but respond to something that moves us. We react by retelling the message in our own voice. In music this is sometimes a deliberate act called call and response.





Call and response is a style of music where there are two succeeding phrases of music  played by different musicians. The second phrase is a direct commentary on the first, hence, call and response. It is a common pattern of human communication.

Call and Response is one of the most basic musical concepts in music. Although the use of call and response is found as far back as the middle ages, music with “opposite voices” that started in African work songs can still be heard in modern jazz.

The ships that carried enslaved Africans also carried call and response music with them to the New World. The simplicity of the form was probably the reason it has survived. It was first heard in chants as work was done. It was inclusive.  It allowed, maybe even expected that everyone be part of the response. For all the right reasons call and response has survived through the centuries in various forms of cultural expression—in religious observance, in public gatherings, in sporting events, in children’s rhymes, and in all of our music influenced by African American music including soul, gospel, blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, funk, hip hop and jazz.


The call and response figures we recognize in our music today began in African traditions and eventually found their full expression in blues, spirituals and jazz.


One of the most popular forms of call and response in music is ‘the verse and the chorus.

It is what you think of when you think of gospel music, It is when the pastor or song leader calls out or sings a line, and the congregation or choir responds.

Dennis Slaughter has written:

“Gospel music has a history which can be traced to the 18th century. During this time, hymns were lined and repeated in a call and response fashion and the Negro spirituals and work songs came on the scene. Because the enslaved Africans attended their masters’ worship services, the seventeenth century influences on Negro spirituals and work songs were traditional hymns the enslaved Africans heard in worship. Worship services served several purposes; not only were they a means by which the Africans could be monitored, but they also served as a reinforcement of the slavery indoctrination. Quite often readings were from St. Paul whose message was that good servants should be  loving, obeying, and trusting of one’s master.  The worship music (hymns) of the white masters became the backdrop for the music the enslaved Africans would use at their eventual worship meetings


Call and response fostered dialogue, helped bridge generations and has been an important component of oral traditions in the music of Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize. and many nations of the diaspora, All of this ended up in New Orleans



Jazz originated in New Orleans.  It has always been a mish-mash of a genre, drawing inspiration from the blues, ragtime, West African music, and European Band music, all of which have some elements of call and response.

This eclectic mix worked, and jazz became an original American art form. All of this blending created complex music. This complexity sometimes requires a level of concentration that sometimes sends casual listeners looking for a time out. We all recognize and are drawn back to the music when suddenly we hear a little familiar call and response refrain. It makes us feel like maybe we understand something about this difficult music.

Call and response doesn’t mean call and copy. That could be boring like a conversation where everyone one agrees with everything. Jazz is seldom boring.




Musicians, teachers, pastors, parents and anyone else who is trying to recapture someone else’s attention will often use the great communication tool, call and response

Call and response is a great way to speak directly to the listener. In live performances  performers use call and response as a way to connect and sometimes reconnect with their audience.


Here are 5 types of call and response phrases used by jazz artists.


Compiled by Steve Treseler


1. Imitation

The response copies the call.Most jazz musicians find excessive imitation annoying, so they use it sparingly on the bandstand.

2. Question and Answer

Same words, much different meaning. What’s the difference? You may have noticed your voice raised in pitch at the end of the question phrase. Musically, we can play a question phrase by ending with an ascending interval. We can play an answer by ending with a repeated or descending interval.

3. Statement and Commentary

Originally an instrumental response to a vocalized phrase.

4. Affirmation

A short phrase affirming the statement.

5. Surprise

An unexpected and startling response to mix things up.


Here are some call and response attention getters for a classroom


Compiled by Elizabeth Mulvahill

For Quieting A Noisy Classroom


Teacher says: “When I say PEACE, you say QUIET. Peace…”  Students respond: “…Quiet!”

Teacher says: “Hocus, pocus.”   Students respond: “Time to focus!”

Teacher says:  “Jazz hands.”  Students stop everything, look at teacher and show jazz hands.

Teacher says: “Everybody listen.” (in sing-song voice)  Students respond: “Right now!”






I am about to begin on an adventure. It would ordinarily be a low risk venture as it will be a painting and only I can be the victim of a failure. This project however involves a second artist in a collaborative endeavor adding an element of risk.

Annually our church has an arts program that is a Call & Response event. It is a dialogue between Artists and Poets that goes like this. Each participating poet brings several poems, while visual artists bring a piece or two that might inspire the poets. Each artist choses a poet and each poet picks an artist. They then try to decipher the piece of work that they have chosen and create a work in response. The work is displayed and at some time after that the artists and poets gather to explain why they painted the paintings and poems that they submitted and and why they responded the way that they did. . Listening to artists talking about their art wears thin after a few minutes. This event is different in that the artists are talking about their response to someone else’s thoughts. I look forward each year to this evening, because of the quality of the discussion

This year I have chosen a poem by Mary Schmidt, Stopping on a Bridge on a September Morning.  In the poem she speaks of stopping on a bridge, being overcome by the peacefulness of the moment and filled with personal memories.

I will be doing a painting in response to her poem.  I am just beginning the creative process, but first I think that I should start with acknowledging that I will be heavily influenced by Edvard Munch and Marc Chagall.




They were both visually creative geniuses and both dove deep inside themselves for subject matter, like Mary has done. Munch also used bridges a lot in his paintings,








Can You Hear Them Speak?


I am not sure that trying to understand the structure of jazz will help me better enjoy listening to jazz in an intimate jazz club like the Dirty Dog. I am usually content to live inside my cone of wonder and amazement. The exception might be when I hear the artists talk to each other. Sometimes they will include me in on the conversation when they are  involved in a deliberate call and response. They will be smiling at each other and I get to knowingly grin back at them.











Kevin Jones is a percussionist, educator and band leader. He has worked extensively with icons of the music industry like Whitney Houston, The Isley Brothers, Reggie Workman, Archie Shepp, Charles McPherson, Talib Kibwe, and Winard Harper.

Tenth World is a group formed by percussionist Kevin Jones and pianist/composer, Kelvin Sholar through a partnership created back in 1999 in New York City. Together Jones and Sholar formed a collective of young talented master musicians on the cusp of realizing a new and creative sound that combined the harmonic sensibilities of Jazz and Soul with the rhythms of the African Diaspora. The nucleus of Tenth World formed around Kelvin Sholar’s group Esoterica which was a quartet. This week features Damon Warmack on Bass, Allen Dennard on Trumpet, DeSean Jones on Saxophone, Nate Winn (Wed/Sat) and Madison George (Thurs/Fri) on Drums.

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September 17, 2019

As I am getting a little older, I find myself contemplating more and planning actual tasks less.I am more comfortable bringing back good memories than looking ahead at those things that might require an effort. Any reminder of how good life has been will carry me for a while. Sometimes when we are looking in the rear view mirror we catch a glimpse of an image that causes us to smile and sometimes it reminds us of a forgotten challenge.









Ron Carter; Musician, Legend and Cass Tech Graduate


Ron Carter is among the most original, prolific, and influential bassists in jazz. With more than 2,000 albums to his credit, he has recorded with many of music’s greats. He is a Detroiter and has that built in empathy for others that makes him a good teacher and collaborator.


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Ron is a graduate of Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan which has been a cauldron for America’s greatest jazz musicians. He  has lived up to all the expectation as an artist and as a man. When I caught up with him, it was nearly 60 years since he graduated from Cass Tech.

He was at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café where he  was  gently but firmly showing our next generation how a man acts and a jazz man plays.




It was a beautiful summer day and I had a lot of outdoor projects lined up. In the morning of a near perfect day I learned that the jazz legend Ron Carter was going to be at the Dirty dog Jazz Café. He was in town and had offered to spend some time with fortunate local high school students from the Detroit Jazz Festival Program. Reluctantly I said goodbye to the warm sun filled backyard. I packed up my camera,  I ventured out into the sunshine to the Dirty Dog and into one of my most soul enriching experiences.




The students had arrived and set up to play some music. There was some youthful jabbering until Ron Carter arrived. Ron Carter looks as good in person as he does on his CD covers, only taller and even more elegant. He introduced himself to a suddenly very quiet group of young jazz musicians. He asked them to play and soon with some gentle nudges a relaxed band entered into a shared learning experience. Here was a player of jazz music who has had an entire  lifetime at the top of his craft listening carefully to some Detroit kids starting out. His taking the time didn’t go unnoticed.




The next day I returned to the Dirty Dog knowing that Ron Carter was setting up for an evening gig. He was scheduled to join his pal the great guitarist Russell Malone for a special evening honoring the supporters of the Detroit Jazz Festival. I figured that they would do a quick sound check and leave. The staff was busy setting up for the guests. Tables were being arranged and covered. In the middle of this activity were two artists making music for themselves. I set my camera down as I knew that it was too loud for the occasion. Imagine being in the room with these two great artists who were spending some time quietly facing each other for almost an hour, musically surprising each other and grinning just like a couple of kids, a couple of really talented kids. It seemed as though they were happily transferring a lot of knowledge. I will carry this experience with me for some time.




Ron Carter and Russell Malone are familiar names, and it was a privilege to be in their presence. However this was just one of what is a common occurrence in Detroit’s jazz world. I have so many brilliant memories of watching musicians share and care.

At some point I suggested to Ron Carter that I felt that we had reached an age when we had little we had to prove to anyone and inferred that we could rest on our handlebars like we did as kids after a long ride. He looked at me as as if I just stepped on his bass.


He said something like :


“Every morning when I first get up I hope that this will be the day when I find that new note that I have been looking for.”


Zing went the arrow of reason into my weak lazy heart. This was a better way to begin a day rather than starting on cruise control. On days when I am up to it I try to follow Ron’s directive. That new note is still out there.




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This fall I will be looking for that new note


One place that I will look for that new note will be on the third floor of the Devries Cheese Store in the Eastern Market



This store is deeply Detroit. This family owned store has been in the business of selling cheese and just about everything else that will start a conversation on your patio. On the top floor of Devries Cheese I go to paint in a loft that overlooks the market and Detroit.




I have some space where I can paint and store my work.. It is a magical space above Vivios Restaurant in Detroit’s Eastern Market. The space is only accessible by going to the third floor of Devries Cheese Shop and then passing through Luis Resto’s music loft. Luis could be anywhere, but he chooses to create his art in the top floor of this very old building. He is here because of the sound he gets in this place with its high ceiling and  wood trusses. Luis is a genuinely nice guy. He is exceptionally generous with his time, except when it is his time to create some music. He goes deep into his creative cocoon  and is completely unaware of anything or anyone around him. I know to walk quietly through his space and not disturb him when he is lost in his music. He will never look up. His concentration on his craft is inspiring to other artists.







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On Saturdays when he is in town he opens up his loft to allows musicians and shoppers at Devries Cheese Shop to play / hear some music. The public is welcome. Many folks wander in not knowing Luis and not really expecting what will likely happen next. If they choose to grab an instrument or a mike and join in, Luis will listen to their contribution and go with it. This is who Luis is: a sound sponge. Luis really listens. Luis is very honest when he talks about how important these encounters are with these Saturday compatriots. He thrives on the diverse approaches to music from his fellow professionals to the kids banging on the drum set. He will listen, file it and maybe use it in his next tune. Nothing is dismissed as not being worthy. When something falls on the floor the sound is picked up and used.


The way Luis has created music is explored in a short film created by Evan Gulock.



This past week Luis’s loft was packed to celebrate Evan’s new film.

In Evan’s words, ” I have put together Luis’s story: his life, his inspirations, his insights into making soul-driven music and living a heart-driven life.”




Here’s how Evan described his subject:
“Luis Resto is a multi-talented, Oscar and Grammy award-winning Detroit-based musician with the spirit of a humble genius and an affinity for giving back to his community. He has collaborated with a wildly diverse collection of accomplished artists, from Eminem to Willie Nelson. He is a microcosm of the thriving music world in Detroit. It is a city that has a sound unlike any other; it always has – from Motown to rock to jazz. As Resto says, “It’s got stank.”


To begin the evening Ann Delisi sat down with Don Was, Luis and David McMurray for a public chat. It gave us an insight into how free they were to take risks. They sure seemed to enjoy looking backwards. We then viewed Evan’s film, followed by live music that propelled us forward. All the life inside of Luis’s music came bursting out when the veterans were joined by Ian Finkelstein, Raphael Statin and Salar Ansari.


Music in Detroit may pause to look back but is quick to find the fast forward button again.




I will be looking forward and back at the Dirty Dog.


Dave Bennett will honor America’s jazz history this week, by adding to it. He will bring some cohorts with him to help him explore new ways to play familiar tunes. For all four nights the place will be packed. It will be jammed with those who have an appreciation of jazz’s roots. They will be treated to being only a few feet away from musicians who share their love of jazz and will be playing it about as well as anybody could. They will unabashedly play music that makes one feel good to be alive. We all can look forward to Dave looking back.


John Osler




September 18 -21





Expect the unexpected along with the expected when Dave Bennett brings his band to the Dirty Dog this week.



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September 9, 2019


There are a number of cities that have made important contributions to America’s greatest gift to music, jazz. Many have had a moment when musicians have been drawn to their city by conditions that inspired them or by offers of well paying gigs. Musicians really listen to each other, and as new players drifted into town the local sound influenced the skilled newcomers giving the city’s music its unique sound. St Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, LA, etc. all have had their time in the spotlight. Meanwhile Detroit has always relentlessly and steadily provided the artists that know how to play the music. Detroit’s sound has been clomp clomp of the footsteps of in-demand jazz musicians heading out of town and then often back into town. Is there something in the water of Detroit that for decade after decade has produced so many of the worlds greatest jazz musicians?



The answer could be in the river that  forcefully runs through Detroit bringing products, jobs and energy to the city.






Detroit is uniquely located on a fast moving river with land that spreads out into rich farmland, Detroit has attracted all kinds of new arrivals to our city. Fortunately, for all of us who followed them, many of the arrivals and settlers were clever . They brought ideas while they  sought opportunity. Inventors came because in Detroit they could see that their ideas could become reality. Workers came because things were being made and there were jobs. We made stoves, railroad cars and eventually became the auto capital of the world by 1910. Many others came because it was a good place to live. They called their relatives and described a city that had  good individual housing, good schools, parks, churches and places to go on Saturday night. They were told that all you had to do was show up to your job on time and work hard.  Detroit became a magnet for many that lived in overcrowded cities and changing rural communities.


They often worked shoulder to shoulder but played and lived separately. Detroit had Irish, Italian, Polish, Chinese, African American and Hungarian neighborhoods. Each enclave brought its culture. They had the best of their old world along with this new place of opportunity. Everyone did share the parks and many of the places of entertainment. We had radio stations that only played country, others played just ethnic, and most importantly Detroit had stations that gave us a stream of jazz and R&B.




It was not hard to find a place to go dancing. We had all kinds of  clubs to hear music. Being a musician in Detroit was a possible occupation. Good musicians hung around. The idea that you could succeed if you worked hard and the abundance of jobs created a rich culture of excellence in music in the city of Detroit. We had a great deal of structural segregation which, for a while,  limited  the city’s embrace of all its music.



The syncopated music coming up from New Orleans eventually became universally accepted and still is. This rich trove of music has remained embedded in the culture of all of Detroit. Always at the center of our music has been our  jazz.





One summer I was given an insight into Detroit’s jazz culture.



LJ Lai by John Beresford

Photo by John Beresford

I was showing my art in Ann Arbor when I met Ling- Ju Lai. Ling-Ju was taking a serious look through my book, Detroit Jazz.   She looked up at me and said ” I really admire these guys”.  As a classical piano soloist Ling -Ju has had an opportunity to hear all kinds of music around the world.  She offered that when on her travels she can usually tell when a player is from Detroit.  I asked her what tipped her off. I  wish now that I had written her words down, but she talked about a strength, a persistent force that drives a group.  She felt that this came from their roots in Detroit.  Their life experience teaches them to persevere.   We may not have the easy sway of the gentle warm sea breezes of the Caribbean, but Detroit and its musicians possess a unique quality that pushes the music to greater heights.



Ling -Ju later sent me these words:


“Detroit jazz musicians in general have a very alert and intense rhythmic drive, which brings a sense of urgency and endurance in their live performance. I find the great figures of Detroit legends such as Marcus Belgrave and Barry Harris truly inspiring. They sing at their instruments, trumpet and piano respectively, with earnest love for the music. Their live music making was especially powerful, because they played with clarity. And Clarity is Power. From what I can tell as a classically trained musician, in the newer generation of Detroit jazz composers there is a deep sense of respect for their roots and at the same time a daring and honest attitude to create a style of their own. I speak from my own musical connection and experience with Michael Malis, a native Detroit composer. I am fascinated by this distinct Detroit culture in Jazz. ”  



Detroit will be tested in the coming years. We will be asked to be part of a new culture that will seem more comfortable to those who are new to town and are currently shaping our city. Will we continue to honor our past or allow it to evaporate into the latte scented air of a new Detroit.?



I think the culture that has defined Detroit’s music is an endangered species. I also think it is important that we protect it. Here are some reasons for hope.


Detroit has enjoyed a continuum of artists who have been driven to retain a high level of discipline and a commitment to pass it on the the next generation.  They will not go away quietly.


Many of our new residents came to Detroit because they were attracted to its unique ability to stave off adversity. They will join us to resist losing our mojo.


Detroit has institutions in place that just need to be supported, reinforced and enhanced. These include our school art and music programs, our festivals and venues.


Detroit’s musical history continues to be important to  those who are actively inventing new forms of music in our city.


Jazz continues to be in good hands. Detroit’s culture has deep roots that will support growth in many directions. Please add your support when you can.


John Osler

 September 11- 14



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September 3, 2019




The hot muggy part of summer is often called the dog days. It brings up an image of a slightly hazy mornings that later morphs into a very hot day and then into a porch sitting evening with not much of a breeze. These are the sticky days that can  last through the early weeks of September. So here we are coming to an end of this year’s dog days. The days are shorter and the nights are longer. What we know is that we can still expect some more hot days, thunderstorms and sudden rain showers, especially when we are outside at a terrific event like the Detroit Jazz Festival







What did dogs do to deserve all the negative idioms like dog days, sick as a dog, dog tired, gone to the dogs, etc. etc.? Why do we bring up an image of a dog lying flat on a hot pavement with its tongue sticking out panting like a dog. We are constantly dogged by misleading references to dogs in our language. Negative connotations are constantly assigned to man’s best friend. It is totally unfair.

At the top of my list is the name of my favorite jazz club, The Dirty Dog Jazz Café. It could have been named The Super Clean Canine Music Club. This would have been fitting as the proprietor of the place is both a dog lover and a music lover. The problem is that probably no one is interested in spending that much time listening to clean music in a spiffy place.

Jazz is not about always about being clean and predictable, especially jazz played in Detroit. It is likely to be a little rough around the edges and that is OK with us.





A community of like spirits gathered to celebrate good fellowship at the DETROIT JAZZ FESTIVAL

Now in its 40th year, the festival took place from Hart Plaza to Campus Martius in downtown Detroit. After all these years it remains an authentic jazz event.

On Saturday afternoon on the Pyramid Stage of The Detroit Jazz Festival Sheila Jordan gave us a taste of why we prefer some mud on the paws of our favorite jazz cats.She growled and shouted assuring us that she was talking truth with us. She was unafraid to speak her mind. Her voice wavered a little more than it once did. We listened. Detroiters listen when someone is authentic. Sheila Jordan’s journey has had bumps and some incredibly good fortune in having friends like Charlie Parker and Mingus. When trouble entered her life she turned to jazz to help pull her through. She has certainly earned the right to stand on the stage and preach to us a little. She gave meaning to familiar tunes and brought our attention to society’s shortcomings.  Sheila reminded us that this  is what jazz should be. She did it in real time to an audience that understood that jazz isn’t pablum. I was near a group of young jazz musicians that got a lesson in life from Sheila and the trio playing with her. They whooped and hollered as they glanced at each other when  the electrifying music reached its peak. Year after year the Detroit Jazz Festival does its thing.


Here is Sheila:


Sitting close by and listening to Sheila, Mark Stryker was grinning as he listened. Sheila was affirming so much that he has written in his new book..






Sandwiched in between the main stages at the festival is the Mack Avenue Jazz Talk Tent.


I took some time out from live jazz to learn something about jazz in Detroit. Mark Stryker had covered music and art for The Detroit Free Press for 21 years before leaving to tell his take on what has kept Detroit constantly producing so many influential jazz artists. Mark has the advantage of having been there. The reader benefits from Mark asking direct questions through the years and getting honest answers. This process came from his deep personal interest in how the heck Detroit with its ups and downs has seen its music persevere and thrive. His personal insights makes this book stand alone. In the tent Mark explained jazz in Detroit and Detroit to an audience that knew almost as much as Mark does. Mark just has the skills to make it come alive. I spent one hour listening to Mark tie  a lot of things I already knew together. Thanks to Mark I will know more about the music that I will be listening to this weekend.









Back in the day when hard work was celebrated,  Detroit had a grand Labor Day parade with stirring speeches. Detroit had plenty of hard work that needed to be done. The ones that did the hard work were appreciated, were well paid and were ensured a good retirement. They helped win a war and became part of America’s vibrant middle class. They worked hard, and they played hard. They took time to dine and dance and that meant that music was needed which would match the spirit and vitality of the city’s residents.. Detroit attracted musicians into a growing market, and Detroit became  a great town for jazz. It still is, but it hasn’t been easy.

When the jobs disappeared so did the dancing, and and many of our jazz  musicians left for greener pastures. Enough stayed and passed on the tradition, so that today Detroit continues to have a thriving jazz community.

In 2019 we seem to have less reason to celebrate the value of hard work. Today when one Googles Labor Day weekend events in Detroit, our traditional Labor Day parades are seldom mentioned. There are plenty of parades and speeches, but there seem to be more events that celebrate the good life that comes from working.

The Detroit Jazz Festival does celebrate the tradition of hard work, and our ability to enjoy life is still honored by the festival.




Many of us will be dog tired after walking venue to venue at a festival. We will be looking at for a comfortable chair to plop into and listen to jazz.






The crew from the Dirty Dog will wrap up their stuff from the Dirty Dog tent Labor Day evening and begin getting everything ready at the Dirty Dog. They will also be dog tired but ready to keep the music going and welcome everyone back.





I think the Dog Days will continue as the days the Dirty Dog Jazz Café  opens its door for jazz and food.

John Osler



September 4- September 5






Gary has a well deserved following who will have a chance to listen to this great pianist in an intimate club.



September 6 – September 7







Singer Michelle Lordi will help us continue to celebrate jazz this  September.



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August 26, 2019




For months we have been thinking about how fast the summer is going by. It seems like we just planted those flowers and tomato plants. Michigan strawberries and blueberries can’t be found at Eastern market. It’s OK. we still have September to look forward to. Detroit kicks off September with spirited festivals and parades. We celebrate Labor Day and all those who labor by listening to long speeches ,  continuing to eat fresh Michigan summer crops and, because we are in Detroit, we will be listening and moving to some great music. Maybe summer was just a prelude.




LET US CELEBRATE the birthday of Gretchen Valade on August 25.


Gretchen is Detroit jazz’s guardian angel. She is also someone who tends to do things well. Her love of music and food means that it will be possible to enjoy the Dirty Dog fare while listening and watching great acts at the Detroit Jazz Festival.

How lucky for us that it was someone of Gretchen’s integrity who took charge.  She was determined to keep the festival on course as the people’s festival, a festival for those who work hard and understand hard work. These are folks ready to show their appreciation for good music. Today it remains authentic and free for all to enjoy. It reflects the best side of Detroit’s character.

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

Gretchen has made me aware that the festival doesn’t just happen. It takes planning, hard work, attention to details and oversight.  It’s not just casual oversight, but oversight that comes with purpose and a respect for the music and the people of Detroit.  Good fortune is with us as it is Gretchen who remains on the watch.









Now in its 40th year, the festival will celebrate jazz in downtown Detroit from Hart Plaza to Campus Martius . The festival offers educational activities for adults and children, fireworks, late-night jam sessions and rare opportunities to meet the artists. And it’s all FREE.

From all over the world jazz lovers circle the date of the Detroit Jazz Festival. Those who come find jazz of great intelligence, energy and purity. There is little hype and  a lot of music. Visitors learn that Detroit can throw a festival,  This year’s festival will  attract upwards of 750,000 people. We may even get some credit for doing something right. Meanwhile Chef Andre Nemanis  and the Dirty Dog staff will be serving  some sumptuous savory barbecue to some lucky jazz fans.






A community of like spirits will gather to celebrate the music and good fellowship.


The festival is appropriately held on Labor Day weekend. However, metropolitan Detroit doesn’t take that weekend off. Everyone has a venue to go to and they are all  terrific. There is little reason to go out of town, with the absolute jewel being the Detroit Jazz Festival, where our community puts its soul on display. Every year we show off what we do best, exposing the roots of our music, pain, shame, joy, resilience, cleverness and a lot of kindness.







The festival brings together so many accomplished musicians with different stories to tell and ways of telling them.  This community of like spirits gathers annually to celebrate the music and good fellowship.


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This mutual respect is what  makes this festival unique. The crowd sitting on hard concrete seats become one with musicians sitting in their more comfortable chairs. They start to move together, everyone swaying, clapping with subtle foot taps, all of this movement synced to the music. I am often aware of the powerful connection between the artists and a Detroit audience.

This is an event which takes the assets that exist in the city and shares these assets among a diverse and deserving following. Downtown Detroit glows with all the mutual respect.




The festival doesn’t happen without serious people planning and industrious people making it happen.


Detroit Jazz Festival Director Chris Collins


Thanks to all the great musicians for coming back and reminding us why you do come back. Thanks to all the staff and the volunteers who are often too busy to enjoy their own efforts.

This year Festival Director Chris Collins has put together a most intriguing lineup. Chris can’t resist a challenge, as he feels that: “Jazz as an art form is not only sophisticated and intelligent, but it also speaks to the organic roots of every human being, every American, every Detroiter.”

This year Chris has scheduled Stanley Clarke.Pat Metheny, Joshua Redman, Terence Blanchard, Dee Dee Bridgewater, The Soul Rebels, Kenny Garrett, Chucho Valdes and many more amazingly talented  artists who understand his vision. They will all bring their magic to Hart Plaza.






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For 39 years I have seldom missed a Detroit Jazz Festival. I am a proud REGULAR. I have many reasons to not want to miss this unique Detroit event. One reason is that it is free. It is also close by. Then there is the music and food, which are terrific. But it is the chance to be around the many others like myself who tend to be proud of their town that brings me back time after time. These are the regulars. They can be counted on to know the music and a lot of the musicians. They know why they are there. These are the the familiar faces  I want to walk up to and say hi. I don’t know their names, but that doesn’t matter. They are the regulars. They are friends.









Their presence is a big salute to those who work so hard to keep the festival at such a high level. The Detroit Jazz Festival will give jazz musicians and Detroiters a chance to be part of something special. This could  be the time and place where jazz history will be made.  The artists are encouraged to flood the air with improvisation and exploration.


We have always known how important jazz is to Detroit and how fragile the health of jazz in Detroit can be. Without vigilant action this free wheeling form of music could easily be lost in the latest musical moment. Once a year we get proof that there are Detroiters who don’t want to see this happen, and there are many of us who benefit from all their work. Let us celebrate all the hard work it takes.


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Chef Andre Nemanis


Why would the smart gang at the Dirty Dog think of moving the operation? The answer is: they are going to take the operation to where the best jazz in town will be playing. The Dirty Dog is setting up its operation in downtown Detroit, right in the middle of the Detroit Jazz Festival.  At the Dirty Dog tent all the staff and the chefs will be rolling up their sleeves to provide a shady place complete with the sound of the music, the smell of  barbecue, a smiling staff and a view of the stage.

The Dirty Dog Jazz Café  food tent is one of the favorite gathering spots at the Detroit Jazz Festival.  It doesn’t get much better than this for good food, prompt service and great jazz, and all amidst the smiles of friends.




The scent of Dirty Dog barbecue will waft its way up Woodward Avenue drawing us in for some chow and a beverage.

This could turn out to be a good move. Enjoy! Celebrate!

John Osler



September 4- September 5





Gary has a well deserved following who will have a chance to listen to this great pianist in an intimate club.


September 6 – September 7





Singer Michelle Lordi will help us continue to celebrate jazz this  September.










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August 19, 2019






SHARING ( optional )


I have a deep felt belief that everyone would benefit from keeping art in their lives. The real world can be boring, sometimes oppressive and always limiting. Creating your own version can be therapeutic. It is not necessary for anyone but yourself to see/ hear the results. The only assurance an artist needs comes from them. Sometimes it is nice to share your efforts.

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

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

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

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

All artists eventually  run out of room for all the canvases that they have accumulated and found that they could use some refunding.  They will need some assistance.


An artist can get lucky and find a partner to share the task of sharing.

Here are a few that have made a difference:






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

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





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

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

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

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

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


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







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

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

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




Gretchen with Tom Robinson at the Detroit Jazz Festival



CHUCK DUQUAT and The Collected Detroit Art Gallery


Last year Detroit was treated to a new gallery opening. The first showing featured a remarkable array of mostly Detroit art from the personal collection of Detroiter Chuck Duquat, pieces  that he has acquired over his very interesting lifetime. Chuck had collected the work of some of America’s finest artists, including many Detroiters . He just needed a place to share and sell his collection.

The grand opening was held at his new art space located at 2439 Fourth St in Detroit. Chuck is a true patron of the arts who has opened his arms to Detroit artists. Chuck Duquet has become a hero to those close to the arts in Detroit. The space Chuck has created is full of energy and opportunity. Our finest artists have responded by placing their work in his hands.

Every once in a while someone like Chuck comes along, someone who will take a risk on those of us who hesitate to be judged and who will help artists to share their work.

The gallery is currently featuring nine Detroit artists in a show he calls  Deeply Detroit. I am pleased to be part of this show, which includes the work of many friends. The art can be seen at the gallery until August 31, 2019 The gallery hours are Wed. through Fri. 11AM – 6PM,  Sat. 11AM – 4PM.

Thanks Chuck.






Before I left for vacation I went to the final concert of the 2019 Women of Jazz Symposium which was directed by Marion Hayden. Marion is dedicated to bringing attention to our great women in jazz.

The event was inside on a hot summer day, yet it was well attended. The young musicians were unknown to me before the concert. They were were well schooled, innovative and played great jazz. I have kept the program as I want to remember the names of these accomplished women

Marion Hayden is a generally quiet but self assured  woman. Marion can handle heavy lifting. She carries her own bass and more importantly she elevates her craft and those she gets close to. It is the grace with which she does it that makes her so special.

Marion is one of those people that while creating great art also brings others forward to share the applause.


 Artists are usually risk takers and and sharing your art can be scary. It can also be rewarding.

I had planned to make the final stage of the creative process, Counting the Money . This final stage has been cancelled for lack of funds.

Well. That’s art.

John Osler





August 21 – 24





This week at the Dirty Dog will be one of the many  Detroit musicians who have received a gentle hand up from their friend Gretchen Valade. He will share his unique gifts with his band stand mates and those lucky enough to be present at the Dirty dog.


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July 27, 2019


SKETCH #4    SPRING 2017




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


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


A Van Gogh painting shouts Van Gogh.



Seldom has an artist’s life seemed as big as his work as in the case of Vincent Van Gogh. His passion to paint which consumed his total being led to powerful images and several big box office movies. Vincent certainly didn’t see success come his way in his lifetime. He did live a life of an artist and his art has vindicated his complete dedication to his vision.


A Mark Rothko painting is sublimely a Rothko.






The Detroit Institute of Art has a remarkable example of Mark Rothko’s genius. Simple blocks of color are painted subtly just where they should be. I can spend a lot of time sitting  in front of this paintings wondering how anyone could be so astute.

I get strange stares sometimes from those who have less wonder in such a simple piece of art. Mark Rothko’s paintings are as hard to replicate as are a Van Gogh or Louis Armstrong masterpiece.

Their act of interpreting is when their craft became art.

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





Louis Armstrong was uniquely Satchmo


Louis Armstrong was a serious musician and an entertainer. I think we see  the real Louis in his early recordings before he was a public figure. His unique phrasing seemed to make the tunes he played have more meaning. His playing comes straight from his heart to your heart.




France 07 Panosonic 020_edited-1


Artist often have a dilemma. They can have empty pockets and some unpaid bills, they can at the same moment have a personal story to tell and a passion to put their voice in the story. There is only so much time in any day. They could easily make a bunch of stuff to take to market that would be sure sales. Many are driven to remain an artist and hope others will like their story.


When I am in Provence I have often been inspired by friends who are true artists.







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

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




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





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




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


John Osler




August 14 & 15






Nathan is a multi – talented jazz artist who will bring his saxophone and some similarly gifted friends to the Dirty Dog. He will be a familiar face as he has joined his uncle, Michael Zaporski and Future Visions. Nathan is from Detroit, so don’t be surprised if he shows us some new things that he knows we will enjoy..



 August 16 & 17





“Graced with an “impeccable” voice (Winnipeg Free Press) and hailed as an artist that “may well turn out to be the next important jazz singer” by the LA Times, Sara Gazarek has been one of the leading lights of an impressive generation of jazz vocalists since her brilliant emergence at age 20. From the outside, her subsequent career has been the picture of success: five acclaimed albums, an ardent fanbase, enthusiastic reviews, and opportunities that have taken her around the world, leading to thrilling collaborations with some of her most respected and celebrated peers.”



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