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Upbeats With John Osler
July 24, 2017




Looking at a healthy plant or tree we don’t always see their roots. Only when you try and uproot a tree or pick a flower do you realize how powerful the connection there is between any  plant and its roots.


For decades Detroiters have been buoyed up by the great  artists who have hung around and shared their gifts with their neighbors. They have kept our spirit and blood moving. Maybe it is because there has been  a constant source of opportunity for our young musicians  in our churches. It is an inspiration that continues all their lives. Our young artists have early exposure to stories of enduring adversity and good people rising to challenges. Detroit’s ability to keep moving on shows up in the power of the  music we hear today. We can listen to the rich story telling and the loyalty to the beat when we sit down for an evening of jazz. Detroit’s roots are many and go deep.


For all of my life I have been puzzled by the brave passivity of those under siege. People who can’t seem to be heard yet remain quiet and calm. That is until they speak. This makes their message so powerful when it comes out . They challenge violence with gentleness and tragedy with forgiving. Often it is the result of the cumulative experiences and messages that are deeply embedded in the heart of generations of church goers. We hear it in the music.


In a New Yorker article about the tragic shooting at Mother Emanuel Methodist Church in Charleston, by David Remnick,  James Campbell, a ninety year old Charleston citizen told David:


“That memory is almost genetic, the DNA of the community, and I don’t think it manifests itself in rage. it manifests itself in the resolute patience of a long-suffering people. And their determination is expressed through the permanency of the church. That may wear thin with some of the younger people, but it will be a while before you see it change.”




The permanency of churches is dependent on the next generation, as is the future of jazz. The root for Detroit’s most important music has always been jazz and the soil that jazz has sprung from has certainly been enriched by the our churches. Part of the message from our churches has been to persevere and to teach the next guys. This continues to happen.


When Detroit jazz fans leaf through my photos in the book Detroit Jazz I hear a constant “Oh, they go to/play at my church”.   This tipped me off that the church is still an important catalyst in keeping the music on track for some time.







This week Alvin Waddles brings his many talents into the Dirty Dog for, thankfully, four nights of music. This group will convince you that the local music hasn’t wavered  in giving us  hard driving, free swinging music that we know is true to its roots.


Alvin will swing into the Dirty Dog Jazz Café this week. Alvin in old English means elf friend, making Alvin’s parents a little prophetic. Alvin does have an elfin twinkle in his eye when he performs. He has enormous talent that he uses with grace. For many Detroiters he is the friendly face of jazz.


Alvin’s musical career is a Detroit story which means that there is a generous and gifted teacher that showed up at the right time. For Alvin it was Mrs.Gusseye Dickey who took the gifted 8 year old Alvin under her wing. Alvin says that it was Mrs. Dickey that first instilled in him his life-long love of classical music. Alvin has taken his early lessons at Cass Technical High School, the Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Michigan School of Music and added his rich Detroit culture to become a multi talented master musician.


Alvin is in demand as much for his voice as his explosive piano. Alvin has never stopped expanding his horizons. He has brought his unique gifts to many diverse Detroit events and organizations including The Detroit Jazz Festival, The Detroit Opera House, Detroit Music Hall, Ann Arbor and Detroit schools, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church. New Bethel Church, Hope United Methodist Church, the New Millennium Choral, the Fats Waller Revue, numerous theatrical productions and wherever else a vibrant artist was needed.


In 2003 Alvin received the Detroit Musician’s Association award for excellence. He has also been a soloist and featured artist around the world playing gigs in Barbados, Beijing, Paris, Barcelona and Ghana, West Africa.






Next month Detroit’s Chris Codish will be featured on the Hammond B3 organ. On August 23 and August 24 he will likely bring his Hammond with him, which isn’t an easy task. It is heavy and clumsy looking. does make a difference. Chris will always be true to the music, which makes him a busy guy, but he still has had time on each Sunday for over 18 years to be the organist/keyboardist at the God Land Unity Church in Detroit. Chris’ commitment is a familiar story in Detroit’s music community. Chris has serious roots in the music and the arts.


Here are some quotes from Chris:


“I have nothing against technique and dexterity, I’m always working on gaining more myself and I acknowledge and appreciate the time and dedication it takes to play fast tempos, passages, etc. But PLEASE don’t sacrifice emotion, feeling, expression and interaction in the pursuit of being “the baddest cat.” It’s an empty goal. Make music that moves people and gives them something they “need” even if they don’t know it.”


” I was able to play two really fine Steinway pianos at both Cliff Bell’s and at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. I can hear the difference. Time and time again it seems that the people who I really enjoy listening to are also very genuine, diversely educated, warm and engaging and this often comes through in their music and even beyond that in their personal presence. You could say I enjoy those who have cultivated their human side and allow it to permeate their music.”


“The best improvisers, performers and entertainers are those who actually take the music somewhere and thereby bring the band and the audience with them.”


“That’s what I believe we need to be striving for as musicians and performers. Engaging the music, your band members, the audience, and the space you’re in at the moment. Can you hear the difference? Have you listened?”


Come on out to the Dirty Dog this week and you will hear the difference. It’s in the roots.

John Osler











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July 17, 2017





Jazz is a music that rose out of conditions that could have brought us some pretty dreary dirges. Instead, because of the spirit of those who pioneered jazz it has become probably our most uplifting music.  Even the blues leave you feeling good. I remember listening to the message on many Saturday nights that “The blues is all right.” It is certainly true that this is music that can lift your spirit and make you smile. Every year at this time we celebrate this fact by proclaiming this coming week as SMILE WEEK.






If, when asked, “How is your day going?’, and  your answer is, ” I’ve had better days.”, maybe you should stop by the Dirty Dog. Bring your smile. We are celebrating SMILE WEEK all week at the Dirty Dog. The band and the staff have been practicing good nature expressions and broad approving grins


Grumpy staff and irascible customers will be asked to remain in a dark corner of the club. However,we expect this section will remain empty for the duration of this year’s Four Freshmen’s stint celebrating smile week.


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 to see during smile week.


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 them a shove on their way to becoming the top vocal group of the 50’s when he connected them with Capital Records. Capital didn’t promote them initially, so they took a bunch of demos and passed them out to radio stations in the greatest jazz town at the time, Detroit. They got plenty of air time, and in this jazz savvy city they found success.


Through the years the personnel has changed many times. 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. Though out their history most members of the Four Freshmen have played more than one instrument.


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


Here are the Freshmen from one of their visits to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café.





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ALVIN WADDLES Champion smiler


Next  week we will have four days of of  smile conditioning exercises when Alvin Waddles brings his team of joy filled trainers to the Dirty Dog Jazz Club.  You will notice all the joyous faces of not only the audience but also the band. The Dirty Dog will keep the air conditioning on to counter the warm feelings  you get as you watch Alvin and his band  have such a good time on the job.


All the smiling will stretch your jaw muscles making it easier to tackle the good sized portion of Dirty Dog cuisine.


John Osler










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July 10, 2017

MILES DAVIS                                               Photo: Tom Polumbo




We all know how important it is to get along with others, especially if you can’t reach your goal  with just  your own limited abilities. There are those who assume to know enough to go it alone. They cross the Atlantic in a small boat in the wrong season all by themselves, except they probably do have  a colleague standing by at the radio in case they need help. I think that it is probably better to take that friend along.


Jazz teaches us that it is better to have friends right along side you on the bandstand. A true adventure needs a good support crew, shared cause and shared rewards. Going it alone allows one to have complete control, but often leads to playing the same tune over and over. The novelty eventually wears off.




Having a common purpose and making it easy for the group to stay on course are qualities that I keep seeing work in successful jazz groups. In the future we hope to begin to see a little more common purpose by the rest of us.



Here are some ingredients that help friends make great music together:




Collegiality is the relationship between colleagues, who are those explicitly united in a common purpose and respecting each other’s abilities to work toward that purpose. This is the trait that I keep seeing in the jazz artists.




Camaraderie is a spirit of good friendship and loyalty among members of a group. You might not like your job, but still enjoy the camaraderie of the people you work with.




People who have the quality of congeniality have a gift for getting along with others. They are warm, friendly, and probably well-suited to serve on welcoming committees.



Friendliness is the capability of existing or performing in harmonious or congenial combination


Someone who comes to mind with these qualities is Sean Dobbins.






Sean Dobbins brought his good nature along with his quintet into the Dirty Dog Jazz Café one week last year . When Sean introduced the band he pointed out that one of the five great musicians, the trombonist, Mike Dease, would be playing with the quintet for the first time. He kindly announced  how privileged he felt playing  with him.  Out of the gate the band ‘s cohesive sound concealed any unfamiliarity. They looked like they were having fun as they traded ideas and smiles. How the heck is this done? How does a musician step in and mesh so seamlessly? I have for some time been curious about how jazz musicians carry this off. Is the music that simple? It wasn’t that night. Had they spent days or weeks playing together to prepare for this evening?  I think that didn’t happen.


Most often Sean’s groups consist of musicians that front their own bands. A bunch of leaders. They understand the process, and they know that under Sean’s leadership the music will be  demanding and complex. They will be playing music that is definitely not off the shelf and not all that simple to play.



Marion Hayden                          Mike Dease


I got a possible answer during a conversation with the group’s bassist, Marion Hayden. She mentioned two reasons it works ; musicianship and collegiality. She informed me of Mike’s credentials and his command of his instrument. He came prepared to contribute.

Marion smiled when she discussed both Sean’s and Mike’s collegiality.


Not everyone with talent has a bubbly personality. Some talented artists can show:




Churlishly rude or bad-tempered:sullen, uncivil, brusque, irascible, splenetic, choleric, cross; grumpy, grouchy, crabby. unfriendly, hostile, irritable: threatening, malevolent, menacing,  threatening






Picasso’s gift as an artist was his intensity and his love of everything he did. He was not a team player and he remained a soloist and the “disquieting” Spaniard with the “sombrepiercing” eyes  his entire life.




Stern and admitting of no appeasement or compromise, of a sinister or ghastly character, having a harsh, surly, forbidding, or morbid air, fierce, savage






Miles Davis lived life with a directness and fierceness that could be offsetting. He also was a gifted collaborator who formed bonds with his fellow musicians that changed jazz. He shared a common purpose with those he played with, which is an essential part of collegiality. He learned to play with muted pain.


When an interviewer asked him: “Don’t you find yourself alone up here?”


Miles replied: “Uh-uh. Not with the musicians I work with. They end up being your best friends. If I ever leave a will it’s not gonna be to my relatives, it’s to the people I function around best. You’re around musicians all the time. You’re not alone.”


Collegial is defined as: with authority or power shared equally among colleagues.


In a band of strong individuals collegiality is essential to success. It doesn’t mean that confident talented artists have to reign it in, it means that they are free to go with it. Luckily for us this is  a common trait in  jazz musicians, especially among equals.. Every week I learn something new from the very talented collegial folk at the Dirty Dog.


John Osler




JULY 12- JULY 15






Gene Dunlap will bring his talent and grace to the Dirty Dog. He brings the force of Miles Davis with the congeniality that allows Detroit jazz to be so free wheeling.




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July 5, 2017


The United States of America is a young country and a work in progress. It is always exciting to be part of a something that is  trying to figure out what it’s going to be.






Steve Goodman asks this question in his great song City of New Orleans . 






America’s music in 2017 is showing the world its best face. Country music is sharing the stage with hip hop, jazz is blended with electronic, zydeco accordion is inserted into funky renditions of  standard tunes, etc. etc. Everything is possible and everything is accepted and everything is added. Layers are being placed on top of layers, creating magnificent wholes. Musicians are respecting other musicians’ stories and finding ways to make someone else’s ideas better. This is a surefire formula for greatness.


MUSIC IN AMERICA continues to follow the examples of our brilliant founders, who asked us to be:












“Jazz is about freedom within discipline, usually a dictatorship like in Russia and Nazi Germany will prevent jazz from being played because it just seemed to represent freedom, democracy and the United States.” Dave Brubeck




” Jazz is a very democratic musical form. It comes out of a communal experience. We take our respective instument and collectively create a thing of beauty.” Max Roach



“The bottom line of any country is, ‘What did we contribute to the world?’ ….We contributed Louis Armstrong.”  Tony Bennett



Louis Armstrong always claimed he was born on the fourth of July and celebrated his birthday on the holiday.

Louis said: “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.”

Here he is with the national anthem.




Wynton Marsalis ” As long as there is democracy, there will be people wanting to play jazz because nothing else will ever so perfectly capture the democratic process in sound. Jazz means working things out musically with other people. You have to listen to other musicians and play with them even if you don’t agree with what they’re playing. It teaches you that the world is big enough to accommodate us all.”



Here is Wynton’s brother Saxophonist Branford Marsalis







 Photo by Rob Davidson



Geri Antoinette Allen was born June 12, 1957 in Pontiac, Mich.  Her father, Mount V. Allen, Jr., was a principal in the Detroit public school system. Deeply rooted in Detroit, she was encouraged to take up the piano at age 7, she went on to graduate from Cass Technical High School and importantly she also became  a protégée of Detroit  trumpeter Marcus Belgrave,


Allen was a  virtuoso pianist who played with some of jazz’s greatest rhythm sections, As NPR wrote: “She was a musical partner with prodigious ears, motivated by the percussive energy of the avant-garde, the elusive unified spark of straight-ahead swing and the expressive truth of piano balladry”.


 Geri’s legacy is assured through her recorded music and  her passion for passing on her gifts as a teacher. She taught for 10 years at the University of Michigan and was the  artistic director of the Carr Center in downtown Detroit.
Detroit will miss Geri Allen who was a friend and a partner as well as being recognized as one of jazz’s most  influential  musicians.


The Dirty Dog will not be open this week so they can celebrate the birthday of our country. There will be a break in the music, giving the staff some deserved time off after so many consecutive big acts. Gene Dunlap will bring the place back to life on Wednesday July 12 through July 16. The Dirty Dog wishes you a glorious holiday. Enjoy and be safe.


John Osler








JULY 12 – JULY 16




The fireworks will continue as Gene Dunlap brings a genuine mix of old and new ideas that will keep our spirits flying.


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June 26, 2017


My life has been full of “how the heck” moments.


The latest “how the heck” question  that I have is, “How do quiet gentle people create bigger than life, over the top and sometimes in your face pieces of art?”  We are used to thinking of artists as temperamental and a little crazy. Often they are hard to deal with and shouldn’t be allowed out in public. We love their work because they are so very different than we are, and we get a glimpse of their untidy lives.


Then there are those constant gentle souls who are so self assured that they feel free to create anything they want.





Here is a friend, Judy Bowman, who is as gentle and kind as a person can get. She seldom seems down. I have never seen a photo of her without a smile. Yet, Judy understands all emotions and feels free to show them. She was principal of Detroit Academy of Arts & Sciences while she raised her family. On retirement she threw herself completely into her paintings. This was good for us. All of Judy’s work has force and energy that I often find lacking in angrier artists.












Last week at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café four musicians who had never played together as a group formed a band. New York based T.K. Blue arrived in Detroit and showed up at the Dirty Dog about 2:30PM last Wednesday.  Waiting to meet him were his pianist Buddy Budson, his bassist Marion Hayden and his drummer for the week, David Taylor. They are all Detroit Jazz Fest All-Stars.


By 3pm T.K., Buddy, Marion and David had already discovered that they shared a bunch of character traits, They all have engaging smiles, good reasons for smiling and a willingness to share their good nature. They each also have a bundle of talent and experience. Buddy, Marion and David all knew each other but the question was, how would they blend with this international super star coming in with his personal musical messages?  As I wrote last week, T.K. has a monster resume and speaks French. This was answered with their first exchange of genuine joy to be in each other’s company. The glue that good people exude instantly bound them together for their four day gig. Here were  four gentle, kind and expansive souls forming a rock firm unit. ready to throw caution to the wind and to energetically explore T.K.s music.



If you caught the shows this past week you would have seen four gentle people supporting each other to perform some powerfully and bold jazz.







From 3pm to 5:30PM on Wednesday the newly formed band set up their instruments and spent some time working on getting the sound just right and began going  through T. K.’s playlist with him. It was a party of learning. What to me would be a nerve racking head scratching moment was turning into a love fest. These people didn’t seem to know that they were about to play two hours of jazz over two sets starting in a few hours all in front of patrons who were paying good money to hear them. He had passed out music which they put on music stands. T.K. also played the start of each tune and guided them in their roles. Mostly they exchanged approving glances and outright smiles, obviously not aware of the pending potential for disaster. I was witnessing civility and professional talent triumphing over any fear of failure. There were no abject compliments as from a teacher to a student. These were musicians getting to do what they were born to do and loving every minute.















Out of this mutual respect, appreciation for each other’s artistry came friendship. Out of that friendship came a jazz ensemble that for eight sets grew into a cohesive force.



I was fortunate to be able to watch this happen. T.K. and I had started a dialogue and I was invited into the artist’s  green room. T.K. asked me if between sets we could  continue some thoughts that we had started. With the table set with the Dirty Dog’s great food I realized there was going be more eating. story telling and laughter than serious conversation. This easy cordiality was typical of jazz bands breaking bread in the green room. Maybe, to play great music as a group, the group has to become family.








I came across Shades while he was creating a mural in the Eastern Market forthe Detroit Jazz Festival. Shades again showed me that through his good nature he could overcome tough circumstances. While I was there proud members of his family came by, including his brother, cousin and son (seen in photo above). The results will reflect their support.


John Osler










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 Art Blakey, Pharaoh Sanders and Donald Byrd.


Another great week of jazz at the Dirty Dog.




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June 19, 2017





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


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


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







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




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


I think we can learn from his background.


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


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


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


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




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




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


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


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


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


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





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


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


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



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


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


John Osler






JUNE 21 – JUNE 24



T.K. BLUE with the DJF All Stars


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


  TK-Blue-gallery-14-1024x683   david_taylor



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June 12, 2017




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


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


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


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


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


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


Here are a few:





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


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





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


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


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


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


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


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







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


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


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


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




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


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


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





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





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




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




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



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

John Osler




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


June14 -June15





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







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












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June 5, 2017



SKETCH #4    SPRING 2017


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

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

This act of interpreting is when  craft becomes art.

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



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

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


France 07 Panosonic 020_edited-1




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

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


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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

John Osler





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

JUNE 9 – JUNE 10


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






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May 29, 2017


Modeling in clay adding and taking away


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

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



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


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

Choosing what to leave out.

By John McPhee

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

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


Le Beaucet


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



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


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




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



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May 22, 2017

May 22

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

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

IMG_0454My friend JC Mathes

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



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



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

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

CASSIS                                                                                                           OIL/CANVAS

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

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

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

John Osler


May 24 – May 25



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

May 26 – May 27

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



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

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The Dirty Dog brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
  LOOKING FOR THE ROOTS   Looking at a healthy plant or tree we don’t always see the [..]
Alphabetical order: Artist(s) / Title / Label*         TK Blue / Amour / Dot Tim [..]
  SMILES   Jazz is a music that rose out of conditions that could have brought us some pre [..]
Each week the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe hosts live performances from the greatest jazz musicians across the country.
Tad Weed Trio
STARTS: Wed, August 02 2017
ENDS: Sat, August 05 2017
Detroit Jazziest All-Stars
STARTS: Wed, August 09 2017
ENDS: Sat, August 12 2017
Spencer Barefield
STARTS: Wed, August 16 2017
ENDS: Sat, August 19 2017
Chris Codish
STARTS: Wed, August 23 2017
ENDS: Thu, August 24 2017
Diego Figueiredo
STARTS: Fri, August 25 2017
ENDS: Sat, August 26 2017
Closed for The Detroit Jazz Festival
STARTS: Tue, August 29 2017
ENDS: Sat, September 02 2017