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Opened in 2008, The Dirty Dog is one of the premiere destinations in the United States for world class Jazz and cuisine. It combines the charm of an English-style pub with intimacy and meticulous attention to detail and hospitality.
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Upbeats With John Osler
January 14, 2020


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




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



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



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


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

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

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




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



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

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


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


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

“Chelsea Bridge”

“My Little Brown Book”

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

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

“Lotus Blossom”

“A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing”

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

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

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





January 15 -18






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




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January 6, 2020

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

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

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





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



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

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

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




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

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





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






Be hopeful

Indulge idiots

Live and let live

Seek peace

Recognize happiness

Welcome love




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


The quality of our discussions is becoming more important.


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

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

I am looking forward to having  conversations about the coming year and the positive events as they happen. I hope to talk to and photograph those who will be helping make Detroit a better place to live. Music will continue to show us the way. There is something special happening around us in Detroit, and the Dirty Dog will be celebrating the resurgence of live music in our city with innovative programs and adventurous menus.







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


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


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






Be hopeful

Indulge idiots

Live and let live

Seek peace

Recognize happiness

Welcome love



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





January 8 – 11





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

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


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January 2, 2020





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


2010 – 2019


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





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

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

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







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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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




Saying goodbye to 2019


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

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

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

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




Every once in a while we get a chance to start over. We get a fresh start, and January 2020 could be that moment.. We have a less wobbly base to set out from and more tools available  to reach our goals, It is a good time not to be sitting on our hands while clinging on to all the things that we already have. I am looking forward to having  conversations about the coming year and the positive events as they happen. I hope to talk to and photograph those who will be helping to make Detroit a better place to live.


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


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


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


Carl’s smile:




Andre’s food:




The Dirty Dog’s remarkably good natured staff




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


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




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





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




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








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


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

John Osler




Sean Dobbins







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December 23, 2019



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

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

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






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

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




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

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

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



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

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

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



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




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



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

I had a good time painting this jazzy Santa.




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


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


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The Dirty Dog Jazz Café wishes all our regulars,  those who are planning to show up for the first time, and all those who have the spirit of the holidays in their heart a very merry holiday.

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

John Osler





December 26 – December 29 + New Years Eve






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

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


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December 17, 2019




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

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



The uncompensated gift of kindness.


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

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



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


All the acts of forgiveness and understanding

All the acceptance by strangers

All the openness of friends and family

All the fleeting moments of beauty

All the acts of love given to me freely

All the opportunities to give and prosper






Some gentle nudges of kindness that changed my life.

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





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

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





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



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


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

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



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




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


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






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

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





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

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

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

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


John Osler




December 18 – 21





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

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

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

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

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

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

“His melodic lines are clean and uncomplicated. He shows a sensitivity for song rather than a desire to show off.”
Bob Karlovits, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“Randy Napoleon’s golden-toned guitar lines carry Cole or frame him in all the right places.”
Kirk Silshee, Down Beat Magazine

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

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

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





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December 11, 2019



It is December and the year is coming to an end. For me 2019 was a year of discovery and transition. I have discovered that I am getting old and creaky and I find myself transitioning from being cautious into becoming pretty predictable and boring. Maybe I need a jolt of purpose. I must seize every opportunity.

It is December, and life gets harder for those who are without shelter and those who cannot provide for their families,while those all around them are shopping for gifts and holiday decorations.
It is December and we all will have a chance to make things a little bit better for those around us. This time of year brings an abundance of opportunities, and regardless of our own situation we all have something to offer. I will witness
simple acts of kindness all around me as we enter the holidays. We all benefit, as it turns out that giving to others turns out to be one of our best self enrichment programs.  Just ask those who have enrolled.
It is December and your mailbox will be filled with requests for end of the tax year donations.
It is December, and this could be the best part of our year for those who just have the habit of giving because that is who they are all year round.



Here are three people who came together this December to show us what the spirit of giving looks like.They all knew that there were some things that needed to be done, and they stood up because that is who they are.


Gretchen Valade with COTS CEO Cheryl Johnson




I was sitting at the bar at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café when a friend nudged me on the back and whispered that she remembered her mother singing the soulful song that Alvin Waddles was playing. She said that when her mother sang I Cant Give You Anything But Love, Baby to her father in the 1930s, they would both cry. It was the height of the depression and this song struck home. It was a time in their life when love had to carry the day. Difficult times leave a deep impression on those who are starting out in life. The woman sitting next to me was a lucky kid who has a memory of loving parents, parents who demonstrated the positive effects of music and gentleness on their lives.

Music is still an important part of Gretchen Valade’s life, as is her desire to give back to those who may be struggling.



Three days later Gretchen and the Dirty Dog hosted two nights of music to bring attention to and help fund the community agency COTS.Taking credit is not something Gretchen is very good at doing. Gretchen has always shunned deserved attention for her good deeds. They are hard to hide. When she sees  a need, she acts.

Gretchen’s contributions to jazz in our community are well know and gives us a glimpse of her generosity.

In 2019, after 10 years of respecting everyone who comes in the door of the Dirty Dog Gretchen  has established a refuge for kindred spirits. Here in a posh neighborhood where they consider a 60 foot elevation a hill and most streets have British names sits a magnet for a very diverse audience for America’s music, jazz.  For two days it was filled with like minded patrons. Everyone wanted to help.




The Dirty Dog Jazz Café remains the home for good jazz and good ideas.






Last week the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe hosted two evenings with Herbie Russ, a soulful performer who wears many musical hats: singer, saxophonist, keyboardist, producer and songwriter. He was part of fundraising events for The Coalition on Temporary Shelters.



With a voice reminiscent of Joe Cocker Herbie delivers each song with passion and soulful emotion, which is fitting as his performances will benefit families served by COTS in Detroit.

Herbie Russ’s background is very public because he wants it to be.

Herbie dropped out of school in the 11th grade, and was then kicked out of his parent’s home for doing drugs. A very gifted saxophone player, Herbie would ride his bike 10 miles to play with bands in exchange for drugs or money. He would go on the road with a variety of acts where he had the benefit of staying in hotels. He spent years staying in hotels, couch-surfing, and living in a car. After years of drifting, homelessness, drugs, and being arrested, he eventually turned to God and said “You’ve given me this talent, I need some direction.”



At his darkest moment Herbie was led to a homeless shelter, where he offered to sing and play. He began to donate all the tips from his gigs to the homeless shelter. After donating thousands of dollars, Herbie continues to use his gifts to support shelters across the U.S.

In 2017 Herbie Russ performed on America’s Got Talent where he wowed the judges.

He is doing well, and he appreciates all the help along the way. Herbie’s joy at being able to contribute along with his compassion and understanding carried the evenings. He gave us two great nights. Thanks to Herbie Russ and his band.







Coalition On Temporary Shelter CEO  Cheryl P. Johnson

COTS exists to alleviate homelessness by enabling people to achieve self-sufficiency and obtain quality affordable housing. Started as a church project in 1982, today the organization manages multiple facilities with a staff of more than 90 people and an annual budget in excess of $7 million. Annually, COTS serves more than 2,000 Detroit-area homeless people in its emergency shelter and approximately 450 individuals and families in its transitional and permanent housing programs.



CEO Cheryl  P. Johnson has been at the helm of the Coalition On Temporary Shelter for 27 of its 35-year history.

Prior to coming to COTS, Cheryl was working with youth. She remembers when  a young man that was aging out of her program – when he turned 18, he would literally be homeless. When the staff bid him farewell, they sent him to COTS, and that was the first time she heard of the organization. Years later, she came to have a deeper understanding of the issues related to homelessness.

When she came to COTS in 1990 as the Shelter Director her intention was to stay for two years and go back to working with children – 27 years later, she is still at COTS.

Cheryl guided Cots from offering mostly emergency shelter to develop transitional housing, which is another form of shelter for the people we serve where they can stay up to two years. As we developed transitional housing, we started to learn more about permanent affordable housing and how to use Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to develop it. I started traveling around the country – San Francisco, Chicago, New York – to visit the locations that had the best developments in the country, and I honestly fell in love with the whole notion that we can end homelessness. That’s why she stayed so long.

Here is Cheryl’s take on COTS “One of the things that struck me was that many of the heads of homes who I met as children in the early 90s were coming back now as adults with their own children. The question that raised was: Why didn’t giving them housing break that pattern? What I realized was that we couldn’t focus solely on homelessness because homelessness is really a symptom of poverty. So if we don’t take on the issue of poverty, then we’re going to be in business forever – and that’s not what we want.

That’s when we decided to create a theory of change that could be a serious tool that helps families move out of poverty. The framework we created is called the Passport to Self-Sufficiency. It’s a coaching model centered on building really robust relationships with our families and coaching them through goal setting. We don’t just look at housing; we also look at health and wellbeing, education, career development, and economic mobility. We help them create goals in every one of those areas. And we don’t just help the head of household; we also look at the children so it’s a two-generation approach.

Our resources are aimed at impacting the next generation in the hopes to end the cycle of poverty and homelessness one family at a time.

Cheryl studied classical music, she still sings and she even  put out a CD a few years ago,  it’s another gift that she shares with others.

I spend time around jazz musicians who seem to be completely reverse wired. Jazz musicians seldom deliberately do the right thing. It is just part of what music brings to their life when they sign up. The older they get the younger they play. They never seem to acknowledge that they should just fade away. Jazz musicians are also generally giving people who don’t expect huge rewards other than a chance to play their music. Jazz artists likely are not aware of what all the studies have shown, that giving and getting rewards as incentives does not lead to as good a result as a task done selflessly.

Here are some study results on giving that I stumbled on.

Psychologists often distinguish between intrinsic motivation (wanting to do something for its own sake) and extrinsic motivation (for example, doing something in order to snag a goody). The first is the best predictor of high-quality achievement, and it can actually be undermined by the second. Moreover, when you promise people a reward, they often perform more poorly as a result.

Scores of studies and personal case histories point to the benefits of an attitude of extreme giving at work. The greatest source of motivation is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other people’s lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves.

Being able to give and to do for others seems to be very rewarding for older people, and seems to reinforce their own sense of independence and well-being.

Most reports found that givers are happier and healthier and have a greater sense of purpose in life. This is not just in terms of giving money to formal charitable organizations but also extends to informal acts of kindness.

Gretchen, Herbie and Cheryl seem to have figured all this out all on their own.

John Osler




December 11 – 14





Known for his dual horn playing technique, recording artist Rayse Biggs is one of the most dynamic horn players today. Often referred to as Trumpeter Extraordinaire, Rayse has received local and national commendations for his contribution to music. He continues to be sought out to accompany other artists, including Kid Rock, Fred Hammond, Alexander Zonjic and Kem.


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December 3, 2019

John Osler                                   Santa                                          oil/canvas




Living in Michigan in the month of December is a challenge. It is November without the promise of of a few warm days. The notorious lake effect, shortened days, first snows and the threat of winter can take a toll. Five of the ten cities with the most depressing winters are located downwind from one of the Great Lakes. Lake-effect cloud cover makes winter sunshine a rare sight in these places. Great lakes means Less sun, Overcast skies, Overwhelming depression and general Malaise.





Gloom is partial or total darkness, a dark or shadowy place or lowness of spirits. 
Gloom is an amorphous melancholy that can exist in even perfect conditions and thrive when it seems that things aren’t going to get better, like December in Michigan.
We can get some comfort knowing that there are forces working to keep gloom at hand.
There will be no more grass cutting or yard work for a while. Longer nights mean that we will have more guilt free time to hole up and read. A sighting of the sun, a smile or a small act of kindness can make a difference. A place where they are dedicated to lifting your spirit can make a big hole in the gloom.



I have little to complain about in my life even on a wet dark December day in Michigan. It is hard though to get up from the couch and go into the unfriendly environment of early winter. It doesn’t take long once I come through the door at the Dirty Dog to realize what a smart move I made to show up here.


A place where a busy staff always seems to be enjoying their tasks.



A place where there is warmth built into everything.





A place that has gloom resistant walls


Even before the music starts, the center plated portions of food arrive, and the beverages take effect, the art scattered around the Dirty Dog will start to lift all grumpiness out of your life.



The walls are covered with whimsical images of dogs, jazz artists, cupids and more dogs.




If this doesn’t cheer you up the club will bring in seasonal decorations that just add to the warmth of the place.




It is a place that serves up antidepressant jazz music.


The finisher is the act of getting lost in the music. Gloom is a goner, joy wins again.



It is a place where I can look at one of my paintings that hangs on a wall in the Dirty Dog.


Ron Carter; Musician, Legend and Cass Tech Graduate


All winter, very time I look at this painting I think back to a warm summer day.






It was a beautiful summer day and I had a lot of outdoor projects lined up. In the morning of this 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 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 headed over to the Dog, and I went out of the sunshine into one of my most soul enriching experiences of 2016.




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.

Ron Carter was gently but firmly showing our next generation how a man acts and a jazz man plays.


Another way to chase the blahs is to settle in with a good book.







If you want to learn something about jazz in Detroit, this is the book. Mark Stryker covered music and art for The detroit Free Press for 21 years before leaving to write this book.This is 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’s relationship with Detroit’s jazz artists. He has asked them  direct questions through the years and has gotten honest answers. This process came from his deep personal interest in how and why  Detroit with its ups and downs has seen its music persevere and thrive. His personal insights makes this book stand alone.  Mark explains jazz in Detroit  Mark has the skills to make it come alive. He ties together a lot of things we already know. Free up some time by the fire for this new book.




JAZZ BOOK cover4

Cover photo of Will Austin at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café




Documenting The Legacy Of Gretchen Valade

If you ever want to be reminded of the great story of jazz and Detroit in photographs, you might consider picking up the book, DETROIT JAZZ  Documenting the legacy of Gretchen Valade. The book is a collection of my photographs of Detroit’s great jazz artists shot at venues that have been made possible by the generous acts of Gretchen Valade. It is my  attempt to document the results of one woman’s dream,  I wanted the world to know that Detroit’s jazz community has never faltered.The photos are witness.I would like to thank all of the local and national artists who performed in these venues. Opening the door to this remarkable world were Gretchen’s right hand, Tom Robinson, Chef André Neimanis, Manager Willie Jones and all the staff of the Dirty Dog. Thanks also to the Detroit Jazz Festival and it’s director, Chris Collin. Special thanks to Gretchen, whose strength and foresight have provided the gentle push for both the music and this book. I hope that the book respects and honors all of the artists, Detroit and Gretchen.

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

Here are some pages from the book.

detroit Jazz 10 0458 detroit Jazz 10 0416 detroit Jazz 10 0413 _DSC1430 detroit Jazz 10 0431 detroit Jazz 10 0422 detroit Jazz 10 0432 detroit Jazz 10 0441 detroit Jazz 10 0445 detroit Jazz 10 0450 detroit Jazz 10 0429 detroit Jazz 10 0420


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



Let your good nature prevail. Quit moping. Kick dreariness out of your life. Bring your good nature out of hibernation. Enjoy December in Detroit.


John Osler




December 4 – 7


John Osler                            Dave                               oil/canvas




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

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





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November 25, 2019





The blessing of the harvest happens around the world signaling that the growing season is over, and one should start thinking about hunkering down for the winter. I always start the holiday season by thanking whoever it was that decided to have us celebrate Thanksgiving on a Thursday, thus guaranteeing us a four day holiday. This gives us three days to recover, to visit with family and to renew old friendships.

Thanksgiving  is a straightforward name for a holiday.  It is a command and is an opportunity. We are given this day to be with our family and friends to express our appreciation for our good fortune. I am always comforted, and I am truly thankful when I look around after dinner and see a well fed family warmed by good feelings for one another. I am also often thankful for a quiet moment alone after overeating once again.

Thanksgiving is a holiday when we do not shop because we are being thankful for the things we have and are saving our energy for Black Friday. Thanksgiving is a time to relax, tell well worn family jokes, watch the Lions and then recover from watching the Lions.

We will gather at our house in 2019 with three generations of talkers, all with something to say.  There is no longer a kiddies table and an adult table. We will have one adult table and one adult conversation. Well sort of adult, as we have accumulated enough tales to tell that will bring guffaws, sly smiles and happy tears to our eyes.



The Gathering

a Thanksgiving Poem by Billy Collins


Outside, the scene was right for the season,
heavy gray clouds and just enough wind
to blow down the last of the yellow leaves.

But the house was different that day,
so distant from the other houses,
like a planet inhabited by only a dozen people

with the same last name and the same nose
rotating slowly on its invisible axis.
Too bad you couldn’t be there

but you were flying through space on your own asteroid
with your arm around an uncle.
You would have unwrapped your scarf

and thrown your coat on top of the pile
then lifted a glass of wine
as a tiny man ran across a screen with a ball.

You would have heard me
saying grace with my elbows on the tablecloth
as one of the twins threw a dinner roll across the room at the other.






Giving thanks is very personal. Ordinary things happen in our lives that we take for granted until Thanksgiving. On this day we give thanks that there will be someone to stand up and give us a hand or a nudge when we need it. We remember all the unbelievably beautiful moments that have filled our hearts with pure joy or made us lose control with uncontrollable laughter with a friend. We remind ourselves of the good feeling when we can bring some comfort to someone by our actions. We recognize all the good people who have resisted and who are standing up to power. We are especially thankful for all those who listen and care. These are extraordinary gifts.





Thanksgiving in colonial times was a harvest holiday in which the colonists offered thanks for a good harvest. Thanksgiving became a regularly celebrated national holiday only during the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of national Thanksgiving in 1863. The holiday later became fixed to the fourth Thursday in November by an act of the United States Congress in 1941. I am thankful that they did. Also,


I am thankful for family and friends.

I am thankful to those who saved my life a couple of years ago.

I am thankful that my children and grandchildren put their phones away when we are talking.

I am thankful to God for my life, my purpose and my many reasons to be thankful.

I am thankful for all the good people at the Dirty Dog.


DSC_0738 _DSC8629




I give thanks for the polite and respectful folks who will come out to the Dirty Dog for three evenings of Detroit jazz this week. The Dirty Dog Jazz Café will be closed and the music muted on Thanksgiving Day. Don’t despair. On Wednesday, Friday and Saturday the Dog will be filled with Alvin Waddles’ positive energy spurred on by a room full of appreciative faces and clapping hands, all performed at the appropriate moments. There will be plenty of jazz, good food and thankfulness for all.

Alvin knows how to bring the holiday spirit into a room. So, take a break, leave the dishes and leftovers for a moment and come with your friends and family to a warm place where large helpings of smiles and service come with the music, food and drinks.

Everyone at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café wishes all their friends and musical family the warmest of Thanksgivings.


John Osler




November 20, 22, 23

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Pianist, singer, composer, musical director and good guy.


Wow! What better way to celebrate the Thanksgiving break than to come out to the Dirty Dog to hear a Detroit original, Alvin Waddles. Alvin will swing into the Dirty Dog Jazz Café this coming 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 of us he is the friendly face of jazz.

Alvin’s musical career is a Detroit story which includes 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 took 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.




DSC06111 169

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November 18, 2019



I am often surprised when I go into a room and there is a piece of really good art on the wall. It may not always be my cup of tea, but I will carry forward a good feeling towards the person who thought that art was important. We all have different skill levels when we decorate a space hoping to make life more orderly and livable. When we first enter a room and glance around we get our first glimpse of someone. A room that I occupied  would usually be a scene of disarray. Piles of stuff and unfinished projects would litter every corner of every room. Fortunately for me and anyone visiting our house, my wife has a better sense of presentation than I do. Any room where I am working  would soon become uninhabitable if left ungoverned by my better half. I am grateful for all of the people who keep order in our world and especially those who place in front of me beautiful arrangements of beautiful things. It is often a woman with impeccable taste. When I am in the Canadian woods it is Mother Nature. At my house it is my wife, and at the jazz club down the street it is Gretchen Valade




When you enter the Dirty Dog Jazz Café you are greeted by a host and a dog that is scratching itself because it might be a little bit dirty.  The dog is not real.  It is just one of the many artifacts in a club chock full of charm, music, civility and art. Fortunately for those of us who like jazz played in an intimate yet expansive space, the Dirty Dog has been created by its proprietor Gretchen’s vision. She was looking for a nice place to spend an evening. The Dirty Dog is a handsomely turned out establishment that does not take itself too seriously. This is obvious when you encounter the holiday decorations and the art on the walls. The original art that covers the walls captures the joyous character of the club and its owner. Gretchen has shown her appreciation for the musicians and patrons by surrounding them with a veritable art gallery.


“The whole culture is telling you to hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Listen to the art.” -Junot Diaz





I have been asked from time to time to add a piece of art to the walls of the Dirty Dog. It is a little scary to try to live up to the standards that exist in the music, food and service. It always turns out to be a misplaced fear of failure as it is a place with a low judgemental factor, so you might as well have fun. That quite honestly is what this place is all about.



Gretchen has curated most of the stuff that finds a place on a shelf or a wall. There are a lot of images of dogs and jazz artists. There is evidence throughout the club that she is unafraid to put up what pleases her. She is  confident that this is going to bring a little happiness to the rest of us. The Dirty Dog is dedicated to promote and support all artists. All it takes is to be authentic and give a good effort.



Louis Armstrong photographed by Hervé Gloagen




My wife and I were staying in a magical old house in the magical village of Le Beaucet in the south of France. I often painted outside in a small garden beneath a limestone cliff with the ruins of a 12th century castle on the top. The garden was part of a path that a visitor would use to wander through the village. One day a couple wandered into the backyard. They were both magazine designers from Paris. We shared an interest in art, jazz and a glass of wine  They invited us to visit them in their home/gallery in the village of l’isle sur la sorgue.

Their first exhibition was going to feature the photography of their friend, photographer Hervé Gloagen. The poster featured Herve’s classic photo of Louis Armstrong. I next saw the photo on the wall of the Dirty Dog. Louis is only half in the picture, he is alone and in thought. We are given no clues where he is, what band he was playing in or why he was wearing white socks. This is a great photograph as it gives us a lot to think about and fill in. It captured Louis in a private moment. He was completely unaware of  the photographer or absolutely comfortable with him. One of Hervé Gloagen assets was his ability to befriend his subjects. and the ease that the subjects felt in his presence.

All this is on display when the lights go back up after a set of jazz at the Dirty Dog.


Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understandas if it were necessary to understandwhen it is simply necessary to love.” – Claude Monet




There are prints and posters of famous jazz artists by equally famous jazz photographers scattered around the club. This is to be expected. These are the giants that look over most jazz clubs. Gretchen has additional art on the Dirty Dog’s walls that mirror her love of the music and the soulful musicians behind the music. It is her sentimental tip of the hat.



Dee Dee Pierce oil painting by John Osler


Dee Dee Pierce and his wife Billie headlined a jazz band that was a fixture for years in New Orleans. He was an American jazz trumpeter and cornetist. He is best remembered for the songs “Peanut Vendor” and “Dippermouth Blues”, His wife Billie played the piano.




I never met Dee Dee or Billie except through some early recordings and by going through Tulane University’s archives. Their early playing was rough hewn, bluesy and authentic to their situation. I was moved to paint their story. I think there is a lot of a journeyman jazz musician’s struggle in his face. Gretchen must have agreed when she put the painting on the wall.


Here is a video of Dee Dee and Billie


“Art should be like a holiday: something to give a man the opportunity to see things differently and to change his point of view.” -Paul Klee






Art is in the eyes of the beholder, but someone has to get it in front of the beholders. The Dirty Dog is in this business. They share original jazz, art and food for those who like that sort of thing.

Come on out to the Dirty Dog, you will get a chance to thank Gretchen Valade for all she has done, and you will get a chance to support live music while having the time of your life.

John Osler





November 20 – 25






Starting Wednesday of this week Detroit’s own Kimmie Horne will bring her alto voice to the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. Kimmie’s voice is a powerful thawing device.

Kimmie may be home grown, but she isn’t a secret to to her jazz and R&B fans around the world. This local girl is an internationally acclaimed artist and puts in her share of time away from home. When she returns home she shows her love of her hometown, and nowhere is she more at home than when she plays the Dirty Dog. She knows she will get lost in the warm embrace of family and friends. It happens every time she shows up.





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November 14, 2019


One is the loneliest number


Some experts say we are in a dangerous loneliness epidemic and this loneliness can lead to serious emotional and physical health problems. The reasons that so many people feel all alone today is a subject of many studies. Social isolation both perceived and real doesn’t have a simple solution, yet it seems that for some reason music has a way of making things a little better. The weight of loneliness can be lifted when shared. When we feel left out or abandoned it sometimes helps to  play Billie Holiday’s Solitude or Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning. Melancholy can be delicious in the hands of a few good jazz artists playing in a minor key, letting us know that we are aren’t alone with our troubles.




Jazz got embedded under my skin not because it made me joyously tap my foot to the beat. It was the jazz played in a minor key that made a shy teenager know that it was OK to have the blues. In high school I would sneak out with a friend and go to Klein’s Show Bar to catch the after hours jam where local and national jazz musicians would do battle over who had the greatest hurt and soul. They wailed and pleaded, the sounds were so sweet and powerful that they chased all the teenage angst from my body. Jazz in a minor key can be a bittersweet remedy for a broken spirit.






The Minor Key was a pretty upbeat music venue. Like a lot of clubs around Detroit it attracted a clientele of hardworking men and woman who where looking for a break from their daily routine. The jazz played in the club picked up their spirits until the music drifted into the a minor key. Customers shoulders and heads would drop while eyes would  glaze over and stare into the distance.

We shouldn’t assume that music in a major key is happy music while music in a minor key is sad music. It seems to be a fact that music in a minor key is more emotional. It touches our soul and puts us at peace with our demons. This is true, yet in many cultures the minor scale is used in jolly upbeat tunes like Brahms Hungarian Dances and even most Klezmer and Jewish dances.

Jewish music when played  in the minor scale does reflect the very real suffering and pain that has been inflicted on the people, but it still has the ability to lift us up. So much of the music written and played in a minor key has had a certain sadness or longing to it but also includes a glimmer of hope. Irish traditional dance music has both melancholy airs in major keys and perky reels and jigs in minor keys,


and then there’s the blues……..






For over 100 years we have sung the blues. Americans have felt comforted listening to jazz and the blues because they like the rawness, and they can relate to a genuinely rough time. When they find themselves with no one to talk to they appreciate having someone speak directly to them, someone that feels free to pour out their heart. The world could understand songs like Everyday I have the blues,” and “Nobody loves me, nobody seems to care”  and soon jazz and blues were played everywhere

With every trouble and heartache I can still turn to the blues, and find comfort.






November brings to Detroit cold air, gray skies and short days. Fortunately we know that relief from gloom is close at hand.

Get some music in our lives. We can leave our lonely nest and get our fill of music played in both the minor and major scales at our local jazz club.

Change your habits and get out among lively upbeat people.

We also understand the positive effect that dogs have on loneliness. So you might think of shedding your blahs by catching some jazz and blues at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. It is hard to feel alone in a crowd that thinks it is OK to have the blues.


John Osler


JOHN CONYERS 1929 – 2019


Painting: John Osler


We just lost a friend of jazz and of Detroit. Representative Conyers was regarded as one of the most persistent and influential advocates of jazz. He never missed a change to listen to jazz in Detroit and to promote it in Washington. In 1987 he got Congress to pass a resolution designating jazz as a “national American treasure.” Visitors to his congressional office were greeted by walls filled with jazz posters and a big acoustic bass dominating one corner.

In 1985 he established an annual Jazz Issue Forum and Concert for the Congressional Black Caucus, of which he was a founding member. Over the years, he brought jazz artists to speak and perform in Washington, including Marcus Belgrave, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Lionel Hampton, Shirley Horn, Nancy Wilson, Randy Weston and the Modern Jazz Quartet. He drew attention to issues like health care for musicians, the economics of the music industry, and arts education.

John was really good at getting things done. He will be missed.


Tuesday November 12





Special presentation of the band The Dirty Dogs .  This all-star jazz band will chase the blues away. Come in out of our first real snow of the year and get whisked down to New Orleans.


November 13 & 14






Paul Pearce of Bass World magazine writes that “Pete absolutely ‘sings’ with his drum kit.”



A consummate professional, Pete has an international reputation for his “restless curiosity, attention to detail, and mastery of many different styles,” Pete will be familiar to  Dirty Dog regulars. Pete Siers has played with jazz luminaries such as Russell Malone, Mulgrew Miller, Marian McPartland, Lee Konitz, Benny Golson, James Moody, Kenny Werner, David “Fathead” Newman, Eddie Daniels, Frank Morgan, Scott Hamilton, Bob Wilber, and Barry Harris.  In addition to his expansive performance career, Pete has played on over 50 recordings.  He has played Carnegie Hall, festivals across the U.S.and has toured Europe several times.


November 15 & 16






Considered one of the world’s finest double bass players Rodney has been featured on over 100 jazz recordings and appeared with countless legendary players, including seven years with his friend Wynton Marsalis’ septet.  He has found time to be a member of the Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra, the Detroit Jazz Orchestra and appear at venues and events around the world.

I have known Rodney Whitaker since he was a young man earnestly starting out on his storied career. There is little that Rodney has set out to do that he hasn’t achieved.  He is someone whose personal fortitude has made everyone around him better, just ask the students that come out of his program at Michigan State, or better yet ask his band mates when you catch him at the Dirty Dog this week.


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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.
      Ralph Armstrong performing at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe/ photo by John Osler  [..]
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JAZZ PROFILE: IAN FINKELSTEIN     Pianist Ian Finkelstein at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe / Pho [..]
Each week the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe hosts live performances from the greatest jazz musicians across the country.