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Upbeats With John Osler
November 21, 2017







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, guaranteeing us a four day holiday. One smart cookie. 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 an opportunity. We are given this day to be with our family or friends and 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, in colonial times  was a harvest holiday in which the colonists offered thanks for a good harvest, in 1621, when the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts celebrated their first successful harvest with some Native American tribesmen. Two years later the Calvinists chose not share their food. 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.


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 Friday.




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 are standing up to power and all those who listen and care. These are extraordinary gifts.







I am thankful for family and friends.

I am thankful to those who saved my life.

I am thankful to God for my life and purpose.






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 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 appreciation for it all.








November 22, 24, 25


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The Dirty Dog Jazz Café will be closed and the music muted on Thanksgiving Day. Don’t  despair, on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday Alvin Waddles will bring his magic to the club. Alvin knows how to bring the holiday spirit into a room. Take a break, leave the dishes and leftovers for a moment and come with  friends and family to a warm place where large helpings of smiles 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




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November 14, 2017



Getting a lot of attention and doing great things are different objectives. Greatness takes some time to be recognized and rewarded. It often remains hidden until we spend some time to uncover it.








A documentary of John Coltrane’s life and music was shown this past week on PBS’s The Independent Lens. It was well made, and like most things worth watching it wasn’t shown until past my bedtime. Thankfully we can now record anything using the cable box that sits beside the TV. This week I have played it over and over while I painted in my garage. I have been listening to it more than I have been watching it. The documentary is well constructed and is a purposeful piece of work. It introduces us to the man and his unique but too short journey.  It has inspired me to one more time try to figure out why he is so special.



I am probably the least qualified person to write about John Coltrane. From time to time I  have gone to the library and taken out his album, “A Love Supreme”. I have never bought the CD nor really understood the music. I have never learned to read music and can’t carry a tune. John Coltrane really knew music and explored all the possibilities. Not realizing the intricacies and freshness of his playing, I found myself wishing that he would end his solos and play something I recognized. Some critics also thought his selections were too long and thus boring, but his fellow jazz musicians knew that “you have to listen carefully to Trane, get involved with him”.  I was missing something and the film helped explain John Coltrane to me.



Over 200 people were interviewed for the documentary and no one had a negative thought about John Coltrane. He was universally well liked. As fierce as he was as a jazz man, John Coltrane was privately a rather quiet and humble man, He was always described as spiritual. He had no sense of self promotion. No one thought he was perfect. He did screw up, he would triumph, and then he would  abruptly change directions. He sometimes went too fast and left his friends and band mates behind, but he always identified his faults and self corrected. He was addicted to heroin and quit on his own. His friends described him as “almost introspective and deeply religious. “.  Coltrane studied all music and all religions and turned his research into art. He often studied Eastern music which is often apparent in his compositions. The one constant was that he wanted his music to be a force for good. He said: ” I know that there are bad forces, forces that bring suffering to others and misery to the world, but I want to be the opposite force. I want to be the force which is truly for good.” This I realize is what made him great.





I often listen to jazz musicians talking about other musicians like chefs talking about a favorite dessert, You would hear things like :”It has the right sweetness”, ” What was that in the middle that brought out the other flavors?” and “It was very complex.” As a serious cookie consumer I only know when the cookie  has chocolate or vanilla in it because I like chocolate and vanilla. I end up listening to a lot of chocolate and vanilla music.


Most musicians revere John Coltrane exactly because he was never vanilla. You had to try a second slice in order to savor all the delights that his music offered. I will never have the same appreciation for Coltrane’s music as a musician would. Part of his personal pilgrimage was to find new paths for future musicians to follow. When he  first heard Charlie Parker he felt freed from both technical and emotional restraints. He then used this freedom to expand the range that fellow musicians could roam. I will never share a jazz artist’s understanding of the complexities of his playing. I am learning to just close my eyes and go on an emotional journey with him.


Like most great artists John Coltrane dove deep into his art. This can be a lonely place. He often found a truth through his preoccupations with music and God. He would then rush to share his truths using his skills as a musician. He thought he was a rocket ship trying to break free of gravity. Not every one wanted to go with him to outer space. I am now ready to make the journey.


Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary





John Coltrane’s music reflected what was going on in his life. He always had to know more about what he didn’t know. When he shared his process of discovery, critics were quick to reject his findings. They heard honking and bleating and angry barking. Later many discovered that his  process was worth listening to. Nat Hentoff the jazz critic said, “He was instrumental in freeing the concept of what a jazz performance is.”


There is so much that we don’t know. What some heard  as a scream of confusion was one of the greatest examples of an improviser extrapolating his passion on the fly. All my musician friends got John Coltrane. They knew he was important. They knew why he was important because they knew music and knew John Coltrane. I think I am getting to know John Coltrane, and I know that I will soon  purchase the CD “A Love Supreme,”


I always did hear his emotion and the force of his person. He seemed to have an urgency to tell me something, but I just didn’t have the skill to hear what he was saying, probably because I had never seen John Coltrane perform live. So get out and hear some live music and look at some real art.


I am taking to heart what Coltrane replied when asked why he played so long,  “Because I can’t find a good place to stop”.


The End


John Osler





November 15 – November 16





Emma will be bringing her perspectives on where jazz is going to the Dirty Dog this week. Her solid grounding in the music has brought her international attention and awards. She will gather a great band around her for this not to be missed two day appearance.


November 17 – November 18





Make your reservations early as Alexander has earned a loyal following eager to find out what he is up to. There will be music guaranteed to lift your spirits.





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October 31, 2017





This week two jazz artists with class will be coming to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café.


I have always been uncomfortable with the word classy which implies something stylish, superior, high -toned and and exclusive.  Some people wrongfully define class as based only on outward appearance. Long ago when I was growing up it was often used to describe something sophisticated, shallow and aloof. The classy restaurant that was special to my parents felt stuffy and served strange food. My best friends were never referred to as being classy. With time I have come across both places and people that had a lot of class without trying. Living in Detroit I have learned what a class act is. It comes effortlessly to the many hard working and thoughtful people. Class that is found  in Detroit has less to do with wealth or material assets and more to do with having moral values, having a good work ethic, having empathy for others, sharing with others, being  considerate of others, making do with what you have and appreciating what you do have


Having class means having a willingness to help others who truly need your help, being respectful of others, being  discreet, being honest, being reliable, being trustworthy, being sincere, and being respectful.






I find class in watching an older artist applaud the efforts of a young artist at the Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club and in the crowds that sometimes overflow the venues at Detroit’s Jazz Festival, even when they have to stand out of view of the stage they remain uncomplaining out of respect for the music. I find it in watching a young woman standing in line at Kroger give her place to an older customer and in friends who remain friends through the years. I find it in the Eastern Market farmer who lets you know when you have overpaid and in photographers who don’t use flash. Class can be found when a stranger  wishes you a good day, when an executive’s purpose is to retain workers rather than profits, when  leaders  respect their critics as well as their followers, and when teachers  learn from their students while they teach.  We see a lot of class when winners and losers get a beer together at the local bar after the game.


“Classy” didn’t always leap to mind when I thought of jazz artists or jazz clubs.  That was true until I started to hang out at places where I could  hear musicians with  good manners, upright bearing, deportment, ease with strangers, self depreciation, talent, effortless grace, tact and humility play the highest class of jazz, surrounded by a respectful audience.



CLASS ACTS at the Dirty Dog


“Classy” didn’t always leap to mind when I thought of jazz artists or jazz clubs.  That was true until I started to hang out at places where I could  hear musicians with  good manners, upright bearing, deportment, ease with strangers, talent, effortless grace, tact and humility play the highest class of jazz, surrounded by a respectful audience.


This included all the musicians, staff and management who make an honest effort with good cheer. Examples seen at the Dirty Dog include any Detroit bassist laying down a pocket for another artist / everything about Marion Hayden has class, even her hair that dances when she nods her head to the beat, Dirty Dog manager Willie Jones’ gently nudging a glass to a better place on a table and his hand on one of the staff’s shoulder as he listens with a slight smile, Ralphe Armstrong when he talks with pride about Detroit,  Gayelynn McKinney listening to Ralphe one more time,  Chef Andre remaining unseen,  smiling at the diners,  Gretchen Valade taking accolades with grace and humility, Freddie Cole’s warm soul and voice,  Carl being Carl, which means being alert to the needs of those around him,  all the other jazz artists who show up in  support of other artists, all the Detroit master artists who like  Rodney Whitaker for no matter how important they  become they don’t  forget how they got there and all the artists that bring with them their high quality of talent, good cheer and selfless high character.







John Osler


Coming To The Dirty Dog Jazz Café





November 1 – 2





Ian is a Detroit based pianist, composer, producer and educator. He’ll be playing a mix of Jazz standards and his own compositions. In past gigs at the Dirty Dog Ian has created and played an original piece for the occasion. Ian is a class act.


November 3-4





Nicole Henry has established herself as one of the jazz world’s most acclaimed vocalists, possessing a potent combination of dynamic vocal abilities, impeccable phrasing, and powerful emotional resonance.

Nicole Henry tells her stories through repertoire from the American Songbook, classic and contemporary jazz, contemporary standards, blues and originals.

 She will add even more class to the weekend at the Dirty Dog.

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October 23, 2017



Photo courtesy of Straight Ahead




Straight Ahead  is a Detroit jazz ensemble with a name that rings true for them. They are a remarkable group of jazz musicians that has stayed on course and together for the long haul. The band’s not so straight path has taken them around the world and straight on back to Detroit and to the Dirty Dog. Straight Ahead doesn’t always follow a narrow path in their music. They have a lot of fun getting to their destination and their audiences will usually be joyfully caught up in their journey.


This week the band, starting Wednesday, will be at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café for eight shows over four days. They will make some new friends with each appearance. They have a way of making a fan feel like a friend.


They are such a good story. This group was formed 30 years ago by assembling some of Detroit’s best musicians who also happened to be women and early on they earned some breaks because they were just so good. They have stuck together because they have become  a family.






My favorite definition of the word family goes like thisA group of people, usually of the same blood (but they do not have to be), who genuinely love, trust, care about, and look out for each other”. This could apply to many jazz groups but Straight Ahead comes immediately to mind. Maybe it is the band members’ quick-to-smile demeanor when in each other’s company that makes one think that they are family.


“Family” is used metaphorically to include a social unit of any size that shares common values. A family of musicians accurately describes the this band.  They are such a good story.  They have always remained friends. They certainly have shared many common experiences and values. They are also equally talented individuals. Like any family they have, at times, gone their separate ways,  but they always come back to the nest to play some great jazz together. What pulls them back is fellowship.



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Fellowship is a friendly feeling that exists between people who have a shared interest or who do something as a group:


Becoming a group was singer and pianist Miche Baden’s idea. She wanted to show the world the strength and inventiveness of Detroit’s female artists. It was, however their power, skill and their adventurous spirit  that propelled them into the world’s spotlight. Each member brought world class resumes and a willingness to share their gifts.


A short time after Miche Baden left for a career in NYC, violinist Regina Carter joined the group which included Alina Morr, piano, Marion Hayden, bass, and drummer Gayelyne McKinney. The quartet got noticed playing venues in Detroit and were tapped to play the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland leading off for Nina Simone. Later Regina took her fiddle to NYC and started what has been a remarkable career as a soloist. They added vocalist Cynthia Dewherst  before they signed with Atlantic Records where they cut three albums. Straight Ahead toured the country and abroad playing with musical greats including Nancy Wilson, Jean Luc Ponty, Roy Ayers, Tony Bennett, Dianne Reeves, Max Roach, Stanley Clarke and the Yellowjackets. Today Straight Ahead remains anchored by Marion, Gayelynn and Aleena. The fellowship of these three musicians has now become legend.




New Straight Ahead family members are vocalist Kymberli Wright and saxophonist Yancyy.







The Kresge Foundation is a $3.6 billion private national foundation. Wow! We can sure use their help, and Detroit is getting their help in many ways.


The Kresge Foundation’s steadfast commitment to Detroit is embodied in varied  programs. The foundation was established in Detroit in 1924 and has consistently invested in Detroit for more than 90 years.


The Kresge Detroit Program works through six integrated focus areas to advance opportunity and quality of life. One of their stated goals is to support a thriving arts and culture community that enriches residents’ quality of life and connections to one another. They believe that arts and creativity enhance Detroit’s identity and have the ability to attract visitors and increase economic activity.




The Foundation works toward this goal through their support for the Kresge Arts in Detroit Artist Fellows Program, I can testify that the Kresge Foundation doesn’t pass out the arts fellowships willy nilly. They are earned by deserving artists. It is, therefore, remarkable to me that in one band there are two worthy Kresge Artists Fellows. The Straight Ahead family and friends are all proud and extend kudos to the wise judges.








Our family became regulars when Straight Ahead played locally to an audience comprised mostly of their friends and family members. Like most musicians and musical groups who succeed, they found an abundance of family support. Family and mentors filled the small clubs they played while they were finding their wings.


Our son, Bill, then a young musician dragged us to a lot of Straight Ahead’s earliest gigs.  There he got a chance to hear and talk to one of his jazz heroes, the drummer Gayelynn McKinney.  I have a vivid memory of seeing both of their smiling faces as they talked about drumming . They both were smiling. So were we. We were all family. It is catching.


John Osler




October 25- 28






This week the band Straight Ahead, starting Wednesday, will be at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café among friends. For four nights we have a chance to scrap all our responsibilities and spend some time with family at the Dirty Dog.


Come on out and witness a family of musicians that believes in not looking back, bringing others on the journey, staying on course and showing up and bringing it every night.


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October 16, 2017




This week Mike Jellick will be coming to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. Mike will be playing the Dirty Dog’s beautiful Steinway piano. Alongside Mike will be his rhythm section. Seldom do we see jazz pianists appear without some friends on bass and drums to put down a steady beat behind them. The drummer and bassist will allow Mike to break loose from the beat, and we will still be able to tap our feet to his music.

We all share the need for a steady beat. It is something we don’t think about until we are surrounded with noises with an erratic beat. We can become agitated and long for some quiet. We would like to be somewhere where we can hear our own heartbeat. Ahh, our good old heart sending out a comforting kathump, kathump,kathump.



It is interesting that we go through our day doing things like scratching our heads or we stir a cup of coffee with a definite rhythm even though it is not necessary. A steady rhythm is a basic part of human life starting when we were in a comfortable place with only our mother’s breathing and heartbeat. Even after we are thrust into a less peaceful environment we often seek out a calm place where we are alone with our natural rhythms. We try to walk and talk at a steady pace. We check our watches when we run to keep ourselves on a steady pace. We easily fall asleep riding in a train with the steady click clack of the wheels on the tracks and drift off when we hear the consistent sound of waves on a beach.


It is not surprising that this steady beat has been essential to our music. The pulse of our music starts us dancing or at least nodding our heads or tapping our feet to the beat. We all like to believe we have rhythm.






Workers in the fields and boatmen pulling on oars chanted and sang to the repetitive movement required in their tasks. To break the monotony they began to sing a little behind time and sometimes prolonged a note while they hung onto their oars a little longer.


Slaves pulled on their oars using traditional rhythms from Africa including the simultaneous use of two or more conflicting rhythms called polyrhythm.  This rhythmic conflict became the basis of  American jazz.  Early blues singers accompanied their songs with  layering repeated polyrhythms in different registers on their guitars. Syncopation which accented off beats followed. This led to ragtime, jazz and now we hear these same rhythms in funk and rap.


Jazz loosened the melody line from the beat, added more beats and played around the beat . Artists stretched out notes then jumped them in early. This became the essence of jazz. It worked because someone was there beating out a ground beat. The steady sound  of the boat oars and the ring of the hammer on the railway spike was always still there.


Listen to Frank Sinatra sing with a good band playing with a steady beat. He seldom starts or ends a phrase on beat,  but it sounds right and jazzy.


Detroit’s jazz, like the city itself, is known for its persistence. The music maintains a powerfully steady beat from beginning to end. It is who we are and the reason the city  has turned out legions of great bassists and drummers. This has allowed Detroit to be a dynamic town for experimental music.







Jo Jones said “The drummer is the key—the heartbeat of jazz”


Studies do show that drummers keep remarkably good time but they don’t keep perfect time. In jazz the tempo is a fluid thing. The music slows and it speeds up. Drummers are free to pass off that ground beat to another instrument. It might be the pianist’s left hand or the lower ranges of the bass or sax or whatever, but that steady heartbeat will usually still be there, and the music swings. We never see bands show up at the Dirty Dog with drum machines. Besides, drum machines never take solos.



Drum solos are like car chases, a critic once noted, nothing can happen until they’re over.


John Osler







October 18 – October 21






Michael is so gifted. He is also another example of Detroit jazz artists who continue to learn and grow. Each time he comes to the Dirty Dog he brings something new, which he will be sharing with his band mates. Come on out.





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October 10, 2017









Pablo Picasso


I can remember when I was nasty to my sister being told that I was “acting a little childish”. It seemed to happen also when I was  discovering new things and I was a little loud expressing my joy. I keep working to get this joy back in my life.


Children are free to see and interpret the world around them. That gift is sometimes lost as we accumulate life’s experience and gain certainty.


We know what is risky and what to fear. We neglect the freedom of thought that we had as children. We eventually know too much and imagine less. Most artists cherish the freedom to express themselves without incrimination and to imagine the unimaginable.







What do children know that adults seem to have forgotten? Children are more confident, more courageous and enjoy life far more intensely than adults. Sometimes it feels that we spend our entire lives trying to return to who we were as children.


Pablo Picasso remarked while at a children’s art exhibition: ” When I was the age of these children I could draw like Raphael. It took me many years to learn to draw like these children.”


We can learn from our younger selves to bring more clarity and joy into adulthood.




When we were young, play filled our day. What we didn’t know was that this free play helped our healthy growth and learning. Play was a positive in our lives and only later in life does it become a luxury.


Play energizes and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.” – Stuart Brown


Except for school and family meals my days were completely unstructured.  I went out the door and never looked back. With the same group of friends we filled the day until it was getting dark and lights were coming on in the neighborhood homes. All day long we made things out of stuff that was around. We pretended things around us were whatever we wanted them to be. We fantasized and most importantly we improvised. You could  run and chase your friends until you were out of breath and your cheeks were flushed. We had the same friends for years who could challenge each other without having winners and losers. We would jump and run for no reason and never thought of it as an exercise program or a daily fitness routine. It was just playing. And it was fun.




How would that little girl/boy that you were look at the person you are now?




I play with gooey oil paints and move the paint around until I like where it is placed. I  justify having so much fun because I can sometimes get paid for the results. Not everyone can be so lucky, but everyone can make time in the day to return to that healthy time when you played freely with your thoughts and unashamedly shared these thoughts with your friends. I now happily spend time around artists and musicians who have peeled away filters that would only limit their shouts of glee and remorse.


Jazz artists enjoy their childish notions and can comfortably say “I play jazz for a living”. It is possible to play jazz for a living because the best have freed themselves from adult rules and in the truest sense play like children are able to play.


When I paint I listen to jazz. I get creative nourishment from the players’ freedom of expression. I hope that I will someday be able to play like these cats.





If you were to peek in and watch an artist at play when he is alone you would probably see a familiar expression on his face. It brings to mind the face of the infant being securely held by the person just ahead of you in the grocery store line, the one with the wide eyes of discovery and the wry smile of knowing all is good. The next time that you are in a jazz club or with a group of artists you may notice that there are some knowing childish grins and glances going on.


John Osler







Tuesday October 10






The master of the wry smile and the owner of an inquisitive musical mind, Charles brings his pals to the Dirty Dog every Tuesday night for an evening of jazz , good food and childish grins.


October 11 -October 12






CARL CAFAGNA & NORTH STAR JAZZ  combines East-coast sophistication with Midwestern grit while creating inspired and highly-organized modern jazz.


October 13 – October 14






An internationally renowned artist, Russell Malone is one of today’s most commanding and versatile guitarists!. He has performed and recorded with some of the highest profile artists including Diana Krall, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Natalie Cole, David Sanborn, Shirley Horn, Christina Aguilera, Harry Connick, Jr., Ron Carter, and Sonny Rollins. Malone was named Guitarist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association in 2011 and he has played on three Grammy-nominated albums with vocalist and pianist Diana Krall.


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October 2, 2017




I am recovering from a dramatic event. Out of nowhere my body was suddenly shut down by an allergic reaction that led to anaphylactic shock. Fortunately there will be no permanent physical damage. I was brought back to life by the efforts of strangers. I now will have to recover from  the experience. How I recover will be up to me.


I can choose to restore my life to where I was before my setback or take advantage of being given a new start. Some people feel that they are given this choice at the start of every new day.


Today many Americans are faced with digging out after the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and now the Islands.. Others around the world have had their lives changed by sudden events. My hometown, Detroit, is in recovery with much of the city leveled by neglect and still awaiting a promised renaissance.


I believe that all those awaiting recovery would choose that their communities not only be restored but improved to a better condition than before, with greater protection from future catastrophes. This is renewal; the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken.






In her paper on Disaster Recovery and Community Renewal, Mary C. Comerio,  University of California, Berkeley started with:

“How we understand and measure success in disaster recovery establishes the policy platform for how governments prepare for future events. In the past two decades, observers have recognized that the return to pre-event conditions is often unworkable—not only because the pre-event conditions were hazardous, but also because the disaster has created a new normal, requiring new ways of thinking and planning. Disaster recovery means more than restoring physical infrastructure and reconstructing housing and commercial buildings. Recovery is now linked to the concepts of resilience and community renewal, with social, economic, institutional, infrastructural, ecological, and community dimensions.”
Renewal would allow communities to start over with the knowledge we have today and avoid replicating systems that have failed.




Following World War 2, much of the world was left devastated. In Europe and the Pacific  cities were leveled.



The recovery was guided by some wise decisions that honored traditional construction techniques which utilized skilled local craftsmen while looking ahead in planning a livable future environment. With the help of the Marshal Plan the victims of war lived a better life than before the destruction. The American people were willing to invest in this recovery because it was the right thing to do, because we could  and because it was in our best long term interest to have a stable world. Our former enemies and allies were left with no debt and resentment and have remained at peace ever since. This has turned out to be a  good investment of our tax dollars.  We covered our debts and the nation thrived along with the beneficiaries of our generosity.




Renewal will usually cost more, yet we can expect to save money in the long term and avoid a repeat of massive destruction.


In her paper on Disaster Recovery and Community Renewal, Mary C. Comerio,  University of California, Berkeley started with:


“How we understand and measure success in disaster recovery establishes the policy platform for how governments prepare for future events. In the past two decades, observers have recognized that the return to pre-event conditions is often unworkable—not only because the pre-event conditions were hazardous, but also because the disaster has created a new normal, requiring new ways of thinking and planning. Disaster recovery means more than restoring physical infrastructure and reconstructing housing and commercial buildings.
Recovery is now linked to the concepts of resilience and community renewal, with social, economic, institutional, infrastructural, ecological, and community dimensions.”
Renewal would allow communities to start over with the knowledge we have today, and avoid replicating systems that have failed.





This is a hard one today when problems and costs are regularly kicked down the road to future generations.


The economic lift of managing Puerto Rico’s recovery is hard to overstate. The cost of making repairs in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which inflicted most of its damage on Texas and Louisiana, is estimated to be somewhere between $70 billion and $180 billion.


IHS, a research and analytics firm, estimates the cost of rebuilding from Maria to be between $40 billion and $80 billion in Puerto Rico. But that’s a very early estimate, and damage to the island continues to unfold. And while Harvey’s damage might amount to more in dollars, the devastation of Hurricane Maria was concentrated in Puerto Rico, which had already sustained at least $1 billion worth of damage during Hurricane Irma. That means that Maria likely inflicted far more damage per capita.






The name rolls off the tongue and ends on an upbeat syllable. It is a lot of fun to say. The only thing better would be to get to know a Puerto Rican and hear your friend say the words.

Puerto Rico is an island inhabited by three and a half million United States citizens who are in immediate danger, owing to the havoc wrought by Hurricane Maria. The storm made landfall on the commonwealth more than a week ago as a Category 4 hurricane and swept the island from end to end, destroying fields of crops and ripping the facades off apartment buildings. Relief workers have just now started to reach some towns in the interior. Initial aid will eventually bring back basic systems to provide power, food, water and communication. It will take a lot more work to make the Island safe and livable.







Jazz has been said to be the musical language that expresses the fundamental rhythms of human life. Jazz has many roots including the tribal drums so familiar to Afro-Americans, gospel, ragtime and blues.


Many hold that jazz was born in New Orleans in the 1890’s and subsequently traveled up the Mississippi River to Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit.. As a southern port city, New Orleans was exposed to the sounds of the Caribbean.  All the elements were present for the development of new music at the turn of the 20th century.


The easy sway of the Caribbean and African poly rhythms showed up in ragtime and early New Orleans jazz.


By the 1930’s jazz artists in the United States such as Duke Ellington, were becoming interested in new Latin music imports like the rumba and began incorporating them into our jazz. Music absorbs good ideas and just gets better and better.




Here are some ways that you can help


The region needs immediate and long-term help. Here is a list of groups collecting donations to provide relief compiled by Niraj Chokshi of the New York Times.

Local Charities

These are just a few local organizations that have vowed to help in recovery efforts. As discussed in detail below, it’s important to do your research before giving to any charity.

Unidos, by the Hispanic Federation A coalition of elected officials in New York and Puerto Rico joined the Hispanic Federation, a Latino nonprofit, to launch this relief fund for Puerto Ricans affected by Maria. Proceeds will go to community and civic organizations in Puerto Rico, the group said.

Dominica Hurricane Relief Fund The government of Dominica is collecting donations through JustGiving, a crowdfunding website. The money will go toward temporary roofing, blankets and non-perishable foods.

Fund for the Virgin Islands The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, a nonprofit, is collecting donations through this fund, which will be used “both to support short-term relief efforts and to enhance the well-being of future generations.”

GoFundMe The crowdfunding website maintains a list of campaigns, many of them local, collecting donations for victims of the storm. Donors can give to a campaign or directly to GoFundMe, which will then distribute the money to the campaigns.

Unidos por Puerto Rico This initiative, from Beatriz Rosselló, the first lady of Puerto Rico, enlists private sector help in providing aid to those affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Donations are accepted through a variety of means, including PayPal.

National and Global Charities

Each group below has earned the top rating, four stars, from Charity Navigator, which grades charities based on transparency and financial health.

All Hands Volunteers All Hands works with local volunteers and groups to respond to natural disasters. With Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, it is focusing its efforts on the U.S. Virgin Islands. “Our help is needed in the islands, so that’s where we’ll be,” said Erik Dyson, the group’s chief executive.

AmeriCares The relief and development organization, which provides health services to those in need, said that it was working with officials in Puerto Rico to stock emergency shelters with medical supplies. Earlier in the week, it had airlifted $1.8 million worth of medicine and supplies to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Catholic Relief Services Donations to the faith-based group will help to provide shelter, water, tarps, tents, kitchen kits and other supplies to families affected by the storm, it said.

Direct Relief Direct Relief reported that it was working with local authorities to deliver a shipment of medicine and medical supplies to islands in the region. It also said it was working to provide insulin to 120 displaced dialysis patients.

GlobalGiving This crowdfunding website connects donors to nonprofits and companies around the world. Donations will be spent first on the immediate needs of victims and then on longer-term recovery efforts “run by local, vetted organizations,” according to the website.

International Medical Corps The group has been working with local authorities to provide emergency care after Hurricane Irma and said it had moved medical supplies into place ahead of Hurricane Maria.

One America Appeal All five living former presidents have united to raise money for One America Appeal, a fund administered by the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation. Donations will be distributed to a variety of funds aimed at helping storm victims in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Texas and Florida. Those groups include two listed above: Unidos por Puerto Rico and the Fund for the Virgin Islands.

Do Your Research


It’s important to research charities to fully understand how they might — or might not — spend your money. Charity Navigator is a good resource.


Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama appeared in a video and asked Americans to respond to the devastation wrought by the hurricanes

“It is really catastrophic.. what is happening in Puerto Rico”  President Donald Trump

Music and words do have the ability to heal but sometimes they aren’t enough. We all can help.

John Osler




October 4 – October 7





Instead of watching the evening news, maybe you should catch Dave Bennett at the Dirty Dog this week. Dave will help to restore your hope and renew your spirit.


Maybe we should bottle Dave’s energy and hand it out as an elixir at the door as you leave.







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September 26, 2017



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 used before hip surgery. I was given the gift of life, a start over.


I am writing this while still wondering in what direction I want to take my life, It seems to me that I have been given a free pass but remain unsure what the pass is for or why I received it. Being 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 been surrounded with caring and loving family and friends. They have held me and created a warm place to land. There have been others.





I am grateful to have had timely encounters with strangers who possess a special gift. They have that powerful gift of empathy and compassion. The physical side of this compassion is a healing touch. They have the ability to make one believe that everything will be alright, exactly when that feeling is most needed.


Here are some examples from the last couple of weeks.





While my fate was still in question, my wife remembers being comforted by the warm touch of a hand on her shoulder and many empathetic hugs from those around her.  Without the support of these strangers, she would have had a difficult time bearing up.






This week I was sitting at a table in our church’s kitchen with some volunteers during the church’s annual rummage sale. When the conversation turned to my recent dramatic medical moment, one of the volunteers described the thumping that I received as chest compressions and looked at me as if she knew what I had gone through. Janet had spent 44 years as an emergency medical technician. Providing support in a intensive care unit.can make one callous. When I asked her if it was difficult to visit tragedy on a daily basis, she acknowledged the toll but also knew at the end of every day she had made a difference in many patient’s lives.

At some point she put her hand on my arm and I felt what so many of the hospital’s patients probably felt in her presence. They knew they weren’t alone with their hurt. Their pain was shared and lessened.


Janet is one of a  band of people who have the gift of genuine compassion.

This gift of touching another person and easing their load is a gift that some of us will never have. We tend to stiffen up and accept the consequences. This is all right,  but it is sure nice to have those with the “gift” in the room when you need them.







This week at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café I had a chance to hear Diego Rivera’s saxophone hit all the right notes. He and his horn  danced with the other artists in carefully choreographed arrangements with  moments of adventurous improvisation. The set  certainly was  all I could have hoped for that first evening back at the Dirty Dog.


Then there was the bonus moment. Diego revealed that he had that gift.  He began to play a familiar ballad, but with exceptional feeling. He seemed to understand what I needed at that moment. I put my camera down and listened. When he was done I was left with the idea that everything was going to be all right. I  think that Diego and so many artists have a gift to heal because that is just who they are,. They live with their eyes and ears open to all our trials, and when they play we know that we are not alone. What a gift.


John Osler








This week the Dirty Dog presents Tumbao Bravo. They are a Latin jazz combo that brings the rhythms of Cuba to life with congas, timbales, sax, flute, trumpet, keyboard, and bass.


In  music of Afro-Cuban origin, tumbao is the basic rhythm played on the bass. In North America, the basic conga drum pattern used in popular music is also called tumbao.

Bravo just means approval and wanting more.
Tumbao is also an Afro-Puerto Rican word  which means “an indescribable African sexiness or swing.”
Knowing this we should expect a crowd at the Dirty Dog.



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September 20, 2017



The life cycle of something is the series of developments that take place in it from its beginning until the end of its usefulness or its death.


This past week I seemingly experienced the completion of my life cycle and then was given a chance to start a new one. I don”t know why.


I was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery this past Wednesday. Unfortunately I went into anaphylactic shock and my body shut down completely. I 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 pain from the pounding that I took during CPR, there will be no lasting damage.

It will take me a while to get a handle on what I am supposed to do with my life now. I will be slowing down a bit while I try to process what happened to me this week.



By chance, I had started to write about two artists whose art has sought to show us their idea of what  the cycle of life looks like to them.

They share the name DIEGO RIVERA and a love for life. Life is a river with obstacles that change its course. It requires a steady stream of water or it becomes just a dry ditch.


RIVERA :  a brook or a stream



DIEGO RIVERA:  a talented artist






Few of us who have visited Detroit’s gem of an art museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, have not spent a significant amount of time in the museum’s Rivera Court.


Detroit Industry: The Murals of Diego Rivera




Michigan, for many years, depended on an auto industry. When the cars sold well, we flourished. We were swept along through the good times. The city on the river has always had a lot going for it. We had so many gifts. Talented and hard working newcomers flowed into the city to grab the good paying jobs, many created by new technology and mass production. Machines and men were pouring out the goods, which often required repetitive and monotonous tasks.

At the the height of our prosperity in 1932, the brilliant Mexican muralist Diego Rivera was commissioned by Edsel Ford, the son of Henry Ford and president of the car company that bears the family name, and William Valentiner, the director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, to paint two murals for the museum’s Garden Court. The only rule was the work must relate to the history of Detroit and the development of the industry.

Here is a description of Detroit’s iconic mural by National Public Radio

“Assembly workers with tools raised in a frozen moment of manufacturing. Doctors and scientists stand near a child in a nativity scene that pays tribute to medicine. Secretaries and accountants, heads bowed, fingers on typewriters and adding machines. One panel even shows Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, seeming to watch a collection on unseen workers below him.

The meaning of these images is complex, a view of industry that challenges ideas about its role in society and raises issues of class and politics. Rivera was already well known as the leader of the Mexican muralist movement when he started the work.

Soon thereafter Rivera and his wife, painter Frida Kahlo, arrived in Detroit and began studying and photographing the Ford automotive plant on the Rouge River. The factory so fascinated and inspired Rivera that he soon suggested painting all four walls of the Garden Court. Ford and Valentier agreed and soon Rivera’s commission was expanded

He spent about a month on the preliminary designs, and started painting in July 1932. The murals were completed in March 1933. Besides images of the assembly lines made famous by Ford, the murals also depict office workers and airplanes, boats and agriculture as well as Detroit’s other industries at the time — medical, pharmaceutical, and chemical. They also show images of nudes representing fertility and a panel depicting vaccination.

Edsel Ford, patron of the murals, never publicly responded to the outcry. He only issued a simple statement saying “I admire Rivera’s spirit. I really believe he was trying to express his idea of the spirit of Detroit”.”





Diego Rivera brought his strong personal opinions to our town, and yet Edsel Ford was wise enough to only see the artist.

Many people objected to Rivera’s work when it was unveiled to the public. He painted workers of different races – white, black and brown, working side by side. The nudes in the mural were called pornographic, and one panel was labeled blasphemous by some members of the religious community. The section depicts a nativity scene where a baby is receiving a vaccination from a doctor, and scientists from different countries took the place of the wise men.

When Diego Rivera finished his mural he considered Detroit Industry the most successful piece of his career. Despite all the controversy he was allowed to express his personal vision of the cycle of life in Detroit.





Born in Ann Arbor, raised in East Lansing and named for the muralist, tenor saxophonist, Diego Rivera is a state treasure. Known for his muscular sound and ability to create complex arrangements, Diego will be coming to the Dirty Dog this week.  Diego will be bringing something special beyond his talent. Diego thinks it is  “about putting myself out there, planting my two feet, speaking with a loud voice,” Diego is not afraid to let you know what he thinks is important…just like his namesake.

Mark Stryker has said that “above all, Diego is a story teller, whose improvisations make a real emotional statement-a quality always worth  celebrating.”




Lawrence Cosentino wrote this about one of Diego’s CD releases.

“Saxophone man Diego Rivera taps into the cycle of life with infant daughter and new CD “The Contender.”

He continued, ” Rivera, 35, is playing and arranging with more intensity and focus than ever, teaching a full schedule of jazz studies at MSU and hopscotching through the Midwest for a series of CD release gigs. He dotes on his 4-month-old daughter, Nefeli, so fondly that his colleague, trumpeter Etienne Charles, has a new Diego imitation. He puts on an excited grin and points to an iPhone.

The burst of music making comes as a relief to Rivera, who wasn’t sure for a minute that his life’s passion would survive the coos of his baby girl.

Two days after Nefeli (named after a cloud Zeus turned into a goddess) was born in early June, Rivera went straight from the maternity ward to the East Lansing Jazz Festival to play with the Professors and the Lansing Symphony Big Band. Immediately afterwards, he rushed back to the hospital with the plastic bracelet still on his wrist.

Otherwise, Rivera’s horn sat in its case all May and most of that summer, a thing that hadn’t happened in over 15 years.

“Every time I have  played since then has been an absolute joy,” he said.” I know that in my heart of hearts, I love being a musician.”

“My future looked completely different,” he said. “My priorities changed completely. Everything just became about family.”

Something else that Diego has said is something I think I can take to heart.

“Every time you go around the cycle you listen to something with a little bit more information, a more informed ear, “This does not necessarily lead me anywhere,” he said. “It just keeps me coming back.” The trick, he said, is to get smarter every time it goes around, with music or life experience.





When I regained consciousness after several hours that will be forever lost to me, I was in the company of my family. I was confused, yet their presence brought me calm. I regained my ability to hope and will forever be thankful for the soft landing that their love provided me.

Diego Rivera , the muralist, considered the family of man his family. He used his art to give a voice to the part of the family who is often asked to keep their silence. This is good.

Diego Rivera, the musician and friend, knows that his family is waiting for him after each gig. This is really good.


I think, at this moment, that I will get a lot out of listening to Diego’s sax express his love for his family.

John Osler









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September 11, 2017




Detroit, Michigan is a northern city with definite seasons. We have a long winter followed by a brief moment when we get  warm weather interspersed with snow and chilly winds. We call this season spring. When we feel it is safe to turn the furnace off we are often treated to a pleasant summer, which on good years includes the month of September.


The first week of September brings with it new expectations and new challenges. We begin the month with Labor Day celebrations to unwind after our summer vacations as we enter into a brief period of transition.


This September we will have 22 days of summer left before we begin an expected beautiful Michigan autumn. We will send our children back to school where they can look out the window at the sun coming through fully leafed trees.


For the rest of us it means putting on our closeted hard shoes and going back to work. This is true for musicians who are asked to play at festivals throughout the Labor Day weekend.




The Detroit Jazz Festival it is both a great gig and for many it is also like returning to school. It offers a chance for us to become  re-energized for our long indoor season. This year at the festival I kept running into jazz artists going from venue to venue, all the time chatting each other up on their way to hear the music. These working professionals were in a way going to school. There is so much to be learned from listening to this carefully curated diverse mix of jazz. Few of those attending missed this opportunity.








The Detroit Jazz Festival deliberately throws diverse artists together with programs like the Untitled Series and the Hometown Legacy Series. Leading up to the festival the word diversity kept coming up in articles about the gathering. Sure enough, diversity was all over the place, both in the faces and in the music.






I had a chance to watch visiting jazz photographers like Tak Tokiwa from Yokohama, Japan and Tony Graves from New Jersey along with Detroiter Ara Howrani in action.




The festival is one of music’s greatest cauldrons of learning. It is the ultimate outdoor classroom.







Going back to school gives one a chance to renew friendships and catch up on news.






Every day we have things placed in our way that we can learn from. For jazz musicians it is essential for them to continue to learn and grow. To feed this growth artists need new exposures and experiences. The Detroit Jazz Festival gives artists a change to exchange ideas and develop new collaborations. At the festival we could see this happen all around us.










Following all the scheduled jazz in downtown Detroit the music doesn’t stop. For the dedicated student the music continues with planned and improvised jam sessions.


Here is what Detroit’s great jazz pianist and educator, Scott Gwinnell has written about these sessions.


“The jam session is integral in the history of jazz and jazz-education. For over a hundred years this has been the training ground for young musicians to share ideas. The jam session brings out the competitive nature in us but also serves as the social backdrop. Musicians understand that a key part of their development in jazz is to understand the jam session codes of conduct. If a jazz musician can survive the night, playing different tunes in strange keys, difficult tempos, interacting sometimes with virtual strangers, they belong to an elite club that speaks a language that only jazz musicians understand. This experience is impossible to replicate in the structure of a classroom; there are too many variables. It only works in a club, in front of an audience, in a respected jazz venue that serves as a musical beacon.
In an ideal setting, both experienced musicians and young musicians mingle socially and musically. Detroit offers the combination of a thriving professional scene and many colleges and high schools. It is critical in a young jazz musician’s training to receive a “bandstand education”.
People give Charlie Parker credit for creating bebop, but all of the insiders know that even though he had the initial seed, it was a group project, refined at jam sessions like Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem. At Minton’s Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke and others all experimented to create the music that jazz musicians revere.”





Part of the crowd on any day will be nicely dressed young musicians milling about and sharing their youthful enthusiasm with the rest of us. These student artists from our universities and high schools continue to impress with early day performances on the big stages.


After their performances they generally don’t go home with their proud parents. They become part of the knowledgeable crowd and enjoy this festival of jazz,












There is always more to be learned, so thanks to all whose who will now begin planning  next year’s festival.


John Osler





September 13,  14





Shahida has that warmth in her voice that puts all your troubles to rest. This will allow you to concentrate on the stories that she has selected to tell us this week.


September 15, 16





Emmett Cohen is a not to be missed talent. He is a jazz pianist and composer and  has emerged as one of his generation’s pivotal figures in music.  Downbeat observed that his “nimble touch, measured stride and warm harmonic vocabulary indicate he’s above any convoluted technical showmanship.”  In the same spirit, Cohen himself has noted that playing jazz is “about communicating the deepest level of humanity and individuality; it’s essentially about connections,” both among musicians and with audiences.  Possessing a fluid technique, an innovative tonal palette, and an expansive repertoire, Cohen plays with the command of a seasoned veteran and the passion of an artist fully devoted to his medium.His signature professional undertaking is the “Masters Legacy Series,” a celebratory set of recordings and interviews honoring legendary jazz musicians.




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        THE HARVEST   The blessing of the harvest happens around the world [..]
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Each week the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe hosts live performances from the greatest jazz musicians across the country.
Alvin Waddles
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ENDS: Sat, November 25 2017
Closed on Thanksgiving Day
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Rayse Biggs
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Gene Dunlap
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