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Upbeats With John Osler
August 14, 2018



We expect so much of August.

All winter long we think of August and thawing out. August is the time we like to  join the family for an adventure, along with every one else. In France the whole country seems to take August off. August is usually a month when things shut down, slow down or just don’t seem important. Congress usually sneaks off on a month long recess, and nobody misses them. These are the lazy days of summer, but it often requires hectic work to maneuver the crowd in the family car and at the overbooked and seasonally overpriced  motel. Oh well, the kids will get a break from the back to school ads in the morning paper.


I am a lucky guy. Every week I have the opportunity to leave a challenging world, enter the Dirty Dog Jazz Café and get lost in the music. Everyone needs a place like this and not all are as fortunate as I am. Sometimes I get to take a longer break from the things outside my control.

Every summer I take a break from the sounds of power mowers, TV, my aging, faltering and frustrating computer, traffic and political noise, I spend as much time as I can in an environment where you have to listen carefully to hear the sound of an eagle’s wings as it flies overhead. A place where one can make peace with oneself and recharge ones’ good feelings about our world.

Before I left for vacation a couple of friends at the Dirty Dog asked if I would bring back photos of the remote place that I was escaping to. Here is where we go, and at the bottom of the page are a whole bunch of the threatened vacation photos.


Lake Saganaga lies both in the US and Canada. The American side is completely in the well known Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The north shore is all part of Quetico Provincial Park, another wilderness park where no motors or cabins are allowed. The rest of the lake is in Canada’s Verendrye Provincial Park where there have been no new properties offered since the 1950s. It was an affordable place when six friends had a chance to buy an existing property. It has changed very little in since then.

Lake Saganaga  is one of many lakes that are part of the Precambrian Shield that was formed by violent volcanic uplift and then vigorous erosion. Glacier movement during the ice age scraped off all the top soil revealing  some of the world’s oldest exposed rock  -almost 2.7 billions years old. It also tumbled large pieces of very heavy rock off the islands that they formed. They remain today in the place where this force placed them. Many are just under water where  I can run our boat over them and seriously damage the outboard motor. This lake has a history. Life can be found in the form of fossils of algae that date to 2 billion years old. We still can find cedar trees that are figured to be 700 to 1100 years old surviving in the shallow soil that exists today. There are underground fungus that could be 1500 years old. This is a raw place that takes patience and shrewd planning to survive.


Lake Saganaga has been a destination for our family along with a family of close friends  for forty seven years. How the heck we  have pulled this off is still a mystery to me. The first time that I came to this lake it was in October to fish with some friends who grew up near Duluth. They didn’t seem to notice that it was 33 degrees and raining. I spent a whole lot of my time bobbing in the boat trying to straighten out a backlash on my fishing reel and watching the cold rain drip off my nose. Once inside the warm cabin with the smell of fresh fish frying and then seeing the evening display of stars and northern lights I figured I could be happy here. The two  families  have shared our summer vacations in a place that is accessible only by boat and has no electricity, no TV, no phones, no internet., no running water or indoor plumbing. We have traded these luxuries in for a place where one can sit in silence, witness beauty, engage in uninterrupted conversation, dismiss worldly concerns and have a private library up the path in the woods.

It is the area where Hamms Beer commercials were shot years ago  to illustrate “The land of sky blue waters.” I think it is beautiful even though it is just grey rocks  covered with  stunted trees desperately trying to survive in the shallow soil. Years ago all the good soil was delivered to Iowa and the Midwest by a massive ice field. It is not a grandiose nor majestic landscape. It demands reverence because everywhere you look is evidence of nature’s ability to adapt. It is what things can look like in the absence of man.



Nature has thrown violent thunderstorms, forest fires and wind shearing fronts at the islands trees. Most bend and those that crack become soil for future trees and a home for an abundance of insects. After all the time that I have spent on this island, I still have daily discoveries of small things that I never noticed before. Nature has had billions of years preparing this place for me. Things in nature make the necessary changes to survive. I can’t help but make the comparison that nature has the freedom to improvise much as the jazz musicians at the Dog have been given this freedom. When we take the time to watch this happen , it can be pretty entertaining.



“The Island” is how our family refers to our destination.

I take a 16 hours car ride to get to the Island. The island is a great place to be, especially on a long summer day. The island is where I have learned to solve some problems using only with what is available, far from stores and tutorials. It is where I visit my deepest thoughts. It is where  the wind and the weather seem most  important to us as we start each day.  We are acutely dependent on their whims. Everything around us has remained little changed since the ice age, yet we are aware of virtually everything evolving around us  throughout every day. A thousand little moments of wonder fill the days.

It is  hard to capture this place with still photography. It is the same as trying to explain a great jazz set with a photo of a guy playing his horn.


In addition to my digital photos, here are a couple of moments that have stuck in my mind.

They made me think of how nature composes a day for us, a day full of varying rhythms and plenty of improvising.

When  I sit and look out at the water while working at a task and take a moment to glance around,  I am reminded that I am just a visitor.

A shadow of a bird passes across the rocks and out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of an eagle. We are constantly treated with new bird calls and behavior.The loons dive from view when they sense there is a camera focused on them, while the Canada jay will eat bread from your hand and pose for its picture, They both have their reasons for their approach towards man.


Small animals are generally silent except for the squirrels who seem always to be in an irritated state and chirp out their dissatisfaction with having so much to do. Everything but the rocks are on the move, and they haven’t moved since the Ice Age.

When I was sitting and writing this I heard a noise on the cabin porch’s roof. Looking out through the screen by the roof I saw a red squirrel lean over the edge and swipe several times at a hornet’s nest, sending the nest and its citizens flying. The squirrel high-tailed it out of there leaving a swarm of newly homeless mean spirited yellow jackets milling around our porch door.


I can hear the steady beat of the lapping water with a back beat of whack,whack,whack from a seriously large pileated woodpecker at work accompanied by the melodic sound of the wind through pine needles. This is interrupted by the sound of the screen door closing followed by shouts and whoops of young grandchildren followed by an adult voice yelling “Don’t slam the door.” obviously forgetting the joy of being young.

Sitting on the cabin’s screen porch I can be completely entertained by the sky over the water. It is raining heavily here while there is sunshine on the lake in the west. The lake is a rich dark gray color with the sun making straight bright horizontal white stripes quickly advancing towards me. Soon the Island will have a rainbow over it as the western sun pours through the rain. I will be under the rainbow but because it is raining I probably wont go out in the boat and look back at the rainbow. It is a shame that we never know when we are under the rainbow. I think most jazz musicians would have the instinct to get in the boat, witness the rainbow and then play it for us.

John Osler


AUGUST 15 _ 18


Rayse Biggs will bring his gravity defying act to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café for four nights of authentic Detroit jazz. Rayse has always attracted talented musicians to play alongside him. Come and hear why.





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August 7, 2018





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August 2, 2018

Charles Boles




A week ago I wrote a blog about my memories of jazz. I included a story that the great  Detroit jazz pianist Charles Boles passed on to me that has made me chuckle every time I think of it.


You never know where inspiration will come from.


One of the advantages of getting a chance to hang out with jazz musicians is to hear them tell stories of how they first heard the music. As a child Charles Boles was introduced to jazz by a pianist in an apartment above his room. Charles would lie on his bed and listen to “Nubs” play to the crowd gathered for his “rent parties”. Nubs played great piano despite missing some fingers. Charles was moved by the music he was alone with. Now when you see him play every Tuesday at the Dirty Dog you can watch him go back to that state – lost in the music.


It isn’t the story itself that pleases me so much as it is the manner of the man who tells the story. Charles is a sensitive jazz pianist, arranger and composer,  he has a long history of being taken seriously by a lot of other serious jazz artists,


but I still can’t help but smile while in his presence. It isn’t because he has a large grin. I think that it is his eyes and his attitude that sets off my life is a piece of cake button.




Charles plays with his quartet every Tuesday night at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café from 6PM until 9 PM. Every week he gets to the club a little early and looks at his music. He seldom looks at his music when he is playing, he doesn’t have to. He has a lot of music in his head. Sure as one gets older stuff isn’t as easy to access, but that is the time when you get to make it up. I think I see Charles’ eyes express joy when he gets to do this.










Charles comes early to the Dirty Dog to organize his music for that evening,  before his band mates arrive. Like Charles, they all have a healthy accumulation of experiences and stories from life and from being musicians. They all have the perspectives of jazz where one learns from all experiences and enjoy sharing their stories. These are jazz brothers, pals, amigos, cronies and certainly friends. Guitarist Ron English is usually the first to join Charles in the green room at the Dirty dog. Many of the new tunes the group plays will be Ron’s compositions. Bassist John Dana and drummer Renell Gansalves wander in and the first thing they do is to set up their equipment., but not without a smile or wisecrack with Charles. They all gather and chat as if they hadn’t seen each other in years. I sense that they really like each other. It shows in their music.



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I have to confess that I am a bit intimidated by Charles Boles. He towers over me when I am in his presence. Maybe not physically, but he has an aura of knowing a lot of stuff. His natural composure is that of a relaxed and confident prankster.


The confidence comes from experience and hard work. He is a product of Detroit’s black bottom neighborhood, which was a cauldron of creative jazz artists. Charles is 81 years old now and has benefited from a lifetime of playing with great musicians. It shows in his piano playing. He has earned the respect of other musicians and those lucky enough to hear him live in a small club.


To better understand Charles I would recommend getting his Detroit Music Factory CD release Blue Continuum and listen to the cut Liz. Charles’ piano expresses a quiet reverence for his late mother Elizabeth. His fingers are placed on the keys with the single purpose and that is to show his respect and love he has for his mother. We can also hear in the song the playfulness and freedom that he was allowed as a child. As a child he was encouraged to play. And play he does.



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The set was over and the band started to pack up their gear. The lights came up and the crowd began chattering. Barely heard over the rising sounds of conversations was the sound of the Steinway. I looked and I didn’t see anyone. Crouched over and hidden from view was the diminutive figure of Charles Bolles. I hung around close to the piano and was treated to some music from one of Detroit’s most sensitive musicians. His subdued  playing didn’t disguise the skill and touch of a master. Charles is a gift that keeps on giving.


Later I asked Charles what the heck he was doing at the piano after playing  a whole evening of jazz. He explained that he was playing for himself on an exceptional instrument, A private pleasure. The Dirty Dog  Steinway is special, as is Charles.  Charles has a light touch and a purity of expression that comes from his years of experience. Time has  taught him to skip extraneous flourishes. Every note and chord is important, making the piano more important. They are well matched.


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We sometimes take for granted those unique gifts that are in our lives, especially the quiet moments like the lake on a still night or Charles on the Steinway, They are  welcome departures from  the loud and annoying intrusions that more often get our attention.


Charles plays on Tuesday nights at the Dirty Dog with no cover charge.


Charles is a treat to talk to. His music is derived from his life experiences, and he is willing to share. Beware- his smile and the twinkle in his eye are infectious.


John Osler








Come and enjoy the bright new jazz artists who will be trying to land a gig at this year’s Detroit Jazz Festival







Tad is another reason to stay in town this summer.


TAD WEED Pianist, educator, and  composer


“Pianist Tad Weed displays a very rare ability to cross over from dashing bop lines to rich impressions, he has the bases covered, from funky blues to the border of the avant-garde.”


-Leonard Feather


What better way to celebrate July in Michigan than to come out to the Dirty Dog to hear a Detroit original, Tad Weed. Tad will swing into the Dirty Dog Jazz Café this coming week.  He has enormous talent that he uses with grace.


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July 25, 2018



As we go through life we all have memories of both delicious and dreadful moments. , We have fond thoughts when we hear the music that was playing when you first danced with that amazing but unapproachable girl. Then we are reminded of the kick that knocked a tooth out and the taste of eating Spam day after day during the war. I can’t get rid of the memory of the smell when the van engine gave out at the most remote place on our family vacation.


We live our lives surrounded by sounds and sights, background stuff that is always there. There are times when the sounds and sights are worth taking note. We stop and listen. If it is interesting, we continue to listen. Sometimes we get so deeply into the sounds that we get lost in the music. What usually draws us in is a familiar story that draws an emotional response. We get comfort from the familiar and the memorable.


Research shows us that people’s earliest memories are typically formed around 3 to 3.5 years of age. Before that we only think we remember.


It doesn’t take long but soon we are all chocked full of memories. Our memory plays tricks on us and we play tricks on our memory. We cherry pick the good things, enhance the not so good things and try to recapture the brilliant things.




I grew up before television was our primary information center. Before dinner our family huddled around the radio for the news and after dinner we were entertained by a record going round and round on the Victrola. All kinds of music surrounded us with all its imagery. Those were magical moments. Sometimes we accompanied our parents to a concert or an opera but never to a jazz joint. Jazz and popular music were only on the radio and records. It did get into our heads and we learned to move and sway when nobody was watching. I did catch my dad once practicing his moves. It has remained part of the rhythm of my life. Thankfully it has also leaked into my children’s lives.









One of my first chances to see live jazz played was when I ventured down to the Greystone Ballroom in downtown Detroit on Woodward Avenue. Looking back at that evening, it may have set me up as a sucker for jazz music for the rest of my life. The ballroom was packed with  bodies that swayed to music that was really loud and different. I, by chance, had happened on one of jazz’s greatest events: Norman Granz’s  Jazz At the Philharmonic. Norman Grannz was beloved by musicians around the world. Granz and has had few equals in the history of popular music. He was the Gretchen Valade of his time.


I left the Greystone Ballroom with the image of Illinois Jacquet soaring over every other artist. I had never seen energy like that before.



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Pianist Charles Boles at the Dirty Dog


You never know where inspiration will come from. Charles Boles has great memories.


One of the advantages of getting a chance to hang out with jazz musicians is to hear them tell stories of how they first heard the music. As a child Charles Boles was introduced to jazz by a pianist in an apartment above his room. Charles would lie on his bed and listen to “Nubs” play to the crowd gathered for his “rent parties”. Nubs played great piano despite missing some fingers. Charles was moved by the music he was alone with. Now when you see him play every Tuesday at the Dirty Dog you can watch him go back to that state – lost in the music.







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.


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



As I am getting a little older, I find myself contemplating more and planning tasks less.


I am getting more comfortable bringing back good memories than looking at what lies ahead. This reminder of how good life can be will carry me for a while.


John Osler


COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG  Memories will be served this week following dinner.





For just being Freshmen they seem to have some history.


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


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


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


Pack up your gloom and bring your memories to the Dog this week.


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July 17, 2018




Grit has recently caused a stir in education and psychology ever since Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania began to point out that grit can be developed and is as important as IQ and talent for predicting educational success. She has shown that those who are given a chance to work through setbacks and persevere will surpass the achievements of those who lack this opportunity..Her latest book is Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Her research has shown that grit is a learnable trait for all children and should  be an essential ingredient in every child’s education.


Grit is egalitarian, The development of grit does not rely on your background, and for many grit appears to be a an  engine of social mobility.


Angela Duckworth’s Ted talks have been viewed over eight million times.




“Grit in psychology is defined as a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment, and serves as a driving force in achievement realization.”




Grit is not getting discouraged when setbacks occur. It is the ability to keep getting up and then getting up again. It is getting on and getting on. It is knowing that hard work is going to be required and continuing on.  It is finishing what you start. Grit can sometimes be coarse but in the end it is very sweet.





There are gritty surfaces where ever you look in the city of Detroit. It is a product of a good supply of slush, ice and snow in the winter and construction in the summer. Beyond the grit that shows is the grit the occupants of the city have to tolerate and deal with.






Detroit and jazz are both often described as hard driving and gritty.  This is a good thing according to most fans of the Motor City. We tend to take pride in the perseverance of those who have hung in there in the bad times and the good times.




The Dirty Dog has been privileged to  present the outstanding jazz bassist Kyle Eastwood and  his band. Kyle has shown the results of having a gritty hard working dad and putting in serious time with his stand up bass. His dad Clint is a pretty good jazz pianist and together they have written scores for his movies. Clint Eastwood has had a pretty good career acting  gritty.






I have always admired people who have grit. They are more courageous, brave, plucky, dogged, resolute, determined, feisty, gutsy and tenacious than I could ever be. They are not  gritty like Clint Eastwood the actor but like Clint and Kyle Eastwood the jazz musicians and like Clint the film director. Playing jazz is not the easiest job. It is not for the timid and it takes hard work and the ability to identify and correct mistakes over and over again. In Detroit I have watched older musicians give younger players a chance to fail and if they did, they were encouraged to try again. Character was built into the young artists one lesson at a time.


For decades Detroiters have been buoyed up by the stream of artists who have kept our spirit and blood moving. Maybe it is because there has been  a constant source of opportunity for our young musicians  in our churches. It is an inspiration that continues all their lives. Our earnest kid artists have early exposure to  stories of enduring  adversity and instruction to keep moving on. It all shows up in the music we hear today. We can listen to the rich story telling and

the loyalty to the beat when we sit down for an evening of jazz.


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Guile vs grit. We can all get wealthy if we have enough guile, but it often takes grit to do the right thing. Deciding to help others often takes sacrifice. Reaching out to those less able takes awareness, and standing up to injustice takes courage. It often takes some grit to be good.


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


In Detroit the strongest musicians seem to have enough true grit to extend a hand to those coming up. And so it goes.


Come on out to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café where grit is not served  just as a side dish.


John Osler




July 18 – July 21






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


Wow! What better way to celebrate July in Michigan 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.


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July 9, 2018


RESILIENCE is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.


Resilient is a word that is often used to describe Detroit. Maybe Detroit is more of a slow moving slogger than a city that can snap back quickly. Recovery in Detroit has usually come from  hard work and perseverance. Toughness we have. Detroit’s resilience can be seen in its music and those who play and support the music. Hard work and perseverance are in the city of Detroit and its music’s DNA. It is who we are.
The history of jazz is a history of true resilience. Jazz music has regularly been given up on, it has been said to be old hat and just as many times has come back and been proclaimed as America’s greatest contribution to the world. Jazz is resilient because it continues to change. Jazz hasn’t so often been resurrected as it has been constantly reinventing itself. Finding something new is the what the music is about. Everyday there are players finding new ways to express their stories. We will always need jazz to illuminate the way out of our darker moments.





Resilience is having the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity, ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.


Rocky Balboa and rubber bands are extreme examples of resilience as the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape. Practically, resiliency as practiced by jazz players and city planners happens in many small acts that come from a positive attitude and the ability to accept failure as part of the process. We don’t have to have as many knockdowns in a round as Rocky endures. Hopefully when we get knocked down we learn from our misfortune. In this regard, jazz could teach the city planners something.

Detroit can learn about resilience from another great jazz town, New Orleans


New Orleans has a history of its musicians being called on to lead by example after hard times set in. The cradle of jazz might still slip beneath the sea if the 133 miles of sturdy levees that were recently built don’t live up to the engineer’s promises. Thirteen years after 80% of New Orleans was under water from Katrina’s destructive path the city is still listening to its musicians to learn if they have truly recovered. New people have changed much of the culture as they have filled the void left by those who no longer could afford the rent. The musicians returning to the birthplace of jazz will let us know if New Orleans is returning to its original form.


One of those musicians is Brice Miller who writes from his personal  experience about the effect that the resilience of its musicians has had on New Orleans. Here are some of his thoughts.


“Ten years after Hurricane Katrina slashed and snarled into New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, newcomers take their juice with chia seeds and buy fixer-uppers, and longtime locals fret that the city is no longer theirs, that it’s too expensive and still might lose its soul. A city some feared might be left for dead is undergoing a social, economic and cultural evolution. Yet it is still a place deeply tied to its ancient traditions and rites, stubbornly and proudly unique, unparalleled in its embrace of the weird, the mysterious, the whimsical.


New Orleans is a city where art imitates life and life imitates art. Throughout its existence the indigenous cultural art traditions of New Orleans such as brass bands, jazz funerals, social aid and pleasure clubs, and Mardi Gras Indians have manifested and exemplified the interconnectedness of art as both art-making and life-meaning. Writers, researchers, celebrities, and vacationers have long relished the unique relationship between music, culture, and the essence of the city. Following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the success and prosperity of the city’s cultural arts have served almost as a barometer with which to determine the momentum of success and recovery for the city.”

Brice Miller writes about the history, tragedy and resilience of New Orleans. He knows the difference between tearing  down and rebuilding and preservation and resilience. The spirit, values, celebrations and historic influences must be retained to truly spring back.


Our young people are more elastic than their elders, but can benefit from understanding resilience.


The Rockefeller Foundation and Jazz at Lincoln Center  Jazz for Young People: The Resilient Cities Tour is expected to reach 9,000 new students by offering a curriculum that ties American history to jazz through live performance.


Here is how they describe the program.


“Jazz for Young People: The Resilient Cities Tour is based on Jazz at Lincoln Center and The Foundation’s innovative outreach program, Jazz for Young People on Tour, which was pioneered in New York City public schools. Since 2013, Jazz for Young People on Tour has presented more than 1,000 performances to a total student audience of more than 160,000 in grades K-12 in New York City, as well as Los Angeles, California; Detroit, Michigan; and Chicago, Illinois.
Jazz for Young People: The Resilient Cities Tour is designed for students with limited access to arts education in grades K-12. The program aims to offer participating students examples of how others have used music to wrestle with the enduring social struggles of urban life in the 21st century – particularly in cities where urban stresses have been especially prevalent, sometimes tearing at the social fabric of communities, yet are now on the road to resilience. The program will do this by illustrating the connection between jazz and democracy as well as the historical power of jazz to unite communities in a non-violent manner at moments of unrest. It will also foster relationships with local jazz musicians through live performances and mentorship. These positive influences will help students to develop necessary social-emotional tools intended to foster their individual resilience.”


Detroit’s resilience is now being tested. New Orleans offers us a cautionary tale. listen to the jazz musicians.


The Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe is a good place to start.


John Osler




July 11 – July 14





This week the Dirty Dog Jazz Café is presenting one of Detroit’s best, Dwight Adams. Dwight is a powerful force , both musically and personally. He is a sure musician and always brings out the best in his band mates. Dwight is a sought out accompanist as well as being a band leader that attracts equals as accompanists. This week will be special.







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July 2, 2018




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



The United States of America is a young country and a work in progress. Jazz and its birthplace have a lot in common. It is always exciting to be part of a something that is trying to figure out what it’s going to be.  We are a nation that started out with a pretty good manual on how to proceed, and we have improvised on our original theme ever since.  Like a good jazz band we continue to honor our past but seek a new and better direction. We are a country with lots of good people who will figure out where we are going. The Dirty Dog Jazz Café will be closed this week to celebrate the goodness of America and the grit of its people.






America’s music in 2018 is continuing to show the world its best face. Country music is sharing the stage with hip hop, jazz is blended with electronic, zydeco accordion is inserted into funky renditions of  standard tunes, etc. etc. Everything is possible and everything is accepted. Layers are being placed on top of layers, creating magnificent wholes. Musicians are respecting other musicians’ stories and finding ways to make someone else’s ideas better. This is a surefire formula for greatness.


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











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




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



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



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

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

Here he is with the national anthem.



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

Here is Wynton’s brother Saxophonist Branford Marsalis

The Dirty Dog will not be open this week so that they can celebrate the birthday of our country. There will be a break in the music, giving the staff some deserved time off after so many consecutive big acts.

 The Dirty Dog wishes you a glorious holiday. Enjoy and be safe.

John Osler






JULY 11 – JULY 14





The fireworks will return to the Dirty Dog  when  Dwight Adams brings his forceful and imaginative playing and new ideas back to the club. He will likely  keep our spirits flying and wake the staff up from their vacation mode.




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June 26, 2018





Once an artist has put his final touches on a piece of art he is faced with a choice, to add it to the pile in the basement or offer it up as an important piece of art. Marketing doesn’t always come naturally for a creative artist. It is easier to give it away and let someone else decide the fate of one’s art.


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


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


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


One day I found that I had run out of room for all the canvases that I had accumulated and realized that I sure could use some refunding of my life. I started to look for a gallery to peddle my art. I had reason to be in Washington DC, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Taos and Carmel and made a point of visiting as many galleries as I could. I found some really well curated  galleries where the staff knew something about art and marketing. Usually my work didn’t fit the current market as they saw it. I took solace in the fact  that this put me in the same league as Van Gogh and many artists and  jazz pioneers whom I most admire. It sure is nice to get a helping hand at this final stage of the creative process.


Here are a few folks who thankfully have helped to share the work of artists.





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


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





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


He was a magnate, diplomat and politician but is best known as the  patron of scholars, artists and poets.  The world can thank the de’ Medici family for sponsoring artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo
Because of their support Florence became known for its art, just as Detroit continues to be known for its music thanks to the contributions of Gretchen Valade.


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


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


Closer to home is a friend that has given so many artists the help that they needed when they needed it. She is also a lot nicer than the folks the Renaissance artists had to deal with.







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


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


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


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



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


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


When Gretchen saved the Festival it was just one of her first acts of sharing Detroit’s most important music, jazz. She continues to be one of Detroit. jazz artists best friends.






An example of sharing gifts of art with others was on full display last week when for two nights two of jazz ‘s most visible artists played the  Dirty Dog. Bassist Esperanza Spalding and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington were in town in their role in the Detroit jazz Festival’s resident ensemble. This is a program that exists because of Gretchen’s generosity. The program is one of Gretchen Valade’s efforts to get today’s most creative artists to bring their magic both to the festival


and to Detroit’s larger jazz community.




This story of sharing didn’t stop here. Playing along with Esperanza and Teri Lyne at the sold out events at the DirtyDog were two local musicians. Ian Finkelstein was scheduled to play the Dirty Dog’s great Steinway piano and play he did. The results showed on the faces in the room, including Esperanza’s.




A bassist, Jonathan Muir-Cotton was introduced to the house when Esperanza vacated the bass to sing. He was good. His story that night is even better. Jonathan was a new face and it was assumed that he traveled with the headliners from New York. It turns out he is from Ann Arbor and a student at Wayne State. The morning of the gig he happened to play in a master class with Esperanza Spalding as part of Gretchen’s program. She liked his playing, took his card and later she called him and asked if his was doing anything that night. This is how it works when those at the top share the stage. It was a magical night and the musicians faces showed us the results. It turned out that there wasn’t one featured player, it was the process of sharing the music that was the star of the show.




It was all in all a great event. It revealed to us what sharing and passion looks like.



John Osler




June 27 – June 30





Randy Napoleon will be in the house starting Wednesday


George Benson said: [Randy Napoleon]. He has an all-fingers approach; he doesn’t use just thumb or pick. He’s spectacular”.


Comparing him to Wes Montgomery, music critic Michael G. Nastos says, “he displays an even balance of swing, soul, and single-line or chord elements that mark an emerging voice dedicated to tradition and universally accessible jazz values.”


Randy has performed on The Tonight Show, Late Night With David Letterman, The View, The Today Show, and The Ellen DeGeneres show as well as TV shows in South America, Europe and Asia. Napoleon has played or arranged on over seventy records.


Randy has returned to Michigan to teach in the important jazz program at MSU after an extended stay in New York. Randy knows how to share his good fortune.


Come out to the Dirty Dog where he will be sharing his music and smile with us.


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June 20, 2018


There must be a new way to look at this


Taking the usual and making it interesting is the artist’s task, adding  a dab of paint or a note in an unexpected place. That something that grabs our attention and makes us take a look is what we call art.


In the glorious month of June everything around us is getting into shape. This will be the form it will take for the summer. We get an explosion of color and eager growth. This is a good time to talk about the fourth stage of the creative process, interpreting.





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




After artists (1) find a subject (2) use all their senses looking at or listening to all the possibilities, (3) edit to clarify, (4) they get to put their stamp on the creation and it becomes uniquely theirs. They can go wild and add dabs of color or twist a phrase. No one can come into a room and hear Louis Armstrong or Frank Sinatra and have to ask who it is.




A Woody Allen or Coen Brothers movie is pretty easy to spot, and a Van Gogh shouts Van Gogh, while a Mark Rothko is sublimely a Rothko.


This act of interpreting is when craft becomes art.


Artists don’t always set out to  insert their individual stamp on their creations. It is just that creating freely is generally allowed, usually encouraged and often liberating.  When you create for yourself you get to do anything you want. My greatest enjoyment comes during this time when I feel free to express my thoughts. I enjoy other folks’ art most when I see what the artist wanted to say in his/her work.






Detroit surrounds you with liberating examples of artists who feel comfortable about revealing themselves.


Detroiter Judy Bowman






Judy Bowman, is a Detroiter. She is as strong, gentle and kind as a person can get. She seldom seems uncomfortable with her life. I have never seen a photo of her when she isn’t smiling. Yet Judy understands all emotions and feels free to show them. She was principal of Detroit Academy of Arts & Sciences at the same time she raised her family. All her life Judy has had something to say and on retirement she threw herself completely into her paintings. This was good for us. We get to see how Judy sees. All of Judy’s work has a force and energy that inspires those around her, including her friends in Detroit’s Fine Art Breakfast Club.




The Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club is a place where artists gather to encourage and inspire other artists to let fly and show who they are. It works. This ad hoc seat of the pants organization started as a breakfast confab among a few friends who were artists and art patrons. There are now more than 100 friends who meet at a neighborhood restaurant. Everyone gets a chance to be seen and heard, and no two are alike.




France 07 Panosonic 020_edited-1 


When  I am in France I will always spend some time with a friend of many years, Pascal Balay.




Pascal has supported herself and successfully raised three children just with her skill as a potter. Pascal is more than a potter, she is an artist. Her work is uniquely hers and each piece stands on its own as a work of art. Her spirit is included with the purchase of anything she produces.


She was trained in England and thankfully for me can communicate in English about her art. She makes it clear that her art is always going to be her very own art. Even though the potter’s wheel goes round and round in exact circles it is her hands that will create a Pascal Balay piece. There will be no perfect circles nor repetitive color glazes. It will be easy to know whose hands did the work. For Pascal each pot, bowl, plate or platter is a new adventure.


Pascal, like many artists I know, will probably never be wealthy. They will be satisfied with rich lives, lives that they define. The decision not to produce products but to follow your vision has benefits. Among the benefits are the  respect of other artists, users, listeners and viewers. Pascal Balay has always willingly shared her passion with students. Watching her with eager young potters reminds me of Detroit’s master teachers working with up coming jazz artists.




I have spent some time rummaging around her workshop. She has any number of discarded pieces thrown into the bushes and along the studio wall. I would love to own most of her rejects. They are Pascal’s and they are unique, and they are special. Pascal has not had an easy life. Like many artists I know she is quick to smile and quick to show her disapproval when she falls short. I leave Pascal’s studio feeling that this is OK and is all part of the process.


KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA France Spring 2006 -3 071 


Being around highly skilled but wildly creative artists like Judy, the Breakfast Clubbers, Pascal and the jazz musicians at the Dirty Dog I am able to detect a playful attitude, a freedom to express themselves that borders on bravery. They lack a fear of failure. They are very fortunate. We are always very fortunate when we bring these creative people into our lives and get to see what is possible.


There are places where individual expression is not only accepted, but is expected. Fortunately Detroit is one of those places. Every artist who shows up at the Dirty Dog  comes with a style and an attitude that is his/her own. I usually leave the club inspired.


John Osler



JUNE 19 – JUNE 20





Here are the opening  notes from Esperanza’s website that say it all about hearing live jazz.


“Today’s world has a way of teaching us that who we are is not good enough as it is. It tells us that we’re better when we look our best. And that as artists, our work requires polish before it can be seen.


But the truth is, the creations that come from us are at their most powerful, at their most potent, the moment they surface.


Part of the theory comes from the idea that everything we’ve ever seen as people – anything we’ve ever seen, studied, heard, wished, read or thought – has been permanently captured by the mind.   Esperanza will aim to open this cache in her mind, allowing songs, lyrics, music and themes to develop spontaneously from the depths of her imagination and experience.”


Esperanza says, “I foresee that creating before a live audience will add excitement and extra inspiration energy.  Knowing someone is watching and listening to what you’re making seems to conjure up a sort of “can’t fail” energy, the necessity to keep going because it’s live draws up another depth of creative facility that can’t be reached when you know you can try again tomorrow.”

JUNE 21 – JUNE 23





Charles is a treasure that keeps being discovered. Each time we hear Charles play piano jazz, what comes through is a freshness and his joy at having a chance to do what he does.


What a treat to have three days with Charles and his friends.

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June 11, 2018




Separating the good stuff from the stuff that isn’t needed is the hardest task in the creative process, but editing makes things better. Therefore I will try to make this a concise and brief blog.


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





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

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Choosing what to leave out.   By John McPhee


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







Modeling in clay is mostly editing. Sometimes clay is added and then taken away. Sculpting in wood or stone is trickier in that all the editing decisions are final.




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



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


Shedding some stuff  will ask your listener or reader to fill in the blanks and will get them more involved. The longer an artist works at his/her craft the better they are at editing.





The great John Singer Sargent would wipe whole canvases away and then start over, away would go all the terrific stuff that was inappropriate to his subject. I would like to someday find his discarded pieces.




I am aware of the art of editing, especially when I hear a master of the piano like Charles Boles play a ballad. When I paint I sometimes get too close to the  canvas and create a great bit of painting but it is out of scale, and out it goes.


In Provence nature and man have seemingly combined to eliminate the ugly and include only things that are sublimely beautiful.




When I spend time in Provence I am barraged by exceptional images. This is a place where hundreds of memorable moments are thrown at you every day. It is a dry climate with a steady stream of cool air that is funneled down through the Rhone valley by the Mistral winds coming from the Alps. When you step out of the sun and into the shade, you feel this cool breeze. There are hills and mountains and flat fields of vines and crops. Villages sit atop high places and cling to sides of cliffs. They perch defiantly against the march of time and tourists.




Charles Mingus once said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity”.



In 1959 Miles Davis put together what is often considered one of the most influential albums ever recorded. Miles Davis did a pretty simple thing when he gathered his band members to record the world’s best selling jazz album, Kind of Blue.


He passed out pieces of paper with a minimum of information. He gave them an outline of each song without the chords spelled out. His goal was to edit out anything that stood in the way of this collection of artists to improvise. He was striving to get the music to its purest state. His pianist Bill Evans described Miles Davis’s schemes “exquisite in their simplicity”. Miles said he wanted  “fewer chords but infinite possibilities as to what to do with them.”  Miles got his way, we got a brilliantly edited album.and today’s jazz giants continue to build on this legacy. Miles Davis understood the power of simplicity.


“I always listen to what I can leave out”. Miles Davis



Many of the people in my life have shown me the benefit of editing both in their art and their lives. I have come to realize that editing is just another word for choosing.
I have watched jazz artists edit on the fly and as a group. This is a skill that I don’t have. I have the luxury to edit at a later date once I realize how much unnecessary stuff I have cluttering my canvas.  Maybe I am going on a little long about this.
John Osler



June13 – June16






Gene Dunlap will edit out everything except his personal thoughts, his power and his compelling spirit.





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Each week the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe hosts live performances from the greatest jazz musicians across the country.
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