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A Perfectly Tuned Evening Every Time...
Opened in 2008, The Dirty Dog is one of the premiere destinations in the United States for world class Jazz and cuisine. It combines the charm of an English-style pub with intimacy and meticulous attention to detail and hospitality.
THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFE BLOG
The Dirty Dog brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
Archive for
Upbeats With John Osler
March 31, 2020

 

The Dirty Dog Jazz Café will remain closed until our jazz family can again safely gather in an intimate setting to hear live jazz. What makes the Dirty Dog and jazz so important in our lives is its ability to bring us closer together. For the moment we will have to stay close by staying apart. This necessary intermission will end, and jazz will once again leak out the Dog’s front door and smiling people will pour in. See you then.

 

 

 

 

Flowers in crack

 

Until then we have March in Detroit … ugh.

 

There is one month that has always defeated me. March in Detroit can be depended on to dash all our hopes after teasing us with early signals that spring is coming. March says “not so fast”. Warning thoughts  of “expect the unexpected” and “don’t jump the gun” drift through brief bits of sunlight. The cold mist of reality soon surrounds us.This year we have all been homebound in Michigan for most of March.  Next week we will celebrate the 1st of April, which we call April Fool’s Day. Detroiters are not easily fooled, we still will act responsibly by following the safe practices that will eventually defeat the coronavirus.

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One way to survive March/ April is to try get out for walk. Avoid people and look for sunshine in the spirit of survivors like the flowers growing up through the cracks in the pavement. Detroiters manage to work through adversity. These last few weeks have brought into focus the grit and warmth that our community has shown even during March’s drizzly and difficult days.

FEELING TRAPPED

 

Creative people like some time to be alone with their thoughts. I have had some creative success by isolating myself from distractions and responsibilities. I was usually in a comfortable and well stocked place. This was the closest I have ever come to a selfish sort of paradise.

My wife and I are suffering what she calls days like soggy Cheerios on a string. Social distancing is testing marriages and families across the country and around the world. We are all pretty isolated right now and it doesn’t seem like paradise, maybe because staying put isn’t voluntary and it isn’t free of distractions. It is wearing pretty thin really fast. Kind friends and our supportive family are reaching out to us by phone. They ask us, “What is new?” and “How are you doing?”,  followed by an awkward silence. The only thing that is new is the running tally of infections and the new guidelines for social distancing. We comfort each other by declaring that we are feeling well and we are doing everything by the book. We hang up and sit alone for a moment and worry about them. So it goes day after day after day.

We are all in this together by staying apart. No one can tell us when we will be safe to mingle and work with others. They can’t tell us because at the moment they can’t possibly know. The informative data isn’t known. The tests to discover who has the bug or who has had the bug are improving. Eventually we will know that a community is safe from infection, and we can reemerge.

 

 

Cabin Fever vs Deadly Fever

 

This will take time so for a while it will be necessary to mitigate the virus by stopping the virus from traveling. Viruses don’t have legs and can only spread by renting some transportation. In fact there isn’t much that virus can do without our help. They are not exactly a living organism. They are without a home until they enter into a living host cell where they can run amok. At this time we can only stop the virus is by stopping its movement. Separation will be our only tool until we test and produce drugs that will mitigate the coronavirus. Once the scourge of the virus and our grumpiness subsides we will see the light and we will once again be able to share a meal, a beverage and some jazz.

 

  

 

I am getting old and creaky. I have been  transitioning from being cautious into  becoming pretty predictable and boring. One has to stay alert and not let age take the life out of you.
I have always had an advantage in that I spent time around jazz musicians who seem to be reverse wired. The older they get the younger they play. They never seem to acknowledge that they should just fade away. I sure could use a shot of youthfulness. My weekly encounters with jazz artists often could jumpstart even my old frayed wiring.

A good friend, Sandy Schopbach, posted this piano solo on Facebook. Ellis Marsalis plays this tune from a deep pool of authentic encounters with life.  The melancholy mood of the tune seemed to me to be appropriate for the times. I can picture an empty Berkeley Square in London or any public place that is void of traffic noise and chatter. Only the stars above and a songbird unaffected and unafraid.

 

https://youtu.be/3WTXnBJkMHs

 

Two lines in the song struck home.

Poor puzzled moon, he wore a frown

The whole darn world seemed upside down

And as we kissed and said goodnight
A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square!

 

Please stay safe.

 

John Osler

 

 

FOR JAZZ ARTISTS

Here are some things that I have noticed that  are being done to get jazz musicians through this tough patch and until they can get back in the clubs.

 

Many musicians are playing online, sometimes with inventive ways to raise a buck.  Please support their efforts.

 

Example

 

 

In addition:

 

A $2 trillion relief bill just became law, with a $250 billion expansion of unemployment benefits. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act will give jobless workers an extra $600 a week on top of a state’s existing benefits, which can range from $200 to $550 a week.

Musicians please note:

It will also cover some workers previously ineligible for benefits — gig and self-employed workers, as well as those whose hours have been cut or who can’t work because of the pandemic.

 

TO APPLY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

MIWAM

The Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM) is the UIA’s system for filing your unemployment insurance claim and managing your UIA account online. MiWAM makes doing business with the UIA simpler, faster and more efficient.

 

The Michigan Music Fund,

Artists will able to apply for grants via michiganmusicalliance.org. Performers must be from Michigan, receive their primary income from music have at least one show canceled due to coronavirus; They’ll be able to receive up to $500 and will also be permitted to apply for additional grants.

The applications will be approved by the MMA board of directors.

Michigan Music Alliance is a 501c3 nonprofit organization serving the music community in Michigan.

Michigan Artist Relief Fund

The Michigan Music Alliance is starting a fund to address the current needs of Michigan based musical artists whose incomes are being adversely impacted by COVID-19. With events of all types being canceled to reduce the spread of COVID-19, people who make income fully through gigs and freelance music work are losing critical opportunities to support their well-being.

We welcome applications from any full-time musicians living in Michigan, but will prioritize artists with severe financial impact (most cancelled events) and immediate need. The fund will be open for recouping financial losses due to cancelled music events. Applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify. Applying does not guarantee aid. APPLY HERE.

We have set up an application process that will go live on 3/20/2020. We know we are going to get a ton of requests are we are waiting to open applications to make sure we have some time to raise funds and perfect the application process so it is easy for artists. First, to keep things fair and also manageable, we are going to pay out a maximum of $500 per gig on a first-come, first-served basis if they qualify. This way someone who had a $3,000 gig cancelled doesn’t end up pulling too much from everyone else and we do our best to avoid a tragedy of the commons situation. People with more than one cancelled gig can apply more than once, they just have to wait until they receive a payment to apply again.

To apply, you will need:

1. Your signed W9 as a PDF

2. A request amount (max $500 per cancelled gig)

3. A PDF contract of the gig that was cancelled as a result of COVID-19

4. A PDF version of communication that the gig was cancelled as a result of COVID-19

5. A short bio explaining who you are and what you do

Application Requirements for Assistance:

1. You must live in the state of Michigan

2. You must prove live performance as a musician is your primary source of income

3. Have a cancelled gig by the venue or promoter due to COVID-19 in March 2020

4. The gig must be in Michigan

5. You must be ineligible for unemployment

 

US-based resources

American Association of Independent Music

American Federation of Musicians

American Guild of Music Artists (AGMA) Relief Fund

Anti-viral Work for Freelancers and Small Biz

Artist Relief Tree Artist Relief Fund

CERF+ The Artists Safety Net

Convertkit Creative Fund

COVID-19 Music Production Response Group

COVID-19 Mutual Aid Fund for LGBTQI+ BIPOC Folks

Crowd Work News Opportunities Page

Emergency Funds & Grants for Visual Artists

Entertainment Assistance Fund

Equal Sound Corona Relief Fund

Facebook Small Business Grants Program

FEMA – Disaster Unemployment Assistance

Fender Guitars – 3 Months Free Lessons

Foundation for Contemporary Arts Relief Fund

Freelance Coop Emergency Fund

Gospel Music Trust Fund

Groupmuse Musician Relief Fund

The Haven Foundation

Independent Venue Week Venue Fundraiser

Jazz Foundation of America Musicians’ Emergency Fund

Live Lesson Masters – Online lessons from professional musicians & instructors

Leveler.info – Support Gig Economy Workers

Mental Health America – Info & Resources

Missed Tour

Music Health Alliance Relief Resources

Music Maker Relief Foundation

Music Unites Us Resource & Guide

Musicians Foundation Artist Relief Fund

National Coalition for Arts’ Preparedness & Emergency Response

PAAL – Supporting Artists with Families

Patreon Artist Grant Application

Performing Arts Alliance

Pinetop Perkins Foundation’s Assistance League

Resident Advisor – Coronavirus: how to help the electronic music community

SAG-AFTRA COVID-19 Disaster Fund

Sound and Music – Free Zoom Tutorial Sessions for Composers

Sound Royalties – No-Cost Funding Program

Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief Project

Sweet Relief Musician’s Fund

 

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March 26, 2020

 

Spring is here. However, in Michigan the weatherman is the last to hear. As I am writing this, secure and isolated inside my home, it is 30°outside . Yesterday it was  62°.

We are supposed to lock ourselves in our homes, and we probably haven’t noticed the sprouts of flowers peeking up out of hiding, completely unafraid of the virus.

 

 

I am thankful that I  have good health, food, music and toilet paper. My wife and I would like to thank all those around us who are committed to slowing down the spread of the coronavirus. It seems that the whole nation has been asked to disrupt their lives to make sure that the most vulnerable citizens will have a chance to survive an infection. I am definitely that vulnerable citizen, and I do appreciate the sacrifices that will be necessary to make it possible for me to emerge unscathed. No one knows for sure how long all our lives will be interrupted. This is what I know.

 

China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan have seen the virus fizzle out. China reported no new cases last Thursday. This might mean that the virus was unable to survive the drastic responses that were employed. We don’t know yet, but this is good news for them. We know very little about the virus. The Covid-19 strain will either die out or adapt to our actions. It might come back in these countries when the strict protocols are removed. Our success may depend on following their example as best we can.  So that is what we are doing. Thanks.

 

One year ago I posted this blog for the Dirty Dog.

 

The blog asked everyone to get out of their cozy homes and crowd into jazz clubs to get their juices going after a long winter. This won’t be possible this spring, and it is the wrong message, but it might remind us how good life can be.

 

 

It looks like Detroit will have temperatures in the thirties to the sixties this coming week, Your car and house windows may have an icy glaze that will scatter the sun’s rays,  if we ever get any sunlight in March.

 

 

There is some good news for our jazz community because Kimmie Horne will be coming  to warm things up in the the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. To get some relief from the heat she generates one can step outside the club into our Michigan spring, but only for a moment as it will still be cold outside. This dog took too long a break outside the Dirty Dog during last year’s Michigan springtime. Be careful.

 

 

Polar bear

 

MANY OF US ARE STILL HUNKERING DOWN

Bears gather up some stuff and climb into holes for the winter.

 

 

Polar bear 2

 

 

Being holed up can make all of us grumpy.

 

 

 

 

We do have some better choices. We are an active people and being holed up usually doesn’t fit our nature.

 

DON’T BE A BEAR, GET OUT.

 

 

 

We need to get out. We don’t like being grouchy and feeling hemmed in, but we need a pretty good reason to leave our warm homes and navigate the icy roads. We need to find a place that will get our juices flowing again. We need to get warm to our bones.

 

 

service

 

Just yards from where your car is left for the Dirty Dog Jazz Café’s complimentary valet parking  is one of the warmest places in town. The warmth comes from the heating system, the music, the food, the pub-like atmosphere and most of all it comes from a genuinely pleasant  staff.

 

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Another spring I posted about our choices of either traveling or going out to a local jazz club.

 

 

MARCHING INTO SPRING

 

 

 

New Orleans will come alive with music and parades and along with much of the world folks will go outdoors and into the streets to party.

 

 

They take March more seriously because they are asked to give up more than we do in Michigan. We can give up our winter overcoat, galoshes or hot breakfasts. They have more to lose so they make up for it by having a fun fest for several weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday. I have noticed that they seldom give up their music for Lent , nor do we.

 

In Michigan our march into Spring can feel a little different.

 

 

Scene from Game of Thrones

 

Uncertain and severe weather can make us stronger. We develop character traits that come in handy when March rolls around. We tell ourselves that things can’t get any worse and learn to appreciate what we have.

After all in only six months we will have the return of cool nights and Labor Day weekend with Detroit’s Jazz Festival to shake us out of our summer doldrums. Meanwhile Detroit’s jazz artists will be informing us of all the things that they have learned while holed up all winter. Michigan will bloom again better than ever. Anyway this is what Willie Jones tells me.

 

 

In that year’s blog I offered the alternative to going away for some warmth was to visit your local jazz club.  Those were good days.

 

 

 

HOPEFULLY WE WILL RETURN TO NORMAL SOON, BUT FOR NOW WE MUST REMAIN HUNKERED DOWN

 

March is one crazy month. Named for Mars, the god of war. It was the time that armies could gear up and return to battle after a long pause for winter. It is the start of Lent when we are asked to give up something we like very much, This year it is almost everything.

We may be at just the beginning of being separated from friends, work, social gatherings and live music. Who knows? The hardest part of the coronavirus incubation is the unknown time frame. How long before we can shake a hand, give a hug and hear live jazz? No one can tell us because no one knows for sure. There don’t seem to be too many covidiots who may feel it is their right to mingle, who could extend the time that we will have to remain separated. and delay our chances of returning to normal. Instead what I see are empty streets and a responsible community. This gives me hope. Keep it up.

 

 

 

 

 

THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ WILL REMAIN CLOSED FOR HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES TO ASSURE A SAFE NIGHT OF JAZZ

 

This year the Dirty Dog’s celebration of spring will be be postponed a few months.

Everyone at the Dirty Dog hopes that until we see you again you and your loved ones are safe.

John Osler

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March 17, 2020

 

 

I have made a difficult decision. I will not be going to New Orleans this spring. I will not be going anyplace that isn’t absolutely necessary. I fit the profile of someone at risk of dying from the coronavirus outbreak. I am ancient and have a history of respiratory illness. I could be the poster child for why we should all be careful and avoid each other until we get a handle on this new threat. Every time I turn on the radio or TV they are describing me as the person we should all be concerned about. That said, I have always considered myself as indestructible and think it unlikely that I will be touched by a tiny unseen virus. My kids and neighbors will be trying to protect me from myself. I will listen to them.

We all have a responsibility to each other. If it turns out that the virus can’t get a foothold in our neighborhood it will be because we all for a little while have personally followed  procedures that stop the virus from spreading. We may never know when or if our united stand has defeated this threat. We only know that at this moment communal separation is our only protection . Please be safe and respectful of others. This is not a hoax.

Our first task will be to defeat the virus by breaking its ability to transfer to vulnerable victims. We must also help lift up those affected by the momentary hardship our actions will inflict. I may not be able to come to the Dirty Dog. I will show my support by purchasing a gift certificate and plan on showing up when I can safely return. We must find ways to support those around us at their moment of need.

Here is how the Dirty Dog Jazz Café is approaching the threat. The Dirty Dog will be evaluating the situation and will take further actions when it is deemed appropriate.

The jazz community is a close knit family. We may lose a little of that closeness for a while. It will return.

 

Dear Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe patrons and friends,

 

At the Dirty Dog Jazz Café, the health, safety and well-being of our staff, guests and the community we serve is our top priority. In light of the situation around COVID-19 (commonly known as the Coronavirus), we wanted to provide an update on our current actions and ways we are working to protect the health and safety of all who join us at the Dirty Dog.

In addition to following the guidance provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and local health departments, we are taking a number of steps to reinforce our internal illness prevention policies including increasing the frequency of our standard cleaning procedures.

As our patrons, we ask that you join us in following these guidelines:
-Attend the Cafe only if you are well. If you believe you are ill or would like to cancel or modify a reservation please contact us at 313-882-5299 and we will be happy to assist you. Please avoid close contact with people who are sick, and avoid unnecessary contact with those around you, such as shaking hands.

-Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow; immediately throw your tissue in the trash and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

-Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, such as your phone, tablets and other devices

-Wash your hands vigorously with soap and water for a least 20 seconds before dining, after using the restroom and after touching possible contaminated surfaces,

For everyone visiting our venue, we are placing hand sanitizers at the front and rear entrances of the club and keeping our bathrooms stocked with soap, towels and items necessary for frequent hand washing.

We will continue to closely monitor the rapidly-changing situation, responding to new information as it happens and preparing for all possible scenarios.

We appreciate your participation in protecting the health and safety of our community, our team and our patrons.

Willie Jones

Customer Relations Manager

Andre Neimanis

Executive chef & General Manager

NOTICE

The Dirty Dog Jazz Café will respectfully follow the directive to close its doors until it is in the public interest to reopen. Thank you for your understanding and future support.

 

SACRIFICE AND HARDSHIP

 

I will survive not traveling to New Orleans. It will be  a momentary disappointment for one fan. However, New Orleans’ appeal to me has always been that is the home for many artists, musicians, chefs, writers and adventurers. These are people who can survive living on the edge because of the huge influx of people who arrive in The Big Easy every week to catch a glimpse of the unique spirit of New Orleans. The coming months will be one more challenge for this too often tested community. There will be hardship and new songs and stories of hardship, despair, resolve, sharing and sacrifice.

 

NEW ORLEANS IS NOT KNOWN FOR VOLUNTARY SEPARATION

 

  

 

 New Orleans can have some rough edges, but it is New Orleans and it will likely lift you up like nowhere else. Somewhere I read  ” When you bring New Orleans your sad story New Orleans will put a beat to it.” That is why from time to time I need to spend time in this sort of run down but wildly alive river town.

 

DETROIT – NEW ORLEANS CONNECTION

 

_dsc9813  _dsc9934SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

 

Detroit and New Orleans are both known for the ability to come back from hard times. It isn’t always easy, but both cities seem to be able to keep their unique personalities intact.

I first visited New Orleans as a tourist and it certainly lives up to its Chamber of Commerce frenzied jazz filled claims. It is one of a few American cities which has retained its unique heritage and has certainly capitalized on its constant state of celebration. There is music everywhere in New Orleans.

 

   

 

 

When Christmas approaches tourists seem to disappear in New Orleans, leaving the city in the hands of its citizens. New Orleans is a city that finds reasons to celebrate. New Orleans musicians find ways to gather. You will find them at the charitable events that pop up before Christmas. The word gets out, and the result is a lot of good music.

That is the reason that I have often opted to spend time in New Orleans in December, Detroit gets really cold and messy. New Orleans is ice free. New Orleans is a warm refuge and a friendly landing place for artists, musicians and anyone who might live on the edge. I have been fortunate to have artist and musician friends in New Orleans who have given me a chance to get to know a New Orleans that tourists don’t get to see. It has confirmed to me that New Orleans shares the same spirit that drives Detroit. Both cities seem to be able to take challenges and just get stronger. Deep in their DNA the cities have the drive, resilience and rhythms that show up in their music.

New Orleans and Detroit historically have seamlessly passed the musical torch back and forth, making jazz better in both cities.

 

_dsc9982GUITARIST DETROIT BROOKS FROM NEW ORLEANS AT THE DETROIT JAZZ FESTIVAL

 

   

 

 

There are always things that we can learn from New Orleans. Music plays a major role in the commercial life of the city. It powers the image of New Orleans as a city that is having a good time. Street musicians are everywhere. Music pours out into the streets from bars and restaurants, and people pour in. Out of towners bring their wallets to New Orleans and exchange the contents for being included at the party.

The city is very good at promoting itself by promoting its music. Without the music and the crowds New Orleans will be tested. We all will be tested. Sometimes this brings out the best in us.

This spring I will not be traveling south to New Orleans to visit musician friends, but my heart will be with them.

Selflessness will be our best weapon against the virus. Inconvenience will be welcome in exchange for protecting others. Already all tour dates have disappeared and many local gigs have vanished. We are being asked to separate and to show up for one another.

We will do our best.

 

 

A few weeks ago I got a Facebook post that best describes the spirit that will be required  of all of us to get us through. There was a photo of jazz trombonist Vincent Chandler with his students from Wayne State. They were at the bedside of a smiling  Curtis Fuller. Curtis is one of Detroit’s most respected jazz legends. Vincent had his students get to know Curtis’ work and then play tunes for him in his style in his nursing home room. The smile on Curtis’ face tells us that they nailed it. I asked Vincent why I didn’t see his trombone. He answered that this was not his moment. They were there to let Curtis know that his music will live. Hopefully Vincent’s selflessness will be an example for all of us.

Stay safe,

John Osler

 

SORRY,  THE DIRTY DOG WILL BE CLOSED UNTIL WE RECEIVE NOTICE THAT IT IS THE PUBLIC INTEREST TO REOPEN

THE SCHEDULED JAZZ  AT THE DIRTY DOG WILL BE RESCHEDULED INCLUDING

 

 

 

VINCENT CHANDLER

 

Vincent will probably arrive early to the Dirty Dog just to warm up a little. After that the only worry we will have is if he overheats the place. With his reputation he tends to attract some hot cats to play with him. There might be some customers shifting to cool drinks.

 

 

 

 

RAFAEL STATIN

 

Saxophonist Rafael Statin seems to be playing a different instrument every time I see him. Rafael is one of those rarest of multi-instrumentalist who can combine great passion, intellectual discipline, and a spiritual fire that is evocative of great artistic creativity. He has so far established himself as a remarkable composer and musician not defined by any one particular genre.

 

 

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March 10, 2020

 

RHYTHM AND COLOR IN ART AND THE INFLUENCE OF JAZZ

 

The confluence of jazz and art has been around for a long time. Henri Matisse collected jazz recordings while in Paris and the South of France. His art inspired jazz artists. This was the same music that Piet Mondrian heard when he moved to New York City. Ultimately the new modern city and the new modern music of jazz went hand-in-hand in their influence upon modern art and architecture

 

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Last week I was sitting with a good friend, Suan Skarsgard, talking about her interest in mid twentieth century modern architecture. Susan gives lectures internationally on design. She is a great designer herself and she is really good at lecturing, believe me. Susan just published a book on Eero Saarinen’s groundbreaking design for the GM Tech Center in Warren, Mi.

GM took a flier using Eero’s plans which asked them to spend a few bucks to make it a little jazzier than the staid auto company had planned. It is still a destination for design buffs. Somewhere in the back of the minds of GM’s executives was a memory of a night in a jazz club hearing some strange new music that they couldn’t quite shake. Maybe the jazz  was full of straight lines with blurts and blats of color, just like Saarinen’s plan. Who knows? We do know how much jazz influenced some of our greatest visual artists like Piet Mondrian and Henri Matisse, and we do know how much they influenced the direction taken by architects like Eero Saarinen. The look of the great GM Tech Center  in turn influenced the designs of GM’s cars.

There are some common threads that tie jazz, Piet, Henri and Eero together. To achieve greatness one must be adventurous, must be comfortable with risk and must be willing to strive to be the best. It takes hard work, not just inspiration. Jazz has challenged many a creative soul to take more risks and stretch horizons. Jazz sets a high bar.

 

Music comforts us with its steady familiarity. Music is also a force for change. It always has been. If music can change, so can we. Jazz by its very nature sometimes explodes with change, commanding us to do the same.

 

The rich sounds, rhythms, and colors of jazz inspired visual artists of the 20th century. I think immediately of Romare Bearden who painted jazz scenes and incorporated titles of favorite performances in his collages. He created specific works for albums by Charlie Parker, Donald Byrd, and other greats. Stuart Davis said jazz was one of the things that made him want to paint. Jackson Pollock’s action painting technique reflected the improvisation, freedom, and rhythm of the jazz music he loved.

 

 Romare Bearden

 

Following World War II art and music were released from traditional constraints. It seemed that no one wanted to go back to what they had been doing. Artists who lived in  beautiful landscaped villages opted to move to cities with straight streets and boxy buildings. Those who who lived in boxy buildings wanted to move to beautiful curvy landscapes in the countryside.

I had a  chance to stay in a artist’s house on a  beautiful hilltop village in Provence. Jacque’s home  was only accessible by walking an ancient stone path that wound beautifully up into the village among trees, walls  and  flowers planted by the villagers. The whole village was composed of perfect curves merging with perfectly placed stone houses and plants.  I would find Jacque carefully placing stones in walls just as they always had  been. He smiled when he put a new flower in the right place.

Piled inside his studio was his art. It was all straight lines in grays and black, every canvas. I don’t believe that he ever saw a straight line in his surroundings. It was probably the most perfect thing he could imagine.

 

Piet Mondrian: 1872-1944,

A SQUARE GUY AND HIS LOVE OF JAZZ

Piet Mondrian – loved jazz (but couldn’t dance!)

 

It would have been difficult to see that coming if you only looked at his younger years and his early works. He grew up in Holland where his paintings were landscapes and still lifes that looked backwards. Then he packed up his brushes and went to Paris where he was exposed to jazz, two step dancing, Josephine Baker and cubism.

 

Piet Mondrian – Broadway Boogie Woogie 1942

 

Straight lines were becoming exciting, and color stayed within those lines. What was it that  influenced Piet Mondrian to abandon traditional painting and and help lead an art movement? It turns out that one of the reasons was that he came to New York and started listening to jazz. Mondrian set out to depict the rhythm and the energy of Manhattan.

Jazz and painting turned out to be a two way inspiration. In the later stages of his life, Mondrian became a friend of Thelonius Monk. When Monk spoke about his music he often referred to the precision with which Mondrian placed a line or applied a color in his paintings.

Mondrian’s earlier, naturalistic pictures contain the seeds for his later inventions, the grids of his classic works derive from the geometry of the flat Dutch landscape, straight canals and tall windmills that were among the subjects of his youth.

 

 

No artist before him did so much with so little. It wasn’t as easy as it looks. Mondrian labored lovingly over his paintings, varying the density and luminosity of his colors, so that two whites side-by-side would not be the same. He built up patches of color into creamy pools and varnished his black lines until they shone.The surface is heavily worked. Mondrian clearly slaved over it.

ableau No 4, Lozenge Composition

Mondrian rotated his paintings to unusual angles, as in Tableau No 4, Lozenge Composition (Credit: Alamy)

To really appreciate the work he put into each piece it is necessary to really look at one of his  original paintings. He was a tinkerer, thickening one line a quarter-inch, moving another over, stopping yet another just on the brink of the picture’s edge. His canvases have a  quality that you don’t expect from seeing them in reproduction.

Mondrian’s works do not wear their emotions on their sleeves. They are demanding.  But as much as any artist in history, he was an artist of extreme delicacy and a force for change.

HENRI MATISSE

 

”Art is the expression of a human soul.  It finds its means where it may: music, sculpture, painting.  It’s a personal matter of aptitude and natural gifts.”
Henri Matisse

 

 

The Louisiana State Museum’s Old United States Mint in New Orleans

 

A powerful memory for me was the time I visited an  exhibition of  Henri Matisse’s work In New Orleans in 2002. Matisse was alway pushing his reset button  The experience of seeing Matisse’s work in New Orleans will stayed with me the rest of my life. It was a brilliant show of Matisse’s work.  I remember walking out of the building not knowing whether to hear some jazz or go back and stare at the colorless paintings that I was working on. I think I went and got a beer,

Henri Matisse influenced jazz as much as he was influenced by jazz.

 

 

Henri Matisse had beaucoup influences throughout  his life. I have liked every period of his work, but believe that he worked freer and bolder the older he got. Luminous colors were always the hallmark of Henri Matisse’s paintings, never more so than in the cutouts of his late period.  Many jazz players also seem to get better as the years go by.

 

‘It’s a fact that I’m afraid I shall lose my sight, and not be able to paint any more.  So I thought of something.  A blind man must give up painting, but not music’.   Henri Matisse

 

Henri Matisse was an old man and had been ill for sometime and was restricted to just doing paper cutouts.He would draw the shapes on the paper and his assistants would cut the paper. Picasso would come by while he was working and they would talk art. He died not too long after finishing this book that he called  Jazz.

 

Matisse describes his cutouts as “drawing with scissors,” a process “of cutting into color” that reminded him “of a sculptor’s carving into stone.”

 

 

Jazz was issued as a portfolio of 20 separate exhibitable plates and also as a bound book with Matisse’s written text. In both cases, the editions were small. Jazz is a work of great joie de vivre. The book is done like a jazz artist might improvise a project, with the precision that resulted from years of drawing. Matisse practiced drawing as a musician practices, constantly refining form and touch.

 

‘As soon as I can remember I was tapping and beating on things. My mother bought me a drum set and said, “Here honey, beat on these.”’ Gayelynn McKinney

 

It seems to me that there is a large family of artists who take turns carrying the ball a little farther down the field, up the hill and sometimes into a beautiful woods.

This week we will have the results of good things handed on at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café.

It seems appropriate that some of the family at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café will be on hand  for this special McKinney family gathering. Welcome to the family.

 

John Osler

 

 

THIS WEEK AT THE DIRTY DOG

 

 

FOR UPCOMING SHOWS AT THE DIRTY DOG GO TO:

http://: dirtydogjazz.com

 

ALL TUESDAYS – RON ENGLISH AND FRIENDS

 

Quartet Guitarist Ron English is a well-respected member of Detroit’s music community. He has helped shape contemporary Jazz styles since the 1960’s with a diverse repertoire covering Jazz, Blues, Avant-garde, Motown, Soul/Funk and Gospel.

 

March 11 – 14

 

 

GAYELYNN MCKINNEY /  MCKINFOLK

 

Gayelynn will bring her family to the Dirty Dog. They all will have only a few miles to travel.  It has always seemed a little unfair to have so much talent in one family. In Detroit classy musicians tend to have classy musician kids. We can only enjoy it.

 

      

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March 2, 2020

WILLIE’S CORNER

 

In this Corner Willie will be sharing with us some insights and stories. Knowing Willie, they will be to the point and upbeat.

 

 

Last week I had a chance to sit down for a chat with Willie Jones and Jeff Canady. Willie had just finished seating, serving and comforting a full house of Jeff Canady fans. Jeff had just played his heart out on his drum set while serving to please a room full of Willie Jones fans. They are both men who favor doing over talking. They are men who lead by example and fortunately both are good examples, exactly at a time when we are all looking for some good examples.

They talked about the importance of learning to listen. In their roles as bandleader and manager they have the responsibility to discern the direction things are going to go in an instant. They have learned to keep both their ears and minds open at all times. The gift of listening they share helps them remain alert and aware of those around them. They both also have a habit of sort of smiling when they speak and listen. An epidemic of good natured bantering broke out. Their conversation became a demonstration of the respect that they have for each other. The one thing we all agreed on was the exceptional amount of respect that the audience that frequents the Dirty Dog Jazz Café has for the jazz musicians who play there. They listen. Willy listens. Jeff listens. I also came away with a reminder that I could use a little of their skills of observation.

 

 

WILLIE’S CORNER

 

This week Willie Jones makes his post in Willie’s Corner. His subject is his take on listening out of the conversation we had with Jeff Canady.

Willie is officially the dining room manager/programming director. Unofficially he is the Director of Food,Spirits and all that Jazz. Because Willie Jones directs the food, spirits and jazz with a firm but light touch, the Dirty Dog Jazz Café looks and feels the way it does.

Along with Chef André he is responsible for all the things that work, and when they don’t he is there making things right.

 

 

LISTENING

“THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ IS NOT JUST A DINING JAZZ CLUB, IT IS A LISTENING ROOM. ANY GENRE OF MUSIC IS JUST NOISE UNLESS YOU ACTUALLY LISTEN. IF YOU LISTEN, YOU CAN FEEL IT. IF YOU LISTEN, YOU CAN FOLLOW IT. IF YOU LISTEN, IT CAN ACTUALLY SET YOUR MOOD. THE INTIMATE NATURE OF THE DIRTY DOG ALLOWS GUESTS TO ALSO TAKE SOME TIME TO LISTEN TO THE MUSICIANS’ CONVERSATIONS AS THEY ARE ALSO ALWAYS GRACIOUS ENOUGH TO STICK AROUND AND CONVERSE WITH GUESTS AFTER EACH SHOW.”

 

WILLIE  JONES

 

“No problem” Willie Jones

 

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WILLIE JONES IS SOMEONE WHO JUST MAKES THINGS BETTER

 

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Willie has guided the Dirty Dog Jazz Café since its conception ten years ago. He has done this with an unusual amount of surety and confidence in outcomes, combined with  grace and joy. Knowing Willie is around makes one feel like everything is going to be alright.

There are situations that spring up and test us. Everyone looks around for a way out of the mess. Sometimes the monstrous obstacle that is thrown in our path isn’t as big as we think it is, and we just needed someone to bring the problem into perspective. Willie Jones the manager of the Dirty Dog Jazz Café is that someone.

All eyes turn to Willie. Willie will certainly handle this. Everything will be alright.

When others might go into  semi-panic mode as events unfold, Willie looks as calm as our old cat lying in front of the fireplace. He reminded me of those other kids that had really studied before a test. Nonplussed and unshaken their demeanor was always calming and reassuring.

 

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JEFF CANADY

 

JEFF CANADY

 

One of the pleasures of hanging around a jazz club is to watch the music get better and better as new players show up. Jeff Canady is a drummer who has that Detroit ability to  relentlessly keep the band staying on the beat from start to finish. We can feel Jeff’s playing inside our bones. His drumming  is the meat that his pals in the band feed on. Jeff is a force. yet he has the ability to always be in support of the player who is telling his story. When Willie and Jeff had their conversation, Jeff made the case for listening carefully to those around you. Jeff considers communications and mutual respect to be essential assets when he picks members of his ensembles. Jeff speaks mostly with his music and the look in his eyes, but Jeff gets his message across.

 

 

LISTENING IN JAZZ

 

Jazz happens in groups. Whether a duo, trio, quartet, combo, big band, or other type of ensemble.  Great jazz happens when a bunch of musicians really listen to each other. Playing jazz with others requires awareness, listening, and sensitivity. along with the ability to make adjustments on the spot in order to support colleagues and take the lead.

 

 

 

What are musicians thinking about while standing on the bandstand while the drummer is taking off on a wild solo? What are they supposed to do? Where should they stand? I have set out to find the answers for these critical questions.So far the best answer I have gotten is that they are listening.

They aren’t thinking about the food awaiting them after the set, or whether they left the door unlatched, They are really listening. Listening is a big part of their job. The  better they are at listening the better they will be as an  artist.

The subject of listening to music has been written about extensively both from the players and the listeners perspective. I am guilty of watching through my camera more than I have listened. There are times when I do find myself deep in the music and listening intently. I can’t help myself.  I do this enough to know how good the music is.  I have been watching jazz musicians at their work at the Dirty Dog for some time. I have yet to see one take a mental break while on the bandstand. When they are not playing they appear to be still involved and carefully listening for cues and clues. One thing for sure is that jazz musicians have an enlarged need for paying attention as the music is likely to go in a new direction, and they have to  hear it in order to keep up.

For the rest of us we live at a time where music and sound  surrounds us all of the time. Music is in the stores, the elevator, in our car, coming out of the kid’s room and sometimes from the band in the basement. The human brain is very adept at filtering out these sounds, so that we become almost entirely oblivious to them. We can even shift from being a passive listener to someone capable of staying tuned in to a long concert or the full set . We learn more than to only hear, we learn to really listen.

When we see a live performance  we will begin listening for clues. You will see artists listening to each other. You will see glances exchanged, smiles, frowns, astonished faces.

 

 

DEGREES OF LISTENING

 

The music surrounds us but how much do we really listen to it – and how much do we just hear it?  Jazz musicians really listen.

It may be the ability to concentrate that separates the créme de la créme from the pretty good  artists in all fields. This ability to stay lost in the subject is a common thread  found in successful artists. As a painter I have experienced the process. This doesn’t mean that my painting is great while I am lost in the process, but seldom do I do great stuff when I am not completely immersed in the work. These are my very best times that lead to some pretty good work.

Then there is the huge challenge of improvisation, which is basically composing on the fly. When improvising, there is a safety net of knowing the proper chord structure and melody, but players have to have a huge musical vocabulary and realize in milliseconds what new notes will fit. They also have to listen hard so they can interact properly with what others in the band are playing. The “call and response” paradigm in jazz is actually musical conversation. I can’t think of anything more mentally demanding, especially for youngsters in early stages of learning music. Early middle school is a particularly time-sensitive period for mental development, and I suspect that middle school jazz bands can have disproportionate beneficial effects on brain development.

 

RAYSE BIGGS IN THE MUSIC

 

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RAYSE BIGGS… A GOOD LISTENER

 

When Rayse Biggs plays the Dirty Dog we can count on him  to show us his best chops. In addition he will show us some pretty good listening. Rayse is one of the jazz’s most graphic listeners. You can see the music reflected in his face when he stands aside during his mates’ solos.

 

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Willie’s lesson for all of us is that old saying “Opportunity seldom rises with blood pressure.”

Willie Jones never stops calmly observing and listening. Everyone coming to the Dirty Dog will experience the sense of order that Willie Jones brings to his tasks. Willie has the ability to place the right person in the right place at crucial times.  Smiles are allowed, mistakes are corrected, and the results are apparent, as Willie in his role as Director of Food, Spirits and all that Jazz says, ” WELCOME TO THE DIRTY DOG”.

 

John Osler

 

COMING THIS MONTH TO THE DIRTY DOG

 

 

 

ALL TUESDAYS – RON ENGLISH AND FRIENDS

March 4 – 7

 

 

DAVE BENNETT

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

For all four nights the place will be packed. it will be jammed with those who have an appreciation of our jazz roots. They will be treated to being only feet away from musicians who share their love of jazz and will be playing it about as well as anybody can. They will unabashedly play music that makes one feel good to be alive.

 

 

March 11 – 14

 

 

GAYELYNN MCKINNEY

 

Gayelynn will bring her family to the Dirty Dog. They all will have only a few miles to travel. This family defines class when will we talk of first class musicians. It has always seemed a little unfair to have so much talent in one family. In Detroit classy musicians tend to have classy musician kids. We can only enjoy it.

 

       

 

March 18, 19

 

 

VINCENT CHANDLER

 

Vincent will probably arrive early to the Dirty Dog just to warm up a little. After that the only worry we will have is if he overheats the place. With his reputation he tends to attract some hot cats to play with him. There might be some customers shifting to cool drinks.

 

 

 

 

March 20,21

 

 

RAFAEL STATIN

 

Saxophonist Rafael Statin seems to be playing a different instrument every time I see him. Rafael is one of those rarest of multi-instrumentalist who can combine great passion, intellectual discipline, and a spiritual fire that is evocative of great artistic creativity. He has so far established himself as a remarkable composer and musician not defined by any one particular genre.

 

 

March 24 – 28

 

KELLER KOCHER QUARTET

 

 

PAUL KELLER

 

Paul Keller has toured, played gigs with, done arrangements for, collaborated with countless jazz artists.

Paul has played on over 60 CDs with artists such as Diana Krall, Russell Malone, Tom Saunders, Chuck Hedges, Eddie Higgins, Larry Fuller, Johnny O’Neal, Bess Bonnier, Jon-Erik Kellso, Dan Barrett, Rebecca Kilgore, Phil DeGreg, Mr. B, Steve Wood, Rick Roe, Ellen Rowe, Marcus Belgrave, Franz Jackson, Pete Siers, Dan Faehnle and Larry Nozero. Paul has also performed in concert with jazz greats Joe Williams, Cab Calloway, Oliver Jones, Clark Terry, Red Holloway, Gene Bertoncini, Jeff Hamilton, Scott Hamilton, Ken Peplowski, Jake Hanna, Terry Gibbs, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Mark Murphy, Doc Cheatham, Byron Stripling, Jay McShann, Barry Harris, Mulgrew Miller, Jessica Williams, Bill Mays, Kenny Drew, Jr., Herb Ellis, Bucky Pizzerelli, Mark Elf and James Moody.

We are lucky to have him for four days at the Dirty Dog. He will bring with him some of his most talented pals.

 

    

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February 24, 2020

 

TRADITION

 

Those were simpler times. We went to school or work, came home, ate, slept and did other simple stuff. We filled our days just like our parents did before us. Life was not very complicated or very complex, and most things were affordable and doable. When things weren’t going well and we wanted to feel a little better we listened to some feel good music that had silly words and danceable rhythms. As a jazz fan I listened to traditional jazz, just like my parents. When I was little my parents, my sister and I would sit in front of the large radio console and listen to classical music until bedtime. After we were sent upstairs my dad would put on some jazz albums. I would sit on the stairway out of view in my pajamas and listen. Someplace in my psyche I have installed the idea that the jazz from that time would make me feel better. It still does. It was perfect feel good music.

The early jazz recordings my parents played were somewhat limited to white musicians playing black innovations of jazz. Black musicians didn’t have a shot at getting recorded and distributed nationally. I heard a lot of Dixieland and big band jazz, a likely result of my parents being art students during the “jazz age”. For them this was music for dancing and for lifting one’s spirits. It was boisterous, straightforward and fun.

 

 

 

TRADITIONAL JAZZ

 

I have always favored traditional jazz. I caught Louis Armstrong and The Dukes of Dixie when they were in town. The Mothers Boys played weekly in Detroit’s warehouse district.. I saw Turk Murphy in San Francisco, The Firehouse Five Plus Two in LA, and spent time listening to Chicago style jazz at Eddie Condon’s jazz club in NYC.

I have no idea what traditional jazz is.  “Modern Jazz” started more than 75 years ago. I think we can consider tradition jazz to be all music that jazz artists played before traditional bebop came around. I think we can safely say traditional jazz is what your dad and mom liked, played by people who looked like your mom or dad.

The history of jazz has so many currents of influence, from the blues songs emerging from the African-American tradition, the work songs black field labourers would sing, the call-and-response tradition of black Baptist churches to the classical music coming from Europe.  All the while white musicians took note. “Trad” jazz was played in Britain when American jazz drifted overseas.

 

 

 

When I first heard live jazz in high school,  jazz had changed. The music I liked had my dad scratching his head. Louis was being featured in sappy movies playing sappy songs. He was still the best thing in the films. When I heard him in a concert with Jack Teagarden, I was taken back to those days listening with my parents and feeling good about the world.

Traditional jazz, hot jazz, good time jazz music are names that I have always attached to early jazz from ragtime to bop.

 

 

DIXIELAND JAZZ

 

The Armistice to end World War I brought a sudden sense of relief and a jolt of reality to our country.  When it ended so abruptly, we needed a relief valve. Here was an opening for new ideas, creating a fertile atmosphere for America’s musical child, jazz, to spread across America and the world.

Jazz had been born in 1895, the year Buddy Bolden started his first band in New Orleans. Jazz remained local for a while, but soon white copycats began appropriating the sound and style of black musicians.  Nick LaRocca and his Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded the first jazz record, Livery Stable Blues in 1917. This was the first instance of jazz music being called “Dixieland”.

When they recorded Livery Stable Blues the all-white Original Dixieland Jass Band borrowed to the point of plagiarism from the African-American musicians they’d heard in their native New Orleans. There was a lawsuit about who wrote Livery Stable Blues.

The judge in the case ruled that since the song was in bad taste and composed by people who couldn’t actually read or write sheet music it would be remanded to the “public domain” with no writer attributed at all.

A lot of traditional jazz bands understandably shy away from being labeled a “Dixieland Band”.  The term Dixie has attached itself to the antebellum South, specifically anything south of the Mason-Dixon line. “Dixie” is still a reference to pre-Civil War Southern States.

Black musicians have traditionally rejected the term as a style distinct from traditional jazz, Some consider Dixieland a derogatory term because it was first played publicly without the passion or deep understanding of the original music and because of the unfair practices early jazz musicians endured.

 

  

 

The Dixie Highway was a United States automobile highway, first planned in 1914 to connect the US Midwest with the Southern United States.

The route was marked by a red stripe with the white letters “DH”, usually with a white stripe above and below. The logo was commonly painted on utility poles.

During the war years it took a lot of gas stamps to get out of town. I knew there was a major road that came down from Pontiac alongside Detroit, headed to Toledo and ended up in Miami. This was the Dixie Highway. Today we have interstate highways and higher levels of integration in our music. Dixieland music now honors the tradition and struggles and is less an act of theft.

 

 

TRADITIONAL MUSIC TODAY

 

 

After a depression or war we often see a revival of traditional music.  When we get into  a dreary period in our lives we may put on some early jazz or watch an old movie where we know everything turns out OK.

After WWII there was a revival movement that included elements of the Chicago style that developed during the 1920s. We saw the use of a string bass instead of a tuba.  The  traditional front lines still consisted of trumpets, trombones, and clarinets, and some ensemble improvisation over a two-beat rhythm.

Dixieland is often today applied to any band playing in a traditional style reflecting the grouping of the Chicago and New Orleans styles of traditional jazz under the same label.

Jazz is derivative, so everytime jazz is played the musicians give a wink of gratitude that jazz was so much fun to play from the very first day.

There are those who say that without Louis Armstrong, there would be no jazz today.

Who knows?

 

 

THE DIRTY DOGS

 

This coming Tuesday, February 25,  a new jazz band will be showing up at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café.

Seven of our best traditional jazz artists were assembled by drummer Pete Siers as a show of gratitude for one of jazz’s greatest supporters, Gretchen Valade. For one night  Gretchen will be treated to the music that brought back fond memories of her first introduction to jazz while a student in New York. The band named itself ” The Dirty Dogs”.

The music that they play is seldom heard today in its original form. It is, however, part of our musical heritage and its influence can be heard in all the music where you find yourself tapping your feet and feeling an urge to clap your hands. On Tuesday night we will hear some whoops and noticed some smiles on faces of people who before the session proclaimed that traditional jazz wasn’t their cup of tea. Gretchen will likely keep her barstool facing the band through the whole set. The musicians tend to play in Gretchen’s direction.

 

 

 

Gretchen Valade has supported all jazz artists and their explorations into new forms. Sometimes it is good to get a shot of good time music and remember how it all got started.

When the Dirty Dogs finish, the good cheer will continue. That is probably the result of the music and the fact that this is music that is usually listened to with a drink in your hand.

 

 

 

 

FEEL GOOD MUSIC

 

Music has always had the purpose of helping us get through our day. Jazz continues to sweep us up and shake out the bad stuff.

Somewhere I read, ” When you bring New Orleans your sad story New Orleans will put a beat to it.” Bring your story to the Dirty Dog on Fat Tuesday through Saturday, they will put a beat to it.

John Osler

 

THIS WEEK AT THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ

 

February 25

 

 

 

THE DIRTY DOGS

 

Seven of our best traditional jazz artists were assembled by drummer Pete Siers as a show of gratitude for one of jazz music’s greatest supporters, Gretchen Valade. For one night Gretchen was treated to the music that brought back fond memories of her first introduction to jazz while a student in New York. The band have named themselves: ” The Dirty Dogs”.

 

 

February 26 – 29

 

 

JEFF CANADY

 

Don’t miss this chance to witness some high energy jazz that comes only from Detroit and our young artists. Jeff Canady will play drums the way every kid who has ever dreamed about getting a drum set would like to play. For four nights at the Dirty Dog he will play the role of the kid who got a drum set and then got really good.

 

 

 

 

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February 18, 2020

THE MASTER WHO TOOK PICTURES

 

MILT HINTON: PART TWO

 

“When I first started out in the ’30s, I took pictures so I could show my family and friends that I’d really been to all those places and knew all those people. Several years later, the guys I was traveling with became my friends and I shot things we all experienced so we could share them later.”

Milt Hilton

 

 

Photo courtesy of  The Milton J. Hinton Family Collection

 

 

Milt Hinton was considered to be to the dean of American jazz bass players. He was also a prolific master photographer.  Last week I wrote mostly about his goodness. I was moved when those who knew Milt best told me what a decent man he was.  This decent man carried a camera around with him. It seems that everything he did, he did well. When he brought his camera out he didn’t get many scowls and turns of heads. The musicians knew he could be trusted. Milt Hinton had an unfair advantage when it came to getting up close photos of musicians. He was one them. He honored them by taking pictures of them as he saw them. He spent time playing alongside them, he spent time traveling with them, he shared a coffee or beverage with them and he was indeed their friend. It showed in all his photos. Musicians valued Mr. Hinton not just for his musicianship and versatility but also for his easygoing nature and his professionalism. He earned his nickname, The Judge.

Sure The Judge started taking pictures as a hobby, but make no mistake Milt Hinton took his role as chronicler seriously. He was aware that he was participating in a serious undertaking of historical significance and was always ready to snap the shutter on it.  If you are planning to be part of an era or movement it is important to have someone in your midst that will take notes, Milt raised his hand, He saw his role and filled it. It didn’t hurt that Milt Hinton was one of the most recorded musicians of all time and one of the first great bass soloists in jazz.

Milt said, “I was always concerned about keeping a record of all of this,” “Not to sell it to anybody, not to exploit anybody.”  His good friend, David G Berger said, “I just think he was amazed by what he saw in his life, and he wanted to share it with other people.”

“By the time I was playing in the studios regularly, I had one or two cameras with me all the time. Record companies had great professional photographers come in and shoot sessions, but they kept a close watch on these guys. They’d usually let them in at the beginning and end of a date, or during five-minute breaks. Sometimes I’d see a makeup artist work on a performer for an hour and someone else setting up a background to stage a candid shot. Of course, as a musician hired to play, I could get pictures whenever I wanted. During all those years, I don’t remember anyone ever trying to stop me.”

Milt Hinton

 

Here are some folks who never took Milt’s camera away from him.

 

Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, Pearl Bailey, Charles Mingus, Bette Midler, Duke Ellington, Barry Manilow, John Coltrane,  Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Art Tatum and Paul McCartney.

 

As a freelance musician in Chicago in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Milt worked with and musicians with great names like Jabbo Smith, Zutty Singleton and Fate Marable.

With the help of his friend actor/entertainer Jackie Gleason, he became one of the first black musicians to work in the predominantly white studio recording industry.

Count Basie, 1959 (Sound of Jazz rehearsal)

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

“I continued working wherever and whenever I could and then I got a job offer I never expected — a chance to work with [Count] Basie…

“Basie wouldn’t let me get bored. Onstage we’d always be a couple of feet apart and he’d kid with me all night. If we were playing up-tempo and I was walking fast and starting to sweat, he’d tinkle a couple of notes, then lean over to me and say, ‘Go ahead, hog, you’re gonna take it anyway.’ I always broke up.”      Milt Hinton

“ The photos show the way musicians see each other. You look at the pictures, and you can hear the music.”        Milt Hinton

JAZZ PHOTOGRAPHY

Jazz has been able to look back at itself through the eyes of some great photographers and writers.  We have also had many compelling stories that musicians have passed on themselves. This happens everytime musicians gather when there is someone who happens to be around to chronicle the tales.

Photographers, however,  have to be there when musicians are interacting to capture the magic. This  is what Milt Hinton was able to do. As a musician, he was allowed in spaces and at times that pro photographers might not be.

“I always tried to capture something different. Whenever possible, I liked to shoot people when they were off guard or unaware. Of course, I was limited in some ways. I didn’t have a flash in the early days, and the film speed was so slow you couldn’t take photographs indoors without using a long exposure. Even so, I did get some unusual shots inside, like pictures of the guys sleeping on the train. There were also times when the stage lights were on and I could use them to get a better indoor exposure.”

Milt Hinton

Wynton Marsalis and Branford Marsalis, classroom, New Orleans, c. 1978

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988 The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

 

MILT HINTON KNEW THE IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CAPTURING THE PERFORMANCE AND CAPTURING THE ARTIST

 

” Although I took a few posed shots, I was never much for taking formal pictures. Everybody was shooting the band onstage in uniform, and if you went to a professional photographer for your own publicity shot, he’d ask you to smile and act like you were playing your instrument. I’ve never wanted to get those kinds of photos because I don’t see musicians that way.”

Milt Hinton

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

 

MILT TOOK PICTURES LIKE HE PLAYED THE BASS

 

Milt’s music and photography are indistinguishable from one another.

 

The assets that Milt needed to be a great bass player and those that he needed to be a great photographer where one and the same. He had to respect his bandmates and earn their trust. He had to listen. He had to have skills with his instruments.

In the foreword to Milt Hinton’s autobiography Bass Line, jazz critic Dan Morgenstern describes perfectly the psyche of an artist like Milt by enumerating the skills that made him a legendary bassist and, inadvertently, a legendary photographer:

“A good bassist knows how to make the soloists sound better, and thus must be someone who can sublimate his ego for the cause. A good bassist must also be a good listener, able to discern the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the players he is there to support – in sum, a team player. It’s plausible, I think, that this professional perspective also became a personal point of view. In any case, Milt Hinton is a man who knows how to listen well, a man who observes and remembers, and who is compassionate.”

Jazz critic Dan Morgenstern also wrote, “Even the earliest photos… demonstrate [Milt Hinton’s] talent for composition within the frame, his skills as an observer, and his perfect sense of timing — the latter a gift surely akin to his mastery of jazz rhythm.” Just like playing that single note at the right time that fits the chord, harmonizes with the rest of the instruments, and gives the song meaning, so too do photographers click their shutters at the brief moment their subjects line themselves up, the background settles, and the scene achieves its one split-second of consummate poetry. In music, this phenomenon is called swing, taste, and pocket. In photography, this has famously been called “The Decisive Moment.”

Cannonball Adderley, recording studio, New York City, c. 1958

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988 The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

 

MILT FOLLOWED SOME RULES

 

What started as merely a hobby morphed into a conscious effort to master his craft. He usually shot without flash, so he wouldn’t bother other players. He shot almost exclusively in black and white. Milt followed some personal dictates. His task was to leave an honest account of experiences he shared with his subjects. He had some rules. He would listen and observe but he would never exploit his friendship. Milt would never be intrusive, he would not search for their narrative at the subject’s expense.

Jazz critic Dan Morgenstern shares this.

In none of Milt Hinton’s photographs is there ever a sense of voyeurism or glamorization. His photographs of Dizzy sleeping on the train, of Cab Calloway having fun with the community, of Louis Armstrong sitting proudly next to his hotel recording rig, or even of the late Billie Holiday on her last recording session, never feel glamorous or grotesque. He lets the subjects speak for themselves and provide their own human beauty”.

“To call Milt Hinton a historian is not stretching the term. He may not always have been conscious of this role, but his ability to listen, to ask key questions, and to remember well was there almost from the start.”

Dizzy and Cab Calloway baseball team. On the road with Cab Calloway’s band,          Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988 The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

Friendship exudes from so many of his images.

“…very few [jazz photographers] were privy to so many informal shooting opportunities as Milt, who manifests a trait rare to photographers — discretion. Even when he took those lovely shots of his sleeping colleagues on buses and trains, he never took unfair advantage of them, and his heart rending studies of Billie Holiday nearing the end of her life are devoid of intrusiveness
and cruelty.”

Jazz critic Dan Morgenstern

MILT HAD A PURPOSE

 

 

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

Making the most of a pretty crummy situation, Milt captured the Jim Crow world that he and his fellow musicians had to endure. Only someone who lived through the horrors of segregation themselves would feel free to capture this light hearted moment.

Carol Drake said when showing Milt’s work: “The genius of Milt Hinton was not only in his music, but in his wisdom and foresight to document this era and these icons through photography.”

His images were built upon the simple act of listening and observing with compassion, and for the purpose of lifting his subjects up.

“At some point, probably in the late ’40s, I saw that jazz was changing quickly and there were new faces coming on the scene all the time. Some of the pioneers like Chu [Berry] and Jimmy Blanton were already gone, and some of the other greats were well on their way to early deaths. For some reason, I felt strongly about using my camera to capture people and events from the jazz world that I was lucky enough to see. I guess I realized I was actually living through jazz history.”

– Milt Hinton

THE RESULTS

 

 

There are over 60,000 photos in the Milt Hinton Photographic Collection. There are several published books filled with his written and spoken insights. Here are a few.

 

 

 Gillespie, Grande Garde du Jazz, Nice, France, c. 1981

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988 The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

This photo reeks of humanity. I have learned more from Milt’s image about Dizzy Gillespie and jazz than I have from all his album covers. Milt has shown us why jazz pereserveres

 

Billie Holiday in the studio holding a drink, looking down, world-weary

Billie Holiday, last recording session, studio, NYC 1958.

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

 

All of the books, stories, movies and recordings of her are summed up in this one powerful image. It shows the great vocalist’s pained expression as she listens to the playback of her voice with the full realization that this may be her last recording.

 

Danny Barker and Dizzy Gillespie, train, c. 1940

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988 The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

Even when he took those lovely shots of his sleeping colleagues on buses and trains, he never took unfair advantage of them, and his heart rending studies of Billie Holiday nearing the end of her life are devoid of intrusiveness and cruelty.”   Jazz critic Dan Morgenster

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

Willie “The Lion” Smith and Eubie Blake, backstage, Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, Rhode Island, c. 1971
Milt Hinton, Pittsburgh, c. 1948. Photo Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

“…very few [jazz photographers] were privy to so many informal shooting opportunities as Milt, who manifests a trait rare to photographers — discretion“  Dan Morgenson

Eubie in D.C. at the White House 1979   Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988 The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

 

Eubie could hold a crowd in the palm of his hand.

 

AGAIN, I WOULD LIKE TO THANK DAVID G BERGER AND THE MILT HINTON PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION

 

David was Milt Hinton’s good friend and collaborator. He put it into Milt’s head that his snapshots and knowledge had value.  When Milt died in 2000 he was confident that his legacy was in good hands, he was deeply aware of his own good fortune and debt to all those who took a chance. Thanks David.

 

“When I look back at where I’ve come from, I still can’t believe how things have turned out — what I’ve experienced in almost nine decades on this earth, and how lucky I’ve been.”–Milt Hinton

 

MY PERSONAL TAKE

 

 

I have been given a task of talking about what goes on inside the walls of the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. I take pictures and listen. Sometimes I am included in the conversations. My job is to listen and look. My occasional success comes from moments when I feel I belong. This is something Milt Hinton always felt.

John Osler

 

COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG

 

 February 19,20

 

Allen Dennard

 

ALLEN DENNARD

 

Twenty-four-year-old trumpeter Allen Dennard has one foot firmly planted in the classic jazz canon. The 2016 graduate of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance leads his own rotating jazz ensemble while also regularly playing with the likes of Detroit legends Marion Hayden, Wendell Harrison, and David McMurray. This April saw his first release Stepping In, which evokes the sounds of Miles Davis’ classic quintet.

February 21,22

 

 

FOUR FRESHMEN

 

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. Throughout 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. Help us celebrate  with some good food, great jazz and a lot of smiles.

 

 

NEXT WEEK AT THE DIRTY DOG

A VERY SPECIAL EVENT

 

February 25 only

 

 

THE DIRTY DOGS

 

Seven of our best traditional jazz artists were assembled by drummer Pete Siers as a show of gratitude for one of jazz music’s greatest supporters, Gretchen Valade. For one night Gretchen was treated to the music that brought back fond memories of her first introduction to jazz while a student in New York. The band have named themselves: ” The Dirty Dogs”.

 

February 26 – 29

 

 

JEFF CANADY

 

Don’t miss this chance to witness some high energy jazz that comes only from Detroit and our young artists.

 

 

 

 

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February 11, 2020

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

THE IMPORTANCE OF DECENCY AND TRUST

 

For a long time I have had a beginning of a blog about jazz bassist Milt Hinton sitting on my computer. Many times when I would Google a famous jazz artist, Milt’s photos would pop up. I knew that he was a legendary jazz musician who had taken legendary photos of legendary jazz musicians. I also knew that he was not a professional photographer, he was just a trusted friend with a camera. I did think that he would be an interesting guy to write about. What I didn’t know was how important Milt was in chronicling the history of jazz and how must his kindness played a part. His natural goodness permeated his life. His upbeat attitude drove away his demons and defined his life.

 

This blog has taken many turns.

 

Milt Hinton’s abject decency changed what started out as an homage to Milt Hinton’s talent.

 

Here is my first start writing about Milt Hinton.

 

I  admire pro photographers who can stage a photograph that will leave us with an accurate and sometimes beautiful image of their subject, but I do have a special prejudice for snapshooters like Milt, people who have earned the trust of their subjects.

 

Rayse Biggs   Photo John Osler
At least one night a week I will spend some time standing in the corners of the Dirty Dog Jazz Café with a camera in my hand.  I don’t want to become a nuisance, so I retreat to the back of the room and try to be invisible. I stay put and avoid colliding with the staff carrying loaded trays. Being considerate and safe are not the best formulas to get great jazz photos.
Great photographers get us close to and often inside their subjects.
We are fortunate that throughout its history jazz has been chronicled by writers and photographers who have had an intimate understanding of what goes on inside the heads of our most influential jazz artists, musicians and the chroniclers.

Some writers and photographers have the gift to gain trust, get access, recognize what they are seeing and know enough to edit the results. One photographer who had this gift was Milt Hinton. He also happened to be one of our greatest bass players….

I think that a lot of my attraction to jazz came from photos that made me aware that jazz musicians  live more freely and more intensely than anyone has a right to. I know this because I have seen so many b/w pictures of them sitting alone lost in their thoughts or in someone else’s music. I have seen pics of them in groups engulfed in more friendship than an average guy will ever experience. Thanks to a handful of photographers who gained the trust of jazz artists, we all have images inside our heads of the characters that created the music we love, images that are  honest and fair, ones  that you only get with still photography, frozen moments that we can each take our time to study, consider and absorb

Then I realized that everything that I wanted to say, Milt had already said in his photos and writing, and he said it better.

 

 

Here is what he said:

 

“I know you can get the program on videotape and I’ve seen it a dozen times. But photos are different. You can study them. You can analyze the expressions on people’s faces, and to my way of thinking, you can see what they’re really all about. That’s one thing which always attracted me to photography. Milt Hinton

“I got my first camera in 1935. It was a 35 mm Argus C3, and it was a present for my twenty-fifth birthday. I had the Argus with me when I started on the road with Cab in 1936. Although I took a few posed shots, I was never much for taking formal pictures. Everybody was shooting the band onstage in uniform, and if you went to a professional
photographer for your own publicity shot, he’d ask you to smile and act like you were playing your instrument. I’ve never wanted to get those kinds of photos because I don’t see musicians that way.” 
Milt Hinton

I wrote

Milt Hinton was deeply aware of his own good fortune and debt to all those who took a chance. Like so many jazz artists, He was devoted to helping younger musicians carry on the jazz tradition. He taught jazz courses at Hunter College and Baruch College in the 1970’s and 80’s. In 1980 he established the Milton J. Hinton Scholarship Fund for young bassists.

 

Milt said

“Music involves more than just playing an instrument. It’s really about cohesiveness and sharing. All my life I’ve felt obliged to teach anyone who would listen. I’ve always believed you don’t truly know something yourself until you can take it from your mind and put it in someone else’s. I also know the only way we continue to live on this earth is by giving our talents to the younger generation.” Milt Hinton

 

I was pretty young when I realized that music involves more than just playing an instrument. It’s really about cohesiveness and sharing. Milt Hinton

I wrote

 

Milt Hinton was a giant in jazz and storytelling. Milt Hinton told his story with recordings, photos and words. He saw things as a child that could have disabled his curiosity.  He rose above the assaults of racism and economic inequities that he and many of his fellow musicians suffered. He saw the goodness in others and wanted us to see it too, so he carried his camera wherever he went.

Milt said

“I was only interested in seeing us the way we see ourselves,”
“Photography is the closest a man can come to having a child.”
Milt Hinton came to the point. He wrote, played jazz and shot pictures with a sureness that only someone who has lived the story can bring.  I realized  that everything that  I am writing about I have learned from someone. Someone who was trusted to record Milt’s recollections of those who in turn had trusted him. This process takes a truckload of trust. Milt could be trusted and I found that I could trust a friend of Milt’s, David G Berger, who helped Milt preserve the words and photographs that I will be using.

Trust me.

 

 

HERE ARE SOME FACTS ABOUT THE MASTER MUSICIAN WHO TOOK PICTURES

 

“When I first started out in the ’30s, I took pictures so I could show my family and friends that I’d really been to all those places and knew all those people. Several years later, the guys I was traveling with became my friends and I shot things we all experienced so we could share them later.”  Milt Hinton

 

 

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

 

MILT HINTON WAS FOREMOST A LIKABLE GUY

 

When I mentioned Milt’s name in the Dirty Dog Jazz Café’s green room, bassist Paul Keller offered  that he was one of the nicest guys in the business.  When a guy is liked his buddies  will give him a nickname. His nicknames included “Sporty” from his years in Chicago, “Fump” from his time on the road with Cab Calloway, and for his easygoing nature and his unflappable ability to keep a steady rhythm he earned the nickname, “The Judge”.

He was loved, admired and honored. Milt received eight honorary doctorates as well as countless prestigious national and international awards. He and and his wife Mona were together for 61 years. He was a good guy.

 

Milt never said

that he was a good guy because he was too humble.

 

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

MILT HINTON WAS A REALLY GOOD MUSICIAN

 

Here is what his New York Times obituary recalled him as:

 

“One of the most recorded musicians of all times and the dean of American bass players.”

Milt Hinton had plenty to say in his thousands of recordings, in his own words and in 60,000 black and white candid photographs of fellow musicians.

Here is something Milt understood:

“A person has to have lived to play great jazz.. Unless you’ve lived, what could you say on your instrument?”

 

Milt Hinton lived a long, rich and fulfilling life. It had its challenges which Milt overcame with uncommon grace.

 

 

He was born in Vicksburg, Miss., on June 23, 1910. His childhood in Vicksburg was challenging, he encountered extreme poverty and extreme racism at a time when lynching was common. One of Milt’s clearest memories of his childhood was when he accidentally came upon a lynching. Like many jazz musicians who suffer oppression, Milt lived his life with a dignity above and beyond the confines of the oppressive segregation he encountered throughout his life..

“The word ‘base’ means support, foundation. If you put up a building, the foundation must be steady and strong. I must identify the chord for everyone, and only after that can I play the other notes. You learn to have a lot of humility. You must be content in the background, knowing you’re holding the whole thing together.” Milt Hinton
Out of necessity, Milt learned the technique known as slap bass, in which the strings are pulled back at high tension and released suddenly. Slapping the bass allowed one to be heard in dancehalls that didn’t have amplification

”Studying the violin gave me the ability to play melody on the bass, and it also gave me a great deal of dexterity,”  ”All the guys I heard used their arms to slap, but I developed a way to slap with my wrists.” Milt Hinton

His slap bass style gained him entre to the greatest musicians in both jazz and pop. The long list of artists he worked with begins with Cab Calloway.

 

Photo by Milt Hinton © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

It was 1936 and Cab Calloway was one of the biggest stars in jazz. He was on his way back to New York from Hollywood. His bassist abruptly left and Calloway hired young Milt Hinton just a few hours before the band’s train was to leave for Chicago. Milt remembers  that Calloway told him he planned to ”find him a good bass player” once the band got to New York. Instead, Mr. Hinton played in Cab Calloway’s band for 15 years. During his time with Calloway, Milt was featured on dozens of recordings with Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins and Billie Holiday, among others.

David G. Berger, Milt Hinton and Holly Maxson, Queens, N.Y., 1989                  © 1988  Photo courtesy The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection

MILT HINTON AND DAVID BERGER

 

I have found the best way to tell Milt Hinton’s story is to let Milt tell it. The only way to get permission to get Milt’s words and photos is to contact his trusted friend, David G Berger in NYC.

Between. 1935 and 1999 Milt took thousands of photographs, approximately 60,000 of which now comprise the Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection, co-directed by David G. Berger and his wife Holly Maxson. The Collection includes 35mm black and white negatives and color transparencies, reference and exhibition-quality prints, and photographs given to and collected by Milt Hinton throughout his life. Beginning in the early 1960s, Milt and David  worked together to organize the photographs and identify the subjects of the photos.

David Berger and Milt Hinton were two peas in a pod. They both loved life and jazz.

 

Here is David’s story of their meeting:

 

In 1956, David G. Berger was a Queens, N.Y., 14 year old determined to become a bass player. David first called Arvell Shaw, Louis Armstrong’s bass player, and asked about possibly studying under him. He referred Berger instead to a jazz bassist who was kicking around the New York studio scene at the time.

The man was Milt Hinton, and every Saturday for several months, Berger took the subway, then the bus, to where Hinton was living. He would hang out, sometimes until 10 or 11 at night. David recalls “In those days, it was commonplace for legends like jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie or pianist “Count” Basie to drop by Hinton’s place”. He still vividly remembers a particular day when Count Basie who lived around the corner from the Hintons  stopped over, and Milt began playing a silent movie.

“Basie sat down at the piano and just started playing an accompaniment,” David said. “That’s just the kind of thing you never forget.”

David G Berger and Milt Hinton remained pals, swapping stories and grins and enjoying each others company until Milt passed away. David told me most of what I learned of Milt’s generosity and kindness.

On visits to the Hinton’s basement studio in Queens, young David met legendary artists including Ben Webster, the Hintons’ longtime houseguest. Milt Hinton took his wide-eyed student along to record and club dates.

Those visits forged a lifelong friendship between Berger and Hinton, who could swap stories on just about everyone who was anyone in popular music. When Paul McCartney gave him a fancy new bass guitar to him by, Milt said, “… it had all kinds of knobs on it, it could boil coffee and everything.”

Milt Hinton and David G Berger kept watching out for each other, that is what friendship is about. We are the beneficiaries. These two guardians have  given us a great gift.

Thanks to David G Berger and The Milton J Hinton Photographic Collection for all your help.

 

 

NPR host Liane Hansen talks to author David Berger about the photography of the late jazz bassist Milt Hinton. Berger has co-authored the book Playing the Changes: Milt Hinton’s Life in Stories and Photographs.

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/90167651/90167602

 

Milt Hinton lived one of the fullest lives anyone could imagine.

 

He had some kind of secret juice that people were drawn to. He was always included and no one told him to put his camera away. From what David Berger has told me Milt Hinton always found time for others. He was a serially decent man.

 

John Osler

 

 

Next week I will take a look at his photography.

NEXT WEEK PART TWO

MILT HINTON: THE MASTER PHOTOGRAPHER WHO PLAYED JAZZ

 

COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG

 

February 12 – 15Panema Homecoming

THE DETROIT JAZZ FESTIVAL ALLSTARS

Detroit Jazz Fest All-Stars Generations Band Panama Homecoming featuring Chris Collins, Chuck Newsome, Wesley Reynoso, Marion Hayden, and Nate Winn. (*Sean Dobbins- 2/14 and Tariq Gardner- 2/15)

 

 

Last month, the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation All-Star Generations band once again expanded its international outreach with performances and workshops at the world-renowned Panama Jazz Festival. Since 2013, the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation has been engaged in an ongoing cultural exchange with Panama. Artists and students from both countries have collaborated on workshops, exchange programs and International performances. This week we welcome All-Star Band back for four nights at the Dirty Dog

 

 

 

 

 

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February 5, 2020

 

JAZZ TALK

 

I have always assumed that musicians were special people because they had their own language. I don’t think that I have earned the right to call someone a cat. I hear jazz artists use jazz slang less and less, but they have a way of putting words together that comes out making sense and a little jazzy. Jazz musicians have used a lot of shortcuts in conversation probably because they can’t afford to waste their time. Many of their jazz terms have found their way into our everyday spoken language.

 

 

Beat, Bread, Chops, Clinker. Cool. Crazy. Crib,Cut,Dad, Daddy-o, Dig,Drag, Gate, Get Down, Gig, Gone, Hip,Hipster, Horn, Hot, In the Pocket, Jake, Jam,LameLicks, hot licks, Licorice Stick, Lid, Noodlin’, Out of this world, Out to Lunch, Pad, Rock, Rusty Gate, Scat, Swing, Tag, Take five, Wail, Walking bass, Wig, Wild, Woodshed

 

 

You have to understand that even though you start using jazzy slang you still won’t be a jazz musician. You will likely still have a hard time understanding what is in a jazz artist’s head. You must live the life of an artist to learn their secrets of communication.

 

GIG” and “GIGGING”

 

“Gig” is slang for a live musical performance, recording session, or other engagement of a musician or ensemble. Originally coined in the 1920s by jazz musicians,

“Gigging” is short for the word “engagement”, and now refers to any aspect of performing a gig.

Musicians like all artists are free spirits. They thrive when restraints are removed, especially in the workplace where spontaneity is valued. A regularly scheduled job is probably not for them, not when they are creating their art.

In the 1920’s a jazz artist in New Orleans could expect to earn between $1.25 and $2.50 per engagement. Even if a musician was working seven nights and days per week, that didn’t not add up to much. Perhaps this was as pressing a reason as less segregation to move to the northern states during the 1920s. This is not to say that all musicians were lucky enough to earn those top wages, and like today many had to support themselves with trades as well,  A New Orleans jazz musician noted that in Chicago or New York a sideman could earn between $40.00 and $50.00 per week at the top cabarets- considerably more than the average wage. This disparity in pay played a big role in the migration of jazz up the Mississippi to the Northern cities.

One problem didn’t go away. There were more musicians than gigs. Few players could get by without a regular job. Some got lucky. They landed a job with a band that toured and recorded. This wasn’t the answer for every artist.

Here is an example from an earlier blog.

 

DSC_1283

GEORGE “SAX” BENSON  1929-2019

 

George could really play the sax. He was so good that he was asked to play with:

 

Lena Horne, Aretha Franklin, Debbie Reynolds, Glen Campbell, Milton Berle, Ella Fitzgerald, Edie Adams, Dinah Washington, Mel Torme, Nancy Wilson, Johnny Mathis, Diana Carroll, Four Tops, Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Kenny Burrell, Lionel Hampton, Benny Carter, Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons, Quincy Jones, Nelson Riddle, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Brook Benton, Jackson 5, Diana Ross, Bill Cosby, Lou Rawls, Tony Bennett, Betty Carter, Carmen McRae, Sheila Jordan, Rosemary Clooney, Mildred Bailey, Vic Damone, Martha Reeves, Rich Little, Regis Philbin, Michael Feinstein, Tommy Tune, Steve Allen, Della Reese, Sammy Davis, Jr., Louis Armstrong, Tommy Flanagan, Benny Golson, Earl Bostic, Pepper Adams, J.C. Heard, Ernie Wilkins, Peter Duchin, Hank Jones, Yusef Leteef, Doug Watkins, Willie Anderson, Paul Chambers

 

This long list of America’s most celebrated entertainers all thought that George was someone special. It gave George choices to live the life he chose to live. Wouldn’t be nice If we all could be so lucky?

 

 

DSC_1346

 

A LIFE WELL LIVED

 

George Benson chose a life in music but never allowed music to choose his life. He quit  touring and settled down in his hometown, Detroit. He told me once that he was a very lucky man. He came into music at a time when there were a lot of gigs. Early in his life Detroit was a good town to be a musician. TV shows needed live bands, people liked to dance to live music, and there were plenty of jazz clubs.

George realized that he could finish a mail route by 4PM and still get a couple of evening music gigs. He had a plan. He could get out and share his music and his family would have a secure life.  He didn’t have to go on the road.  He  was a remarkably gifted man.

 

 

JAZZ ECONOMICS

 

Jazz musicians have always found a way to survive and play the music they love. It hasn’t been easy. There will always be a push-pull between playing jazz and earning a livable wage. Duke Ellington knew this when he said “jazz is music; swing is business” .Today, less than 50% of a jazz musician’s total income comes from performing. Less than 10% comes from fees from recordings, broadcasting, composing and royalties. Teaching accounts for over 20% of their income.

With the age of the internet, album sales aren’t really a very reliable way to make money, and the debt for a jazz education can be oppressive. Today’s young jazz musician is a bit of a nerd, is friendlier, more approachable and just more ordinary. . Except for a few exceptions like Esperanza Spalding who can pack in an audience for a week-long engagement at a New York club, the average pay is not sustainable.  Young musicians have to improvise their finances while getting a gig here and a gig there.
Every day musicians are having to learn how to manage a gig economy. It isn’t easy, but we can learn something from their trials and successes..

THE GIG ECONOMY

 

 

The definition of work began to change with shifting economic conditions and our new digital and technological advances, This change in the economy has created a new labor force characterized by independent and contractual labor which we call the “gig” economy. 36% of U.S. workers have joined the gig economy through either their primary or secondary jobs.

We are all getting a chance to  live the live of a jazz musician.

 

 

MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN OUR GIG ECONOMY

 

Respect pours over musicians from the moment they enter the  Dirty Dog Jazz Café.

From the very first day the Dirty Dog opened its doors it has scheduled artists for four days in a row when possible. That is a serious gig. This was a decision that came from the Dirty dog’s primary commitment to support the jazz musicians at every turn.

A deep respect for the artists playing at the Dirty Dog comes naturally for Gretchen who always chose her principles over profit.

The Dirty Dog remains an oasis of respect for musicians and a good place to land a gig.

John Osler

 

GIGGING AT THE DIRTY DOG THIS MONTH

 

February 5 – 8

 

 

 

THE DETROIT TENORS

 

Steve Wood and Carl Cafagna, a couple of Detroit’s finest artists, will bring their tenor saxes to the Dirty Dog. for four nights. They will help us celebrate Detroit’s great jazz by listening and learning from each other. They are really good at that.

 

  

February 12 -15

 

DETROIT JAZZ FESTIVAL ALL STARS

 

 

It is a pretty easy job to assemble an all star band in Detroit. Most of the artists on any Detroit jazz  list are deserving  and usually answer their phones. Chris’s primary job is to bring together talented individuals who will best create the style of music that he envisions.

The all stars will honor a form of jazz that has been part of the music played since the heyday of Detroit jazz. The All Stars will celebrate Detroit’s influence on jazz to the Dirty Dog. The all stars will bring together some of our town’s greatest jazz musicians to play for what is always a knowledgeable house. They will not disappoint us.

 

February 19,20

 

 

Allen Dennard

 

ALLEN DENNARD

 

Twenty-four-year-old trumpeter Allen Dennard has one foot firmly planted in the classic jazz canon. The 2016 graduate of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance leads his own rotating jazz ensemble while also regularly playing with the likes of Detroit legends Marion Hayden, Wendell Harrison, and David McMurray. This April saw his first release Stepping In, which evokes the sounds of Miles Davis’ classic quintet.

February 21,22

 

 

 

FOUR FRESHMEN

 

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. Throughout 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. Help us celebrate  with some good food, great jazz and a lot of smiles.

 

February 25

 

 

 

THE DIRTY DOGS

 

Seven of our best traditional jazz artists were assembled by drummer Pete Siers as a show of gratitude for one of jazz music’s greatest supporters, Gretchen Valade. For one night Gretchen was treated to the music that brought back fond memories of her first introduction to jazz while a student in New York. The band have named themselves: ” The Dirty Dogs”.

 

 

 

February 26 – 29

 

 

JEFF CANADY

 

Don’t miss this chance to witness some high energy jazz that comes only from Detroit and our young artists.

 

 

  

 

 

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January 28, 2020

 

HUNKERING DOWN

 

Maybe it is because I am getting a little long in the tooth, but winter isn’t as it used to be.

I remember when the ice froze over for months of skating, and the snow hung around for skiing and was white.

It looks like we will have temperatures above freezing this coming week. Your car and house windows will still have an icy glaze in the morning that makes it hard to see. a

Again this year there is more slush than crunchy snow. We are active people and being holed up usually doesn’t fit our nature. We can become grumpy. We need some relief.

 

 

 

FINDING WARMTH

 

I have a doctor who smiles when he walks into the small cold room where I sit waiting for my yearly medical exam. The nurse had just left looking like I had failed my electrocardiogram. She had given me a glance full of pity after studying my blood tests. My blood pressure soars with with the potentially bad news. What a relief it is then to see this smiling kind doctor come through the door. He asks me some questions and then listens as if he were interested in what I have to say, things like “It hurts right here a little.” and “I am about to go on a diet.” His warm non responses are assurances that I am not terminally ill. He is a nice guy and can be trusted. I should remember to schedule the visit to the doctor in the winter when I can use some warmth. Fortunately there are some other places that I can go. I sneak out to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café.

 

 

We can stay huddled by the fire with a book, but we really should get out.

 

We don’t want to become grumpy and hemmed in. We need a pretty good reason to leave a warm home, scrape the windshield and then navigate the icy roads. We  need to get to a place that will get our juices flowing again. We need to be warm down to our bones.

Just yards from where your car is left for the Dirty Dog Jazz Café’s complimentary valet parking  is one of the warmest places in town. The warmth comes  from the heating system, the music, the food, the pub like atmosphere and most of all the pleasant smiley staff.

Once they get settled, visitors to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café often find a smile sneaking across their faces, especially this week when Ralphe Armstrong’s music and good nature can be counted on to pick up our spirits.

 

 

Playing outside isn’t everyone’s first choice.

 

Ralphe Armstrong the great Detroit jazz bassist prefers warm places to hang out and play. He does have real choices as he is often invited to gather up his bass and get to warmer climes when Detroit ices over. When he does hang around town you can find him at the town’s warmest place, playing jazz at the Dirty Dog jazz Café.

Ralph Armstrong travels a lot.When he is in town and has a gig at the Dirty Dog, he will get some friends on the phone and enlist them for his band. Detroit is full of first call professional jazz musicians who have shared the stage with Ralphe. Yet Ralphe remains loyal to his musical partners. These are all survivors of Ralphe’s sort of witty remarks, but all his band mates know they have a chance to play in a welcoming venue with a very warm man.

 

 

Ralphe Armstrong is a genuinely warm guy.

 

Ralph Armstrong is an animated performer and it is hard not to take your eyes off of him. He is hard to miss. He is that gregarious friend in grade school. The one who always got you in trouble. You should never have followed his lead, but his eyes told you that he knew something that would make everything turn out OK. Ralphe has the knack of filling a room with his good natured  warmth. Being around Ralphe is a good place to be.

I happened to notice this Facebook post from Ralphe Armstrong. It tells us something about his heart.

Today I Gave 15 Year Old Cameron Morgan a brand new keyboard,
given to me by organ legend Bobby Wright!  Bobby heard this young man play !! And gave it to me . I went to buy a case , then went to The Dirty Dog to give it to this CASS TECH piano prodigy. I’m exhausted, but this was truly worth it”.

 

 

Ralphe really warms up when he talks about Detroit

 

A wondrous spirit, Ralphe Armstrong will bring a good argument that Detroit’s jazz is on  the rise. Ralphe is a true champion of Detroit and of its greatest export, its music.

I am a blatant fan of Detroit, where I was born, but I pale in my enthusiasm next to  one of Detroit’s staunchest advocates, Ralphe Armstrong. Ralphe will certainly mention his love for his town when he takes the stage at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café this week. Ralphe can be, well, glib. He has the gift of gab. It is hard to take his picture without his getting that devilish glint in his eyes. But when he talks about Detroit up on that stage, it is from the heart. Ralphe is one of many of our homegrown talents who are in demand worldwide and have spent a lot of their life on the road. Ralphe always comes home, and when he does he tells us how happy he is to be back.

What is it that keeps an internationally renowned artist like Ralphe Armstrong so rooted? Is it his many friends?  Perhaps he likes being around so many other great artists. Maybe it is because Detroit is a  good place to draw inspiration.

I believe that Ralphe Armstrong is aware of many of the snarly things growing in the soil of Detroit. He knows of the rocks and weeds that make the flowers struggle to bloom. But bloom they do. The children of Detroit when given patience and opportunity work hard and achieve. They are what Ralphe sees happening when he looks into a student’s eager to learn eyes, and it’s what keeps Ralphe teaching and inspiring children in our schools.

 

 

INSIDE THE DIRTY DOG MORE WARMING SMILES

 

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On these cold winter evenings the Dirty Dog will assemble a staff that understands the winter blahs. These are the folks who will welcome the guests into  a warm, serene and uplifting experience. This process happens long before the band or any patrons show up. What I have observed is that the management sets the tone. Their  respectful and good natured work ethic is contagious.

 

I have had a chance to watch the staff prepare for an evening’s upbeat event. Tables were prepared while the kitchen started to hum.  They went about their tasks with a great deal of independence and purpose. The service at the Dirty Dog is a team effort and so was the preparation. This kind of service is not an easy task, and success is not an  accident.  Gretchen, Tom, André, Willy and all the staff seem to like being around each other. The Dirty Dog is a warm place even before the guests arrive.

Every time Ralphe Armstrong comes to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café he reminds us that we  have something really good in our backyard.

 

John Osler

 

COMING TO THE DIRTY DOG THIS WEEK

 

January 29 – February 1

 

 

RALPHE ARMSTRONG

 

A wondrous spirit, Ralphe Armstrong will bring a well educated argument that Detroit’s  jazz is on  the rise. Ralphe is a true champion of Detroit and of its greatest export, its music

Ralphe Armstrong will make you forget about your woes when he brings his big bass and big heart to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café for two nights this week.

Ralphe Armstrong makes what he does look easy. That is because his dad built a bass for him when he was little, many others encouraged him, and he worked hard. The result is that we now get to spend some time with a world class musician.

 

 

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