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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.
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 13, 2020

The Elements of Jazz

 

Jazz Elements of Composition

 

In this week’s Jazz Notes we focus on the basics of compositional elements in Jazz. This gives us a rough “road map” as to what to listen for in the music. Although there are no two Jazz pieces that are completely alike, Jazz, like most genres does have some common elements that help characterize it and define it’s sound.

 

 

Generally, we can define these key elements as use of the blues and pentatonic ( scales, syncopation, swing (or “a swaying beat” also heard in funk and other rhythmic styles) and the use of improvisation.

 

esperanzaSpaldingPinterest.com

Esperanza Spalding

 

Music itself is an art form that combines or alternates sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch which is basic to melody and harmony, rhythm which defines tempo, meter, articulation, and dynamics, which affect sonic qualities such as, volume, timbre and texture. The word music, comes from the Greek word mousike, meaning “art of the Muses”.

 

 

Jazz ranges from strictly organized compositions, through free form/improvisational music to written forms such as scores and charts.

 

 

Compositional techniques are the methods used to create most styles of music. These range from using written musical notation, to the use of improvisation, musical montage, and arrangements for various ensemble configurations.

 

 

Improvisation is a key element of Jazz. It is the act of composing extemporaneously during the performance and assembling the musical elements.

 

 

One method to compose Jazz is starting with a base series of chords. Once the series of chords is selected, additional lines are added to embellish these, and usually include a lead melody line.

 

 

Another method involves free playing. For example, a pianist might simply sit and start playing chords, melodies, or random notes that come to mind in order to find some inspiration, then build on the discovered lines to add depth.

 

 

Creating structure to a piece means composers may decide to divide their music into sections. One common form in Jazz involves an exposition, development, and recapitulation. The end speaks to the beginning, concluding things, while the development allows for personal interpretation and improvisation.

 

 

Instrumentation is the task of adapting a composition for musical instruments and ensembles. This is known as arranging or orchestrating. A composition may have multiple arrangements based on such factors as its intended audience, musical genre or various stylistic treatments.

 

 

This breakdown of compositional elements is a useful tool to use while listening to many different genres of music, not just Jazz. Happy listening!

 

 

 

Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a trained pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM.

 

 

 

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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 7, 2020

Jazz Notes with Judy Adams

 

JazzHeadphonesAllAboutJazzCom

 

The Art of Listening to Jazz

Jazz has been around since before the beginning of the 20th century. But unlike other genres, it keeps on growing, picking up new fans along the way. Many of them love the music but say they wish they knew more about it…. Below is a new installment in our on-going series of “The Art of Listening to Jazz”.

 

JAZZ enrichBistro.com

 

Jazz is a true musical art form and listening to Jazz is also an art.

 

It involves listener participation. And, the more we “hear”, the more we can appreciate, from its complex melodic, harmonic and rhythmic elements, to its use of improvisation where the musicians use this centuries-old performance art to create music “in the moment” making each performance a unique experience.

 

Most of the time there is a rhythmic or melodic theme that one is improvising off of. It is an organized sequence of notes that creates a central idea or phrase that is often repeated throughout the piece.

 

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Photo by InStock

 

Concentrating on these themes is what guides the listener through to the improvisation.

 

Although it is spontaneous, it still involves special techniques musicians utilize. Sometimes the theme is played with different modes or scales. Some artists will alter the phrasing by keeping the general frame work the same but changing other aspects of the piece.

 

 

Jazz improvisational styles also vary from musician to musician. Some leave elements of the theme intact, allowing it to be prominent enough to shine through the improvisation, while others favor a more abstract, formless approach. Each type of Jazz seems to favor a different approach to improvisation as well. Traditional Jazz favors a more conservative approach while contemporary Jazz encourages the musicians to be more adventurous and experimental.

 

The attentive listener will be able to hear the alterations in the thematic material enough to appreciate the musician’s individual interpretation of the music. Most of the “pop” and “classical” music we hear doesn’t contain these free-form opportunities. But it is this intellectual and artistic depth that attracts us to the Jazz experience in the first place. It’s also what gives Jazz its lasting appeal because no two performances are alike.

 

 

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Art Tatum, the Vogue Room, New York
1946 or 1948

Photo: William P. Gottlieb, Wikipedia

Art Tatum, (1909 – 1956) was a Jazz pianist who is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest Jazz pianists and improvisors of all time. He was also a major influence on later generations of Jazz pianists. Critic Scott Yanow wrote, “Tatum’s quick reflexes and boundless imagination kept his improvisations filled with fresh (and sometimes futuristic) ideas that put him way ahead of his contemporaries”.

 

 

 

 

Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a trained pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM.

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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.

 

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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?

 

 

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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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JAZZ NOTES  /  It’s a Family Thing…

 

As we’ve mentioned previously in “Jazz Notes”, it’s not surprising that children growing up with professional musicians in the house often become musicians themselves. Growing up in a musical environment gives family members an advantage with their continuous exposure to the music and the “musician lifestyle”.

 

 

 

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Bassist, Rodney Whitaker and his newest album “All Too Soon”…

 

There are many examples of musicians today who followed in the footsteps of their parents or other close relatives. It was wonderful hearing the talented Rockelle Fortin singing with her father, acclaimed bassist Rodney Whitaker and his band recently at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe.

 

I was impressed that he didn’t introduce her as his daughter but instead as Rockelle Fortin.  It showed his respect for her as an artist and it got me thinking about all of the other “Jazz” progeny in today’s music.  Rodney Whitaker will be at the Dirty Dog April 10,11, 2020.

 

 

marsalisFamily

 

The Marsalis family of Jazz artists. /  Photo by NPR.org

 

The Marsalis’s are one of today’s most well-known musical families. Led by their father and mentor, pianist/educator, Ellis Marsalis, the famous brothers, Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, Jason, Ellis III and Mboya-Kenyatta have helped put the Marsalis name on the Jazz world map.

 

 

gayelynnMckinney, photo- musicpage.com

 

Drummer and band leader, Gayelynn McKinney / Photo by MusicPage.com

 

Detroit’s well-known McKinney family formerly led by the late pianist/educator and patriarch Harold McKinney, is now led by daughter and drummer Gayelynn McKinney with pianist Carlos McKinney, bassist Ray McKinney and trombonist Kiane Zawaldi among others.

 

Gayelynn McKinney is now one of Detroit’s most accomplished drummers and band leaders. Over the years she has played for renowned international music artists like the Aretha Franklin, Freda Payne, Chaka Khan, Benny Golson, Roy Hargrove, Larry Coryell, Marcus Belgrave, Ralphe Armstrong, Roy Ayers, and Geri Allen. She’ll be playing at the Dirty Dog 3 different times in the coming months, first with Ralphe Armstrong next week from January 29-February 1, then with her own band from March 11-14, and with Straight Ahead from May 27-30th, For reservations call 313-882-05299

 

 

ElvinJones

 

Drummer Elvin Jones / photo by WikiRadio.org

 

Pontiac, Michigan’s Jones brothers were one of the first families of Jazz. Elvin Jones was one of Jazz’s most powerful and influential drummers. Having worked with John Coltrane from 1960-66, he continued on his own musical path until his passing in 2004. Pianist, Hank Jones, made significant contributions to the development of Jazz piano and Thad Jones was a famous trumpeter, composer and arranger who worked with Count Basie and, later, with his own band, The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.

 

 

The fact that Jazz continues to grow in many ways is a good sign that the genre has lasting appeal. While musical families nurture and insprire their offspring, we also see this happening with Jazz education where exposure to the music is the key to forming new artists who feel an affinity to sounds of Jazz.

 

The influential and powerful Jazz drummer Elvin Jones (1927-2004) in 1976.  Photo Wikipedia

 

 

 

Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a trained pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM.

 

 

 

 

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January 21, 2020

Everybody has the blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for Faith. In music, especially that broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone to all of these. ” 

 

 

 

MARTIN’S WORDS STILL MATTER

 

My mother’s voice was always calm and soothing. She took time from her life to read to me. I can still curl up inside the memory of her pleasantness and the choice of her words.

My father had less time for extended warm moments. His voice was firm, authoritarian and final. It was also loving because he was loving which was reflected in his choice of words.

 

ALL WORDS MATTER

 

Martin Luther King Jr came along and seemed to find the right words like my dad with the calmness of my mom. He reinforced my appreciation for the spoken and written word.

Martin Luther King Jr had many gifts. He seemed to see truths clearly. He fearlessly shared these truths and directed us to take action. We are so lucky that one man seemed  to know so much and also had such eloquence.

Martin Luther King Jr was challenged every day of his life, as many of his messages  touched nerves and were inconvenient to many. Others dismissed him for being an inappropriate messenger. He may never be accepted by some, but the words that he chose will survive for many Martin Luther King Days to come.

 

 

 

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

 

Every year on his birthday we continue to honor Dr Martin Luther King Jr. We honor the man and listen again to his words. Few Americans have achieved as much change for the good of the country. We can count on one hand the Americans who have a national holiday dedicated to remembering their lives. Dr. King’s legacy has grown each year since his tragic death. Each year we get a chance to rediscover anew the depth of his purpose, the truth of his message and the sacrifice of his actions. Dr. King sought to correct the course of our nation, he stood fast and he succeeded. We will honor him with a special day to express our thanks for his clarion call to embrace change when it is needed.

 

   

 

“NOW’S THE TIME”

 

When Martin Luther King gave his speech on the Washington mall he used the phrase, “now’s the time” which rings as true now as it did then. He found this command in the music of Charlie Parker. Dr King had a sense of urgency to affect change. He felt that those suffering from injustice deserved justice now. Still true.

 

Charlie Parker

 

DR KING AND JAZZ

 

Martin Luther King sought the truth before he spoke the truth. He listened. Maybe that is why he admired jazz musicians.

 

HERE IS WHAT HE HAD TO SAY ABOUT AMERICA’S MUSIC, JAZZ

 

Dr. Martin Luther King’s opening address to the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival:

“God has wrought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create—and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations.

Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.

This is triumphant music.

Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.

It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.

Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.

And now, Jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith.

In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.”

 

 

Most nights at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café  jazz musicians listen to and speak truth to each other. When I look around at those gathered at this jazz club to listen to jazz, I think that it might make Dr. King smile.

 

John Osler

 

COMING TO THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ

 

January 22 – 25

 

 

PLANET D NONET

Planet D Nonet is a down & dirty little swing band from Detroit. It was founded by  a familiar face at the Dirty Dog, drummer, RJ Spangler, and his long time friend, trumpeter James O’Donnell. The Planet D Nonet is about swing, blues, space-age jazz and classic American songs all served with plenty of good humor with an eye toward turning people onto this kind of music. It’s worth coming out just for RJ Spangler’s  explanations of each tune’s origins and the stories behind the music. RJ will give us an in depth description of the sources for the music before Planet D Nonet plays each tune. RJ Spangler will speak to the roots of the tunes, and then Planet D Nonet  will play their music in a way that we will be able to feel the life of the time each tune was written.  RJ and most of his bands have a serious appreciation for the jazz artists who wrote music that reflected the lives, the times and the places that these pioneers passed through. These stories of America’s music never stop inspiring us.

 

 

 

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January 16, 2020

 

 

ralpheArmstrong

 

Ralph Armstrong performing at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe/ photo by John Osler

 

 

Award winning Jazz Bassist, Ralph Armstrong is at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe from January 29-Saturday Feb. 1

 

As a well respected Jazz bassist, Ralph Armstrong, loves being from Detroit and enjoys promoting its cultural treasures while performing in various places around the world.  Ralph’s personal history goes back to the turn of the 20th century with his father, (Howard Armstrong) taking a lead role in promoting the blues and other early American folk traditions.

 

LouieBluie BluesHistorian and raycontour

Ralph’s father, Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong

 

 

Ralph’s musical talents have allowed him to play with some of the top names in Jazz and cutting edge contemporary music including Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Larry Coryell and Jean-Luc Ponty to name a few. That’s Ralph , second on the left, with Mahavishnu in the 1970’s.

 

 

RalphArmstrong+JohnMcLaughlin's Mahavishu orchestra

 

And, like so many other successful musicians from Detroit, he went to Cass Technical High School and Interlochen School of Fine Arts in northern Michigan. Something else that sets Ralph apart, was that he was born into a musical family as his father Howard Armstrong was a famous musician and artist known as “Louie Bluie” (1909-2003) who was part of a an award-winning trio known as Martin, /Bogan and Armstrong.

 

It started when he joined a band led by Blind Roland Martin and his brother Carl Martin. He was known as a well-respected musicologist and blues historian, a country blues musician who played many different instruments, including fiddle, mandolin, and guitar.

 

Ralphe Armstrong as a child, with his father Howard

 

Ralph Armstrong as a child, with his father Howard, “Louie Bluie”, in the early 1960s

 

 

They toured the United States playing work songs and spirituals through popular Tin Pan Alley tunes. As Martin, Bogan and Armstrong, they also performed at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. The music these artists created and played is at the core of blues-based contemporary music which is the root of most of the music created in the past century. That is very significant when you stop and think about it.

 

 

LouieBluie alchetron.com LouieBluie alchetron.com

Louie Bluie Album Cover

 

 

After serving in World War II, Howard Armstrong moved to Detroit and worked in the Auto Industry until 1971. With a revival of old-time African-American music, Martin, Bogan and Armstrong reunited, and the band recorded, performed at clubs and festivals and went on a tour of South America sponsored by the U.S.State Department. They played together until Martin’s death in 1979.

 

 

Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong (March 4, 1909 – July 30, 2003) was a recipient of a prestigious  1990 National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States government’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

 

 

He continued to perform with a younger generation of musicians and released his first solo album, Louie Bluie, in collaboration with his son Ralphe Armstrong and Ray Kamalay in 1995. The album earned him a W.C. Handy Blues award nomination for Acoustic Album.

 

Armstrong was also an expert painter, and designed the juke joint set for the film The Color Purple.
He died in Boston, Massachusetts, aged 94.

 

 

 

Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM. She made her mark at WDET 101.9FM where she was program director and daily on-air music host for more than 30 years.

 

 

 

 

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January 14, 2020

 

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

 

 

FUTURE VISIONS

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

“Chelsea Bridge”

“My Little Brown Book”

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

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

“Lotus Blossom”

“A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing”

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

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

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

 

SPEAKING OF NAMES FOR TUNES/ ALBUMS

COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ

 

January 15 -18

 

 

 

IAN FINKELSTEIN

 

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

 

 

 

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