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Opened in 2008, The Dirty Dog is one of the premiere destinations in the United States for world class Jazz and cuisine. It combines the charm of an English-style pub with intimacy and meticulous attention to detail and hospitality.
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September 20, 2017



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


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


I was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery this past Wednesday. Unfortunately I went into anaphylactic shock and my body shut down completely. I was aware that life was passing out of me. Through a ton of good luck and good emergency medical help my heart and lungs were revived after five minutes, and I miraculously survived. Except for the pain from the pounding that I took during CPR, there will be no lasting damage.

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



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

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


RIVERA :  a brook or a stream



DIEGO RIVERA:  a talented artist






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


Detroit Industry: The Murals of Diego Rivera




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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





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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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


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

John Osler









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September 14, 2017



Miles Davis collaborating with composer and orchestral leader Gil Evans in the late 1950’s for his orchestral Jazz series that included such celebrated classics as “Miles Ahead” and “Sketches of Spain”.  Photo:



Vocals vs. Instrumentals?



Music can be divided into two distinct types: Vocal music and Instrumentals. Many music fans prefer one or the other. Jazz and Classical music have large amounts of both but are primarily instrumental over all.



Popular music is primarily vocal music and that is reflected in commercial Top40 radio, except for the rare instrumental that pops up now and then. How many remember Mason Williams’s 1968 hit “Classical Gas” or Motown’s Junior Walker’s “Cleo’s Mood” from 1962?  Even in Public Radio the singer/songwriter formatted stations feature almost all vocal music.



Was it always this way? Not really. Not since radio formats began dictating the tastes and music preferences of mass audiences in the 1950s and beyond to boost record sales. This started with the advent of rock, R&B and early country/western swing. This replaced music from the Jazz, big band/swing era that dominated radio in many cities from the 1930s and 40’s and included a lot of instrumental and vocal Jazz from live coast to coast performances from clubs around the country.




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Ella Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917-June 15, 1996), one of the most significant vocalists of the 20th century and was known as one as one of the most amazing scat singers of all time. Photo: New York Times



Vocal music goes back to prehistoric times as the voice was most likely the first instrument. Early humans started imitating each other as well as birds and other animals. They made primitive instruments used for amusement, dancing, communication, rituals and other activities. Over the years, traditional forms of music were somewhat balanced between being vocal or instrumental based. Vocal music quite often does have an instrumental accompaniment but some indigenous forms were acapella.



Vocal music’s message is more direct than the average instrumental piece which tends to be emotionally expressive with its tonal structure and harmonies that often subtly mimic human expressions (crying, laughter, etc.) and behavior to communicate the universal language of innate feelings and emotions. Listeners have said they find instrumental music to be more meditative and personal as it allows the mind to wander freely.



Most pop music is vocal based and dominant in our culture, except for Rap and Hip Hop and a few other exceptions. This means the average music listener has had little exposure to instrumental genres except in movie, TV and other soundtracks.



Los Angeles based bassist, composer, Thundercat fuses his brand of Jazz with elements of hip hop and other contemporary styles. Photo:



Jazz and classical listeners are usually comfortable with both types and are particularly comfortable with instrumental music mainly of their exposure to it from these genres.



Jazz instrumentals are well known with Big Band and Swing and orchestral Jazz in general such as the music Miles Davis mae with Gil Evans in the 1950’s and 1960’s.



Some of the most influential Blues and Jazz vocalists of the 20th century were responsible for defining vocal styles for several generations that followed. These include Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Joe Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat Cole, Johnny Hartman, and many others.



Throughout history there have been many kinds of vocal music including non-verbal forms from most cultures. Many of these forms are centuries old, elaborate, untexted vocal improvisations from ancient cultures across the globe.



In Jazz we have scat singing, which is vocal improvisation with wordless sounds that often imitate instruments from low to high registers.  Hip Hop is a modern form that is fusing its way into Jazz by younger, newer artists who are showing its influence on their music. It is a genre that encourages vocal improvisation, with lyrics and rhythmic patterns.



Most instrumental fans have already been exposed to vocal music in our culture. But vocal fans haven’t always been exposed to Jazz, Blues, Classical and other instrumental genres.



Whatever the group you identify with, it’s time to open up and cross over to the other side. You might discover a whole new world of music to enjoy, especially Jazz, which is what the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe is all about. Check out our calendar for upcoming shows featuring both instrumental and vocal music representing various styles within the Jazz repertoire.



There many other outlets for live Jazz in Detroit as well including the Paradise Jazz series produced by Detroit Symphony.





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.





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September 11, 2017




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


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


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


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




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








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






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




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







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






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










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


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


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





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


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












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


John Osler





September 13,  14





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


September 15, 16





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




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September 7, 2017





Shahida Nurullah performs at least twice each year at the Dirty Dog and will be there with her band next Wednesday and Thursday, September 13 and 14 for two sets each night. She has built quite a following at the club. Once people hear what she can do with a song with her comfortable style and velvety smooth voice, they’re hooked. This applies to both new fans and longtime devotees.



This Detroit based chanteuse has brought her vocal gifts to audiences all over the world including Paris, Amsterdam, and New York. Listeners are lured into the music by her intimate, engaging style. Her lovely alto voice brings the lyrics and melody to life as she personalizes each piece as if it were her own.



She chooses songs from a diverse roster of composers and songwriters. You’ll hear everything from Jazz, Blues, Broadway show tunes, Sambas and Bossa Nova, even well known popular songs such as Moon River and Everybody’s Talkin’ which she beautifully reinterprets – creating her own rendition of each song she sings in her own inimitable style. Song writers range from George Gershwin and Antonio Carlos Jobim to Stephen Sondheim Vernon Duke, and The Beatles.




Photo: John Osler



It’s not surprising that she has received praise from audiences all over the globe with raving reviews in such publications as The New York Times, The Detroit Free Press, DownBeat magazine among many others including the foreign press.



Here are some excerpts of an on-air review from a public broadcaster in Sacramento who, along with his radio audience was obviously very impressed with Ms. Nurallah’s work. “She handles standards in a way that remains true to the music as written, yet refreshingly her own. It’s a joy in radio to find a voice the does not sound like someone else. Her phrasing is subtle, just lovely.”




These are the types of comments Ms. Nurallah’s voice conjures up wherever and whenever she sings. She’s one of a kind and a true artist of the “song”. Whether you’re already a fan or are interested in hearing her for the first time…’ll walk away having had a beautiful listening experience.


For reservations and information call 313-882-5299 or go to





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.





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September 5, 2017




Every year I think that the new jazz year starts with the Tuesday following Labor Day. The previous jazz year wraps up as I walk out of Hart Plaza, turn around and regretfully say goodbye to the Detroit Jazz Festival. Although this year the threat of a serious thunder storm ended the festival prematurely at 5PM, this year’s festival was one of the most successful according to the official international smile meter.



The festival is appropriately held on Labor Day weekend. However, metropolitan Detroit doesn’t take that weekend off. Everyone has a venue to go to and they are all  terrific. There is little reason to go out of town, with the absolute jewel being the Detroit Jazz Festival, where our community puts its soul on display. Every year we show off what we do best, exposing the roots of our music, pain, shame, joy, resilience, cleverness and a lot of kindness. For some reason the 2017 festival added some extra zest to its jazz. It seems as though we always get more than the planners planned . There was again something palpably hopeful in the air.  The crowd got it and showed their appreciation. The musicians caught the fans’ vibes and used them. The fans knew that something beautiful was going on.







During a lot of the sets something happens that makes this festival unique. The crowd sitting on hard concrete seats become one with musicians sitting in their more comfortable chairs. They start to move together, everyone swaying, clapping with subtle foot taps all of this movement synced to the music. I am often aware of the powerful connection between the artists and a Detroit audience.








There is something special when we find beauty in familiar and unexpected places, like the flowers that insist on coming up in the cracks in our sidewalks.  Thank you to all the great musicians for coming back and reminding us why you do come back. Thanks to all the staff and the volunteers who are often too busy to enjoy their own efforts.










Hopefully some city planners might have wandered in amidst this four day event held right in the middle of downtown. This is an event which takes the assets that exist in the city and shares these assets among a diverse and deserving following. Downtown Detroit glows with mutual respect. The planners will see examples of renewal happening  stage after stage and bands taking a solid foundation and building on it. It’s a pretty good model for our future growth.






After the crew from the Dirty Dog wraps up the tent at the Detroit Jazz Festival on Monday, they will  go back to work making the coming jazz year the best jazz year ever.










There will jazz at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café following the festival. It is fitting that Steve Wood and Carl Cafagna, a couple of Detroit’s finest artists, will kick off this new year of Detroit jazz at the Dirty Dog.





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August 31, 2017



Gayelynn McKinney performing at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe / Photo by John Osler



With more than 5 years in the making, the McKinFolk band led by Gayelynn McKinney makes its worldwide debut this month both on record with a new release and at the Detroit Jazz Festival all in tribute to Detroit’s musical McKinney family.



One of Detroit’s most admired drummers, Ms. McKinney celebrates her family’s musical legacy with the new album, McKinFolk: The New Beginning – scheduled to be released mid-September on the Detroit Music Factory label, a subsidiary of Mack Avenue Records.



The multi-generational McKinFolk group is also making its debut at the Detroit Jazz Festival Saturday, September 2 from 2-3:15pm on the J.P. Morgan Chase stage. Performers include Dwight Adams, trumpet, Vincent Chandler, trombone, Marcus Elliot, tenor saxophone, Glenn Tucker, piano. Marion Hayden, bass and Gayelynn McKinney on drums.



In a recent article in Jazz Line News, Ms. McKinney talked about what inspired her to take on the McKinfolk project in the first place:


“My father (Harold McKinney) may not have died a wealthy man but, he was rich with people who loved him and his music. He left plenty of music that has not been heard by the masses…. I’m planning to go into the studio with some great musicians. At that time, I will begin the continuation of my father’s legacy, that was left to my family and I….. As I dive into his many compositions, I will be able to add some of my own interpretations to the music. I will also give some of my colleagues a chance to breathe life into some of his unfinished works. This is exciting for me! I will have a chance to hear how some of his music will be interrpreted by others! I believe my father would have liked that.”




Harold McKinney




Gayelynn’s late father, Harold McKinney was highly respected around Metro Detroit as a pianist, composer, producer, musical patriarch and teacher who inspired many musicians to persevere with their musical calling and contribute to the cultural community at large.



He combined a deep knowledge of classical music, with life long passion for Jazz, especially hard Bop. McKinney toured and played with many of the biggest names in Jazz including Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Yusef Lateef and Kenny Burrell. Along with Wendell Harrison, and others, McKinney began the Tribe collective, an artist run label, magazine and a creative outlook on urban self-determination. He was also heavily involved with the Detroit Artist’s Workshop collective founded in 1964.



I first met Mr. McKinney in the mid-1970s as I was a huge fan of the band Tribe and him in particular. During the 70’s and 80’s he regularly visited WDET 101.FM (where I worked from 1973-2005)  when we had many diverse Jazz offerings. We became “music” friends and had many inspiring conversations over the years.



Award-winning drummer, Gayelynn McKinney is musically active member of the legendary McKinney family and is promoting its legacy with her McKinfolk album and band. Besides her musically gifted father, her late mother, Gwendolyn Shepherd McKinney, was an accomplished singer. She is also related to Grammy winning record producer/pianist, Carlos McKinney, Jazz bassist Ray McKinney, trombonist Kiane Zawadi, and many others.



Growing up in a musical family was a advantageous for Gayelynn. She started taking lessons at age 8 and went on to receive a music degree from Oakland University. She then began performing professionally both nationally and internationally. In the 1980’s McKinney co-founded the Grammy nominated, ground breaking, Jazz group Straight Ahead, who are currently still active.



Today, Ms. McKinney is one of Detroit’s most accomplished instrumentalists and teachers. She was listed in DownBeat magazine this past August as one of top five favorite drummers of Carl Williams, musically astute bartender at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. She has traveled extensively, and has accompanied major artists from Chaka Khan to Roy Hargrove, Ralph Armstrong, Larry Coryell and Steve Turre.



Besides performing, teaching music is another one of her passions. She is currently in-residence at Martin Luther King High School.



She was also honored with a highly prestigious Kresge Foundation fellowship a new years backs which enabled her to complete her McKinfolk Project, She says she wants to “re-do his stuff for a new generation”.






Friends, family and dignitaries pose for a photo at the street renaming ceremony for the late Harold McKinney at Harmonie Park on September 4, 2009.  Photo: Metro Times



Besides performing, teaching music is another one of her passions. She is currently in-residence at Martin Luther King High School.



She was also honored with a highly prestigious Kresge Foundation fellowship a few years backs which enabled her to complete her McKinfolk Project, which pays tribute to her father’s legacy by releasing some of his unheard compositions. She says she wants to “re-do his stuff for a new generation”.




Gayelynn and her dad, the late Harold McKinney (1928-2001), a highly revered composer, educator, and pianist who played with such Jazz greats as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Gene Krupa, Sarah Vaughn and many others. He was also a musical patriarch who inspired countless Detroit area musicians with his positive vision and approach.






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.





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August 28, 2017


Back in the day when hard work was celebrated,  Detroit had a grand Labor Day parade with stirring speeches. Detroit had plenty of hard work that needed to be done. The ones that did the hard work were appreciated, were well paid and were ensured a good retirement. They helped win a war and became part of America’s vibrant middle class. They worked hard and they played hard. They took time to dine and dance and that meant that music was needed which would match the spirit and vitality of the city’s residents.. Detroit attracted musicians into a growing market, and Detroit became  a great town for jazz. It still is, but it hasn’t been easy.


When the jobs disappeared so did the dancing, and and many of our jazz  musicians left for greener pastures. Enough stayed and passed on the tradition, so that today Detroit continues to have a thriving jazz community.


In 2017 we seem to have less reason to celebrate the value of hard work. Today when one Googles Labor Day weekend events in Detroit, our traditional Labor Day parades are seldom mentioned. There are plenty of parades and speeches, but there seem to be more events that celebrate the good life that comes from working. There are fewer that celebrate hard work and hard workers.


The Detroit Jazz Festival celebrates the tradition of hard work, and our ability to enjoy life after working hours is still honored by the festival.






A community of like spirits will gather to celebrate good fellowship.






Now in its 38th year, the festival will take place from Hart Plaza to Campus Martius in downtown Detroit. After all these years it remains an authentic jazz event.


Certainly what we are used to hearing at the festival is a robust explosion of appreciation of life with all its hardships and joys. In Martin Luther King’s words, “Jazz speaks for life”.  It is what you would expect from Detroit and its musical heritage.


This year Festival Director Chris Collins has put together a most intriguing lineup. Chris can’t resist a challenge, as he feels that: “Jazz as an art form is not only sophisticated and intelligent, but it also speaks to the organic roots of every human being, every American, every Detroiter.”


This year Chris has scheduled  Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Danilo Pérez:, Benny Golson, Regina Carter, Stanley Clarke, Kamasi Washington and so many more amazingly talented  artists who understand his vision. They will bring their magic to Hart Plaza.







People know that Detroit’s festival is special. From all over the world jazz lovers circle the date of the Detroit Jazz Festival. Those that come find jazz of great intelligence, energy and purity. There is little hype and  a lot of music. Visitors learn that Detroit can throw a festival, and will again show its ability to do something right. This year’s festival will  attract upwards of 750,000 people,  who will leave refreshed and ready to spread the good word about Detroit.


Throughout the year and without much fanfare the Detroit Jazz Festival offers educational activities for adults and children, late-night jam sessions, rare opportunities to meet the artists and much more. And it’s all FREE.


Then for four days at the end of each summer, the best of Detroit can be experienced in our downtown. The world’s most knowledgeable group of jazz fans will be treated to great jazz. Nothing is done all year that doesn’t have these fans in mind.  Crowds will drift from venue to venue, while behind the public view crews will be taking care of all the details that that will make the 2017 Detroit Jazz Festival a glorious success.  All the hard work and planning will pay off.












Gretchen Valade is Detroit jazz’s guardian angel. She is also someone who defends her right to do things well. Her love of music and food means that Detroit’s jazz festival is always at the highest level.


She gets things done with grace and authority. The festival is the result of the right people doing their best to provide Detroit music lovers the best free jazz festival in the world.  Gretchen continues to think ahead of many of us and doesn’t skip out on the job.


How lucky for us that it was someone of Gretchen’s integrity who took charge.  She was determined to keep the festival on course as the people’s festival, a festival for those who work hard and understand hard work. These are folks ready to show their appreciation for good music. Today it remains authentic and free for all to enjoy. It reflects the best side of Detroit’s character.




The festival brings together so many accomplished musicians with different stories to tell and ways of telling them.  This community of like spirits gathers annually to celebrate the music and good fellowship.


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Chef Andre Nemanis


Why would the smart gang at the Dirty Dog think of moving the operation? The answer is: they are going to take the operation to where the best jazz in town will be playing. The Dirty Dog is setting up its operation in downtown Detroit, right in the middle of the Detroit Jazz Festival.  At the Dirty Dog tent all the staff and the chefs will be rolling up their sleeves to provide a shady place complete with the sound of the music, the smell of  barbecue, a smiling staff and a view of the stage.


The Dirty Dog Jazz Café  food tent is one of the favorite gathering spots at the Detroit Jazz Festival.  It doesn’t get much better than this for good food, prompt service and great jazz, and all amidst the smiles of friends.




The scent of Dirty Dog barbecue will waft its way up Woodward Avenue drawing us in for some chow and a beverage.





The Detroit Jazz Festival will give the jazz musicians and Detroiters a chance to be part of something special. This could  be the time and place where jazz history will be made.  The artists are encouraged to flood the air with improvisation and exploration.  With so much good stuff going on, trying not to miss a moment will be the challenge. We are so lucky it is in our town.

John Osler



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August 22, 2017

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The legendary blues artist,  John Lee Hooker, who lived in Detroit for nearly 30 years, is being celebrated this year as it marks the centennial of his birth. He was born near Clarksdale in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi on August 22, 1917 and died in Los Altos, California on June 21 2001. The son of a sharecropper he began playing guitar at a young age and soon fashioned his own distinct guitar style which incorporated elements of Delta Blues as well as Boogie Woogie piano among other influences to create a “sound like no other”.



This highly influential guitarist, composer and singer spent many important musical years living in Detroit after moving here to work at the Ford Motor Co. in 1943. He soon became a regular in the blues clubs on Hastings street in the heart of the Black Bottom neighborhood on the east side. He eventually found the electric guitar to be more compatible with the fuller sound he was looking for and began recording on a regular basis. Detroit is where he made a name for himself and where his career really took off as he became known as the “King of the Boogie”.



His 1948 single “Boogie Chillun”, which mentions Hastings Street in the lyrics, sold a million copies and made him a regular recording star who produced countless recordings and performances that led to him being recognized the world over.




“Boogie Chillun” original 1948 version


He had a huge influence on the rock revolution and British Invasion of the 1960’s and worked side by side with such blues influenced groups as Eric Clapton and Cream, The Rolling Stones, Canned Heat, Los Lobos, Van Morrison, Santana, Jeff Beck and so many others who idolized him and his signature sound, characterized by a repetitive hard driving syncopated motif which is also the basis for “funk” rhythms used by James Brown early in his career and others. This was also extremely popular with rock audiences around the world. He soon moved to California where he lived for the remainder of his life.





John Lee Hooker and Carlos Santana  /  Photo:





John Lee Hooker performing “Boogie Chillun” with the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton in 1989


Hooker is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Blues Hall of Fame, Memphis Music Hall of Fame, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and won four Grammy’s.







I was lucky enough to witness his extraordinary talents first hand and got to see him perform live a number of times including bringing him in to play at WDET’s annual music festival in 1991 at Meadow Brook. I also had the opportunity in 2000 to do a lengthy radio interview with him about Jimi Hendrix who was heavily influenced by his singing and guitar stylings.





John Lee Hooker and I backstage at the WDET 101.9FM music festival in 1991.


Here’s more amazing biographical information about John Lee Hooker from his official website:


When the young bohemian artists of the 1960s “discovered” Hooker, among other notable blues originators, he found his career taking on a new direction. With the folk movement in high gear, Hooker returned to his solo, acoustic roots, and was in strong demand to perform at colleges and folk festivals around the country. Across the Atlantic, emerging British bands were idolizing Hooker’s work. Artists like the Rolling Stones, the Animals and the Yardbirds introduced Hooker’s sound to new and eager audiences, whose admiration and influence helped build Hooker up to superstar status.



By 1970, Hooker had relocated to California and was busy collaborating on several projects with rock acts. One such collaboration was with Canned Heat, which resulted in 1971’s hit record Hooker ’n’ Heat. The double LP became John Lee Hooker’s first charting album.
Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, John Lee toured the U.S. and Europe steadily.



His appearance in the legendary Blues Brothers movie resulted in a heightened profile once again. Then, at the age of 72, John Lee Hooker released the biggest album of his career, The Healer. The GRAMMY® Award-winning 1989 LP paired contemporary artists (Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Los Lobos and George Thorogood, among others) with Hooker on some of his most famous tracks. The Healer was released to critical acclaim and sold over one million copies. The Hook rounded out the decade as a guest performer with the Rolling Stones, during the national broadcast of their 1989 Steel Wheels tour.



With his recent successes, John Lee entered the 1990s with a sense of renewed inspiration. Not only was the decade a time of celebration and recognition for the legendary artist, but it was also a highly productive era.



He released five studio albums over the next few years, including Mr. Lucky, which once again teamed up Hooker with an array of artists; Boom Boom, which aimed to introduce new fans to his classic material; the GRAMMY® Award-winning Chill Out; and a collaboration with Van Morrison, Don’t Look Back, which also garnered two awards at the 1997 GRAMMYs®.



Throughout the decade, Hooker’s great body of work and contributions to modern music were being recognized not only by his peers, but also by a younger generation. He became a familiar face in popular culture, with appearances on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman.



In 2000, shortly before his death, John Lee Hooker was recognized with a GRAMMY® Lifetime Achievement Award, and just one week before his passing, ever true to form, the bluesman spent his final Saturday night playing a now-legendary show to a packed house at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, CA.



The Hook continues to live on: His music can regularly be heard in TV shows, commercials and films, and many of his tracks have also found a second life sampled in new songs – by the likes of R&B star Brandi, hip-hop legend Chuck D and French electronic musician St Germain, among many others. Most recently, his iconic recording, the 1962 Vee-Jay Records single “Boom Boom,” was inducted into the 2016
GRAMMY® Hall of Fame.





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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August 21, 2017




We expect so much of August.


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





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


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



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





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


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






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


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





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






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


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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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




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


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

John Osler





AUGUST 23 _ 24








AUGUST 25 – 26














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August 14, 2017




I have been away for the last month in a quiet and beautiful environment and have had time to think about a lot of things.  My time was winding down and my thoughts turned to what I can look forward to when I returned to Detroit. One of the things that made me smile was thinking about what my first encounter with my friend, Gretchen Valade would be like. She will probably say “where you been? you missed some good music!” She will then smile which is her way of saying it is good to have you back. Gretchen is a friend and is one of the reasons Detroit is a good place to return to.












GRETCHEN VALADE is honest, straight forward, speaks her mind and follows through on her promises.


That is probably why most Detroiters, especially jazz musicians, feel that they  have a good friend in Gretchen Valade. They are right. She has been a good friend to Detroit and its music.




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


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


The next time you come to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café you will begin to understand the gift Gretchen Valade has given us. She has created a warm place to hear great jazz and be served with grace. She has honored the artists with four day gigs and the respect they deserve. The joy on the patron’s faces  is a reflection of her generous heart




It was 2008 and the world was in the grip of a serious recession. There were foreclosures and bankruptcies including Detroit’s auto industry. We all felt the downward pull. I went to a place that has always been therapeutic. I went to a local jazz club. It was a new, somewhat upscale place, called the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. I sat at the bar and at some point started talking  to Carl, the club’s bartender and therapist.




We talked about art and jazz. I asked if it would be OK to photograph the artists for reference for future painting. He pointed to a bar stool and told me to sit there during the first set on a Wednesday night. I did as I was instructed. Before the band started up Carl introduced me to a handsome lady sitting next to me. That was how I met Gretchen Valade the owner and  proprietress of the Dirty Dog, a genuinely classy person, the guardian angel to many and the savior of Detroit’s jazz at its darkest hour. It turns out I can be added to the list of those who have benefited from Gretchen’s big heart.







Detroit is a city that prides itself on being resilient. We are the comeback city. We get knocked down, and we get back up. True enough, but not that simple. We need some help sometimes. We look for a champion for Detroit to appear. Sometimes we get lucky and one of our own steps up. They tell us we count and that we are special. They get strong when the weak walk away.


In 2005 a champion appeared. Gretchen Valade said  “PHOOEY” to the people that thought Detroit was dying. She saw the vibrant talent in the Detroit jazz community and she knew that the people of Detroit have their hopes permanently entangled in the city’s music. The music is of the city and it remains deep in the city’s DNA. The people still moved to the music, and the music hadn’t stopped. The machines may have slowed down, shop doors may have closed, politicians may have gone to jail. Meanwhile many leaders were throwing up their hands and walking away. The music was still really good, and Gretchen knew that something had to be done. And she did something. Detroit’s symbol of excellence, the Detroit Jazz Festival, was in trouble. As soon as Gretchen found out she set out to do what was necessary to keep it going. She was all over this task. How lucky that it was someone of Gretchen’s integrity who took charge.  She was determined to keep the event, Detroit’s event. Today it remains free for all to enjoy and reflects the best side of Detroit’s character.


People know that Detroit’s festival is special. From all over the world jazz lovers circle the date of Detroit’s jazz festival. Those that come find jazz of great intelligence, energy and purity. There is little hype and  a lot of music. Visitors learn that Detroit can throw a festival. We get the credit for doing something right. This year’s festival will run from Sept 1 – Sept 4 and will attract upwards of 750,000 people and bring in an estimated $90 million to our area.




Taking credit is not something Detroit is very good at doing. Gretchen has always shunned deserved attention for her good deeds. It is contagious.


This week guitarist Spencer Barefield will be at the Dirty Dog. Spencer has had a rich and acclaimed musical life and has a lot of stories to tell. When he plays the Dirty Dog Jazz Café he will come on stage quietly and speak mostly with his guitar, giving the audience what they came for. He probably will not promote his accomplishments. Mutual respect will fill the room along with some great music. This will please Gretchen.


John Osler









This week Spencer Barefield will  show up at the Dog and go to work. He is another Detroit artist with a long list of credits, who is eager to give his very best to the appreciative crowd that gathers at this club. Spenser will deserve and will accept applause.




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