RESERVATIONS: (313) 882-5299
Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe Logo
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 brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
June 12, 2019




The Renaissance, a vibrant period of European cultural, artistic, political and scientific “rebirth” after the Middle Ages, was led by people including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Machiavelli and the Medici family.





 Growing out of “The New Negro Movement”, the Harlem Renaissance began about 1918 and lasted until about 1935.  It created a lasting shift in the landscape of the arts in America. The caliber of the black Harlem writers, painters, and musicians allowed them to create works from their own experiences and these works shattered misplaced perceptions.. These artists were significant contributors to the American culture. The dignity of black life depicted in the writing, art and music pushed against long held  stereotypical views. America and the entire world took note. All America caught jazz fever from the jazz coming out of Harlem with its syncopation and improvised solos. Jazz was at the very heart of the renaissance and gained in stature with the likes of Duke Ellington going mainstream.
Harlem brought notice to great works that might otherwise have been lost or never produced. The results were phenomenal. The artists of the Harlem Renaissance undoubtedly transformed African American culture. But the impact on all American culture was equally strong. White America could not look away,
Paintings by Aaron Douglas

The Harlem artist Aaron Douglas summed up the challenge like this:


“…Our problem is to conceive, develop, establish an art era…let’s bare our arms and plunge them deep through laughter, through pain, through sorrow, through hope, through disappointment, into the very depths of the souls of our people and drag forth material crude, rough, neglected. Then let’s sing it, dance it, write it, paint it. Let’s do the impossible. ”



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


Resilient is a word that is often used to describe Detroit. Maybe Detroit is more of a slow moving slogger than a city that can snap back quickly. Recovery in Detroit has usually come from  hard work and perseverance. Toughness we have. Detroit’s resilience can be seen in its music and those who play and support the music. Hard work and perseverance are in the city of Detroit and its music’s DNA. It is who we are.

The history of jazz is a history of true resilience. Jazz music has regularly been proclaimed  to be old hat and just as many times has come back and been trumpeted  as America’s greatest contribution to the world. Jazz is resilient because it continues to change. Jazz hasn’t so often been resurrected as it has been constantly reinventing itself. Finding something new is the what the music is about. Everyday there are players finding new ways to express their stories. We will always need jazz to illuminate the way out of our darker moments.




We are likely in a period of renaissance in Detroit. I am not sure we are yet at the peak moment of our rebirth.  We have certainly recovered some good energy and some hope since 2008.

Gretchen Valade has been a prominent leader in our rebirth along with a whole lot of other artists and friends of art. A renaissance needs some good people to stand up and lead us out of some bad times.




The whole world was beginning to experience an economic tsunami in 2008. In our corner of Michigan there was little traffic on the roads




I remember what it was like in 2008 when Detroit was on its heels and needed a quick injection of renaissance.

For most of us the mention of the year 2008 still sends chills up our spines. There was little traffic on the expressways, few cars in the parking lots at the auto plants in town and even less traffic in upscale stores or restaurants.




It was exactly at this moment in one of the hardest hit regions in the world that the idea of a creating a jazz club in an upscale neighborhood was born. How it came about is such a good but sort of crazy Detroit story.







On Kercheval Ave. in Grosse Pointe there was construction starting that would convert a shop into a jazz club. This was probably a crazy and risky idea. The future proprietor didn’t hesitate. Gretchen Valade was already doing so much to assure that jazz would lead  in  Detroit’s rebirth.  It turns out that jazz and the arts would help to get us out of our depths and would help us to recover some of our juju.




Resiliency as practiced by jazz players happens in many small acts that come from a positive attitude and the ability to accept failure as part of the process. We don’t have to have as many knockdowns in a round as Rocky endures. Hopefully when we get knocked down we learn from our misfortune.

Alvin Wattles, who was the musical director of the Michigan State University’s play about the Harlem Renaissance,  Garden of Joy,  said:  “The people of Harlem knew the only way they were going to survive was by banding together, by recognizing common goals and working together to achieve them, and that’s certainly a good message for Detroit right now.”

Detroit’s renaissance is happening in small parts by people with big minds and ideas. Folks who usually have art in their lives. These are exciting times. Show up and be a small part of this grand moment.






In 2019, after 11 years of respecting everyone who comes in the door the Dirty Dog has become a refuge for kindred spirits. Here in a neighborhood that considers a 60 foot elevation a hill and where most streets have British names sits a magnet for a very diverse audience for America’s music, jazz. With its humble roots jazz still has the power to inform our souls. It has complexity and intensity and its appeal is growing. It is democratic, expansive and can be difficult to play. It thrives in the hearts of the curious.

The Dirty Dog Jazz Café remains the home for good jazz and good ideas.

John Osler




June 12 – 15







Charles is a jazz pianist who will be joined by his wife Gwen who is conveniently a jazz vocalist. They have been headliners in Detroit music for some time. Help welcome them back to the Dirty  Dog.




Share This Article:

June 10, 2019



The modern “double bass” or simply  “bass” is the largest and lowest pitch string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra or bands in other genres including Jazz.



The bass provides the “foundation” of the band, and has a special role in supporting all of the other essential compositional ingredients in Jazz and other genres. Those ingredients include the melody, chord changes, rhythmic figures and much more.



Jazz would be lackluster without the bass. This essential instrument helps create the “bottom end” and the inherent swing and groove elements that define the Jazz feel. The bass keeps things on track, guiding a band through the various progressions in the music.



Along with keyboards, drums and percussion, the bass is part of the Jazz rhythm section. Its diverse role ranges from playing the roots of the chords, to providing melodic material and contributing rhythmic figures, that coincide with the drums.


Fender Electric bass

Fender Electric Bass


There are many different kinds of basses from the centuries-old acoustic upright “double bass” or “bass violin”, to today’s electric bass guitar and electric stand-up bass which create modern, contemporary sounds for an instrument with roots in ancient times.



The bass can be played in a variety of ways, thus creating a variety of sounds. This includes strumming, plucking, slapping, bowing, tapping, popping and other methods; each having a distinct role and affect. Many of these add specific rhythmic emphasis, especially with Jazz’s walking-bass and fusion styles.



The beautifully rich sound from an acoustic bowed bass is almost other-worldly, adding deep, resonant, sustained tones to the overall sound of the ensemble.



Next week’s “Jazz Notes” blog will pay tribute to many of great bassists who are or have been from Detroit.



The list includes one of today’s finest bassists in Jazz and contemporary music, Ralphe Armstrong, who performs at the Dirty Dog, Wednesday June 26 and Thursday, June 27. 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. She made her mark at WDET 101.9FM where she was program director and daily on-air music host for more than 30 years.



Share This Article:

June 6, 2019




June is here. It is time to safely put the snow shovels away in Michigan. We already are surrounded by beautiful flowering trees and plants. Weeds are finding growth opportunities in the darndest places. I found a dandelion growing in a 1/4 inch wide crack in our sidewalk. When the will is there, things have a way of growing up., even our own kids and our grandkids.

For some of them this will be gradation week. Off they go into the next stage of their lives. Hopefully they will continue to grow smarter and stronger after the school year ends.

I often see some young jazz students come early to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. They get seats close to the band. These young musicians will have a chance to get some continuing education in one of the best jazz clubs in America.  With time they will acquire the same passion, manners and assurance that the established musicians possess. They will notice that in jazz, musicians who share a stage are assumed to be equals. When they leave the club they will carry with them some reasons to go home and practice. The kids who show up at  jazz clubs will usually have a parent close at hand, someone who is having just as much joy being there as his/her young friend. We will likely be seeing some of these kids at a jam in the future. It will depend on the adults in their life as well as their innate abilities.





Jazz-band teachers do one thing right in teaching,  something that other teachers could learn from. I think it is that they talk to the students as if they will soon be playing in a band with them. In Detroit most teachers who teach in jazz programs are themselves players. They are professionals. They have a vested interest in pushing their students to get to their level. Think about what they have to do: They take young kids who know little about music beyond humming a tune and teach them music theory, teach them to read music, help them with their instrument and then they have to teach the students how to compose on the fly. Hearing such wonderful music coming from young people raises a nagging question. What can we learn from jazz teachers to help kids master other complicated courses such as science, math, language arts, etc. I sometimes think all teachers should be required to take an arts course from a professional artist.




If we look at a jazz band we will witness teachers learning and learners teaching

, all on the fly. Jazz musicians are always ready to learn from each other, probably because they have had teachers and band mates who genuinely have deserved respect. No one can teach  jazz except some one who can play the music. All jazz musicians and most artists, whether they know it or not, are in a continuous learning mode. Every note, brushstroke or word can be a little different and worth thinking about. I remain in awe of both jazz musicians and teachers.





Herbie Hancock – “A great teacher stimulates his student’s creativity enough so that they go out & find the answers themselves.





We all have been asked “who is your favorite teacher?”. We automatically think back to our school days for an answer. Did we stop learning after we left school? Had we learned everything we needed to know? Probably not, we are all students every day of our lives and we go through life surrounded by teachers. Every day I meet people whose lives are both inspiring and instructive, There is so much to be learned, if only I weren’t always in such a hurry. We owe so much to those generous folks who take some time to share their gifts with us, those friends who include the kind act of teaching in their day.  I include these mentors in my list of favorite teachers.





The greatest teacher we have is life itself. Daily we are barraged by sights, sounds, suggestions, silences and urges that give us something to think about. If we are lucky we will have had an art or music teacher in our lives, someone who encouraged us to see and listen to the ordinary stuff around us. They told us that it is OK to be unique. They gave us the assurance that failure is just part of the process.

Jazz and art are individual and personal. It requires time, focus, listening, preparation, repetition, and sometimes a teacher.

I am constantly reminded what a great place Detroit is for learning There are so many remarkably nice people both teaching and learning.


John Osler





June 5,6





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

In  music of Afro-Cuban origin, tumbao is the basic rhythm played on the bass. In North America, the basic conga drum pattern used in popular music is also called tumbao. Bravo just means approval and wanting more.
Tumbao is also an Afro-Puerto Rican word  which means “an indescribable African sexiness or swing.”  Knowing this we should expect a crowd at the Dirty Dog.


June 7, 8





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

This week the Dirty Dog has programmed two of Detroit’s finest jazz groups back to back. Alexander will follow Tumbao Bravo with his one of a kind act. Alexander Zonjic will challenge his pals to keep up with this true Detroit icon.




June 12 – 15






Charles is a jazz pianist who will be joined by his wife Gwen who is conveniently a jazz vocalist. They have been headliners in Detroit music for some time. Help welcome them back to the Dirty  Dog.




June 19 – 22





Detroit contributed some of the major hard bop artists of the 1960s.  The James Hughes & Jimmy Smith Quintet honors that tradition by playing up tempo mostly original hard bop James Hughes and Jimmy Smith contributed a lot of the compositions and arrangements.


June 26, 27





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.




June 28,29





Stanley Jordan and Diego Fiqueredo will descend on Detroit for two remarkable nights at the Dirty Dog..

These are two of jazz’s most exciting musicians who just happen to both play guitar. It is recommended that you make a reservation as early as possible.



Share This Article:

June 3, 2019 DDJC


Tumbao Bravo at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe, Photo:


Formed in August 2003 by reedman Paul VornHagen and conguero Alberto Nacif, this popular, award-winning Latin Jazz combo has released five CDs of mostly original compositions that have been featured on most of the major public radio Jazz stations in the U.S.



The band has been a winner of several Detroit Music Awards for Best Jazz Recording and Best World Music Band, and they have performed at many Michigan Jazz festivals including Detroit, Lansing, Birmingham, Raisin River, Great Lakes Folk, Blissfest, Wheatland Dance and Ann Arbor to name a few.



The band has also performed many times at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café and will be returning to our stage this coming week on Wednesday June 5 and and Thursday June 6.



Latin jazz is a favorite of many music fans who love infectious dance-based rhythms and carefully crafted melodic material rooted in Afro-Cuban culture.  Cuban or Latin Jazz is really Afro-Cuban Jazz because of its African roots. The rhythms and instrumentation are centuries old and are the foundation of the music.



Afro-Cuban Jazz got its start primarily from two Havana-born musicians, Francisco “Machito” Grillo and Mario Bauza. After studying music in Cuba, Bauza came to New York in 1930 and played in bands led by Chick Webb, Cab Calloway and others.


ChanoPozoand DizzyGillespieBackStage1947, LifeMagazine

Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie back stage in 1947. Photo: Life Magazine



Machito arrived in America in 1937 and worked with many bands in New York. In 1943 his piece “Tanga” was heard nightly over WOR radio from the La Conga Club in Manhattan, as it was their opening and closing theme. Soon some of the bands he and Machito played with or led included soloists such as Afro-Cuban Jazz pioneer Dizzy Gillespie, as well as Charlie Parker and Buddy Rich among others. Afro-Cuban music soon became instantly popular worldwide and the rest is history.



Other significant Afro-Cuban Jazz artists you can add to your listening list include Poncho Sanchez, Bebo and Chucho Valdes, Arsenio Rodriquez, Israel Cachao Lopez, Chico O’Farrill, Mongo Santamaria, and Paquito D’Rivera, to name just a few.



LegendaryAfoCubanJazzArtistsBenyMore,MarioBauza and family Pinterist

Beny More, Mario Bauza, and family, Photo: Pinterest





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.



Share This Article:

May 28, 2019


When my father graduated from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Tech University the country was in the midst of the Great Depression. He needed a job. This was not easy as he was an art school graduate looking for a job as an illustrator. He had a decision to make. He made a decision to leave his home town and head to Detroit. Detroit had auto advertising, and every year they needed new car catalogs. My dad got a chance to prove himself, stayed,  and started his own commercial art studio. NYC called, but he stayed put.


Here is a painting he did of my mother.


Because of the auto business Detroit’s advertising business expanded and thrived.


There was a steady need for artwork, and it paid well. Detroit for many years was a magnet for this country’s best young illustrators. The work was often done under severe deadlines to meet printing schedules. The constant pressure was not everyone’s cup of tea. Plenty of the ” top of their class” visual artists poured into Detroit, and later some leaked out

Some of the world’s finest illustrators started their careers in Detroit surrounded by other skilled artists. It always troubled me when a good artist left to expand their opportunities. It made me proud when they succeeded.

Here are four artists who all left Detroit. There was always an abundant supply of talented replacements. These guys left before photography replaced illustration in advertising. Photography was deemed more believable. This was before Photoshop.






Bernie Fuchs was a great American illustrator best known for his magazine illustrations, and U.S. postage stamp designs. Fuchs’ painting style was based in photography, but nevertheless always maintained a painterly simplification of detail and color.  Bernie started his career working in Detroit as a car advertisement illustrator at New Center Studios., where I also worked after he had left town.Some of his most acclaimed work was for sports magazines; over the course of his life he created over 50 covers for Sports Illustrated.






I worked with Robert Heindel at New Center Studios when he was an apprentice just out of school.

He was a painter, illustrator, and stage designer best known for his paintings of dance and performing arts. Heindel created over 1300 paintings and drawings of dance and performing arts. He was described as the best painter of dance of his time.

Well-known patrons of dance and the performing arts collected Heindel’s works and sponsored his exhibitions, including Princess Diana, Princess Margaret, Princess Caroline, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. His works are found in the permanent collections of museums including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, London.






Mark lives in Missouri, where he concentrates on his fine art.He has won hundreds of awards for his work and has been the most awarded illustrator in the history of the Society of Illustrators in New York City. 







I have known John for 60 years. He left Detroit to do magazine illustration in NYC. He  now lives in Carlsbad, Ca. He is considered one of the world’s greatest colorists.


All these artists came to Detroit because of our town’s promise of work.

The decision to stay in town or seek greener pastures continues to be a tough decision and has provided many with second thoughts and doubts.




Detroit has always been rich in jazz artists. Michigan’s Universities, churches and jazz rich families have been a gusher of musical talent. Sometimes this rich stream of musicians goes downstream to bigger ponds. Chasing the shiny apple isn’t for everyone. Becoming famous means  packing up, saying goodbye to family and friends and then finding some affordable digs in the Big Apple, NYC. Some settle into their new environs and some put their car in reverse and return home. Many artists never leave.







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 whenever he takes the stage at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. 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 home grown talents who  are in demand world-wide and have spent a lot of their life on the road. Ralphe has always come 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. Detroit is challenging.That is for sure. We screw up and dig holes for ourselves, but we climb out and we are always interesting.

I believe that Ralphe Armstrong is aware of many of the snarly things growing in the soil of Detroit. He knows  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 him rooted.




There are musicians who can make a living in music. A lot of them survive by teaching young people what they know, then the students become the teachers and they get by by teaching the next generation, and so it goes. This is a good thing. Detroit has maintained a prominence in music because we have always had an education system that has embraced the arts.

Detroit has a tradition of tough instruction that demands hard work and focus combined with a sense of tradition.

I have always thought that Detroit is where jazz goes to school. Detroit certainly has always had a tradition of producing A list jazz artists. More importantly, for decades they have had A list teachers. They are in the schools and in neighborhoods and playing alongside the young players at the clubs and on their recordings.


Living in Detroit or being from Detroit


Being from Detroit gets musicians some gravitas. Having grown up and having learned to play in Detroit means something when a band is being assembled. You will likely contribute a relentless steady beat, you will know a lot of tunes and will be brave and resilient. Being from Detroit counts for something.


Living in Detroit means that you will get a chance to be with other players from Detroit.


I think that this is the  primary reason we  keep so many of our house cats at home.


John Osler








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



Share This Article:

May 24, 2019


Jeff Canady at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe (photo: John Osler)


For the past two summers, the world-renowned Jazz publication, Downbeat magazine, has created a center-fold feature about the the Dirty Dog Jazz Café, the world class Jazz club in Grosse Pointe Farms.



For the first issue they asked me to interview Carl Williams, the Dirty Dog’s popular, award-winning bartender and music aficionado.



The Dirty Dog’s Carl Williams (Photo: John Osler)


Carl has has been with the club since they opened more than 11 years ago and hearing five nights per week of  live Jazz, Carl has heard it all. He’s been an astute music listener for most of his life. And, at the Dirty Dog he knows most of the performers and their music very well. Those seated at the bar enjoy conversing with Carl as he shares his knowledge of the music and the musicians – hearing his many stories and details about Jazz.



Carl’s reputation as a serious music fan is what prompted Downbeat to tap into his musical mind for this article. The editor at Downbeat wanted to know Carl’s five favorite Detroit based Jazz drummers.



Here’s my Downbeat magazine interview,  “Take Five”, with Carl as he explains his five favorite Detroit drummers including Jeff Canady who performs with his band at the Dirty Dog Wednesday, May 29 thru Saturday, June 1.



Carl’s Take Five
by Judy Adams


Jf Canady Osler

Jeff Canady (Photo


Jeff Canady

Known for his work with Dave McMurray and other prominent artists, Jeff Canady is at the top of Carl’s list. He said he admires his unique style and that he knows how to set a perfect groove – intuitively feeling the pulse of the music. He especially admires Canady’s “signature” triplets and rolls, which are markedly fast and smooth.  Besides being a drummer, Canady is also as recording artist, producer and vocalist.


Jeff Canady and his band are the Dirty Dog from Wednesday, May 29-through Saturday, June 1st. For reservations and information call 313-882-5299 or go to



Skeeto Valdez

Skeeto is one of Detroit’s most experienced “go to” drummers. Carl is impressed with his versatility and knowledge of most styles from Bebop and Swing to Rock and Funk and beyond. He puts a lot of his personality into the music, making things more fun for the audience and the band.



Gayelynn McKinney

One of Detroit most prolific drummers, Gayelynn has played with Aretha Franklin, Steve Turre, Larry Coryell and others. She’s known for “going off the grid” as Carl says, with her innovative improvisations that often utilize the entire drum kit as she supports the music with a very creative approach to her rhythmic ideas.



Doug Cobb

Doug is known for his work with Jazz clarinet virtuoso, Dave Bennett.  Carl loves his playing, commenting “he’s cool and clean and one of the cleanest drummers I’ve ever heard. You’ll never hear him click his sticks. He’s flawless and relaxed, which comes to him naturally”.



Sean Dobbins

Sean Dobbins is a Detroit favorite and one of its most gifted drummers. “His playing is electric. He really knows how to work up an audience. His solos are filled with rhythmic power and intensity and played with skill and precision.”



All five of these drummers have performed the Dirty Dog many times as the club is known for presenting the top Jazz talent from this region and beyond.


Partrons of the club are lucky to have the opportunity to hear these great Detroit-based artists on a regular basis. Thanks to the Dirty Dog’s Carl Williams and Downbeat magazine for spreading the word on these musicians to their world-wide readership and global Jazz audience.




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.








Share This Article:

May 20, 2019



VERNA HART 1961 -2019


Verna Hart died last week. Verna’s life and art mirrored the freedom of jazz. Her subject was mostly jazz and her art was considered jazz on canvas. Her parents encouraged her to paint outside of the lines in her coloring book.


Romare Bearden


When she was 8 years old her father took her to visit Romare Bearden. She remembered seeing one of America’s greatest collagist standing surrounded by his vibrant oversized canvases. She knew at that moment looking at Beardon’s jazz inspired paintings that was what she would be doing with her life. They remained friends. Verna remained a freely expressive painter her whole life.She said that ” Jazz served as a catalyst to inspire my experimentation with improvisation, form and technique.”

She was given the gift of  freedom by her parents, her mentors and from her subject, jazz.





Freedom honors and unleashes human creativity — and creativity determines the strength and wealth of nations. George W. Bush


Wow, what a wonderful thing freedom must be. It is an elusive worthwhile goal that we work towards. It is something others give to us and something we give to others. Or is it something we seek for ourselves?  We all want to have  freedom to do what we want. We all want to have freedom from oppression, hunger, fear, etc, and freedom of speech, choice, etc. If only it were this easy.


Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves. Abraham Lincoln


The taking away of the freedom to own slaves brought freedom to the enslaved. With this freedom a new musical form, jazz, was brought out in the open. Jazz was a freeing cry that emerged from an enslaved people. It threw off restrictive rules and offered a glimpse of freedom. Jazz continues today because of a balance between the freedom of expression and the restrictions like that of a democracy.




Jackson Pollock would listen to jazz as he danced around his canvas. His jazz inspired freedom was infectious.


Innovation and great art happen when we feel free of restraints. Bad art also happens when we are free to do anything we want. These can both be good things. Freedom doesn’t guarantee success, but it sure makes things easier. We are born free to be anything we want to be, and then freedoms are slowly taken away from us. Sometimes we return to that place before we knew all the rules. We may be sitting under a tree on a beautiful summer day or freely creating our art. Some places are rife with freedom, jazz is one of those places.

Probably because of its history jazz has properly balanced democracy and freedom. It may be a good place to look at how important it is to have this balance. Life can be tricky without this balance.


Freedom for the pike is death for the minnows. R. H. Tawney


Jazz  was freed from oppression, freed of limitations but had the sense to be careful with what it was free to do.



Jazz was born because of this freedom. Jazz exemplifies freedom from oppression, freedom from discrimination, freedom from structures, formats, pre-existing patterns of any sort and freedom from rigidity. It hasn’t been easy. Again and again jazz has to be vigilant.




Jazz has grown because of its built in freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

Last week I talked about how jazz continues to keep a vital role in America’s music. Jazz music doesn’t just allow change, it encourages it.

Young musicians talk about the freedom they have to set out in new directions and still be under the broad umbrella of jazz. Artists seldom ask themselves ” Am I playing jazz or what?” in the middle of a tune. Somewhere, deep in the music there remain  elements that were derived from the structure of jazz. Even free jazz and avant garde jazz have something that links the new with the old. Jazz continues to have the freedom of many limits placed on other forms of music.




FREEDOM: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.


This freedom to do whatever is the most common definition and is the trickiest freedom. Jazz will always allow the freedom to play with fervor, as well as a freedom to invent. However, jazz has operated with the idea that there will be limits on the freedom to cause harm or limit someone else’s freedom.. Jazz has rules and restraints, mostly unspoken. Jazz always respects the freedom of all artists.


There are two freedoms — the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where a man is free to do what he ought. Charles Kingsley




Fortunately there is something that has always been part of the music: unwritten rules.

This week at the Dirty Dog we will get a chance to witness this work.




The Detroit Jazz Festival is holding its monthly jam session.




On May 20 the Dirty Dog Jazz Café will open its door to some young musicians. They will  be joined by some of Detroit’s best jazz artists for this month’s jam session.

The Detroit Jazz Festival sponsors the jam sessions as part of their year long effort to help keep jazz alive in our community. We get a chance to see jazz blossom in our backyard. It doesn’t get much better than this.

The evening usually seems to build in intensity as the night goes on. What will be on display will be a room full of wisdom and enlightenment.

A jam session  is an invitation to jazz musicians to show up and show off. A place where artists can be free of failing and free to express themselves. It is a musical act where musicians gather and play without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements.
Jam sessions aren’t as loose and unstructured as the definition because they are guided by some of jazz’s natural restraints such as respect.


I found these rules for a ‘Jam Session’ in an online discussion


1. Don’t be a solo hog. Say what you have to say in as few choruses as possible.

2. Don’t cut another soloist off by jumping in.

3. If you don’t know the tune, don’t solo.

4. Don’t tell the leader what to do. It’s their Jam. Not yours. You can always get your own jam someday.

5. Know when to play.

6. Know when to sit down and chill out and enjoy the other players.

7. Have respect for the other soloists ideas by not doodling’ around on your ax when they are playing.

8. If the other players start to riff behind the soloist, then go ahead and join in, but remember the balance, don’t cover the soloist up.

9. The Bass doesn’t need a solo on every tune.

10. Don’t insist on staying up on stage all night. Play your 3 or 4 songs and make room for the other soloists who haven’t played yet.

11. Never be critical of another person on the bandstand.

12. If the person ahead of you just took 8 choruses on the blues, don’t try to “better” him by playing more if you have nothing to say.

In the main jam sessions have a lot more freedom than rules. We are all given the freedom to hear as much jazz as we want. after all:


” You can’t restrain a cow from dancing.” Mae West



John Osler








Catering to both jazz and soul aficionados, Kosins delivers intense and intimate singing and wows audiences with her impeccable flawless phrasing and a deep-rooted passion for telling the story. Her eclectic musical palette delves deep into the rich history of both Jazz and Soul.



Share This Article:

May 13, 2019




MarsalisFamilyAt2019 NewOrleansJazzFest

Photo: Sophia Germer/Associated Press


This year the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, better known as Jazz Fest, is celebrating its 50th year of New Orleans culture, food and, of course, music.


The pianist Ellis Marsalis was part of the first New Orleans Jazz Fest.  This year his four well-known musician sons — Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason — joined him to perform his own compositions.


It’s a common fact that children growing up with professional, or even self-taught musicians in the house, often become musicians themselves. Growing up in a musical household gives family members an advantage with their continuous exposure to the music and provides a regular source of shared musical enjoyment.


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 to promote the Marsalis name throughout the world.



Jason Marsalis playing the vibraphone


Jason Marsalis is one of the youngest members of the esteemed Marsalis family and is known for his multi-talented skills as a composer, drummer and vibraphonist.  He  returns to the Dirty Dog stage with his band on Friday May 17 and Saturday 18th, with two seatings each night. For reservations and information call 313-882-5299.


Unlike many other music genres, that come and go,   Jazz audiences continue to grow in many ways which show’s us that this 100+ year old musical art form definitely has lasting appeal.


While musical families that play Jazz, keep the music alive while  nurturing their family members, we also see this happening with Jazz education as more and more schools are including Jazz studies in their curriculums for students of all ages.


There’s no doubt that exposure to the music, especially live performances,  is the key to forming new artists and fans, young and old. who develop an appreciation and love for the music and become enriched by the sounds of Jazz.





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.






Share This Article:


Sometimes we have to look beneath the veneer to see the health of something.


How do we best diagnose someone’s health? A doctor friend of mine told me that 90% of diagnosis happens while talking to a patient. The other 10% of the diagnosis will come from a physical exam and if necessary some tests.





I thought I would get some other eyes and ears to help me to get a read on the health of jazz today. We have long promoted jazz music as one of America’s finest cultural achievements, along with the Statue of Liberty and the Metropolitan Opera. Of course so much that is great about our country has origins in other places. To our credit we have  honored our finest institutions by learning from them,  constantly maintaining them and sometimes improving on them. Probably jazz is the most universally recognized icon of America’s spirit. Jazz came along when it was most needed. It lifted our spirits. For many it symbolized freedom of expression. It liberated other art forms that copied and celebrated its use of improvisation. But what has jazz done for us lately? How healthy is the jazz scene? What comes next?


Robert Glasper



Judy Adams knows music and this is her hopeful summation of jazz today.

“Unlike many other music genres that come and go,  jazz audiences continue to grow in many ways which shows us that this 100+ year old musical art form definitely has lasting appeal.

There’s no doubt that exposure to the music, especially live performances, is the key to forming new artists and fans, young and old. who develop an appreciation and love for the music and become enriched by the sounds of Jazz.”

Judy also has talked about the fact that musical families still include jazz in their lives. This remains an essential nourishment for the health of jazz. She is also impressed with the level of support that jazz programs have in our universities.



We have been detecting a lack of music programs in the lower grades in our urban schools’ K to 12th grades. Without these programs jazz will struggle to maintain healthy growth.







Jazz is giving us mixed messages about its physical and emotional health.

Jazz writers continue to emphasize the importance of early exposure to jazz to keep the genre alive. They hope that jazz will increasingly become a fixture in American schools at all levels from elementary school through college.

I read that in many areas jazz will be introduced to and performed by even younger children. I have also read that this trend  has already begun as more elementary and middle schools add jazz bands to their music curriculum. Yet, I know that this is not the case in Detroit schools and we should have concerns and take corrective action.

Jazz is presently getting an infusion of new styles of jazz that will include the music that young musicians are growing up with. This same music is not  always getting heard and sometimes is being rejected by traditional jazz fans.


The line between jazz and all improvised music may soon blur to the point where there is no longer a noticeable difference. This style of jazz will be difficult to label; rather than being called jazz, it might simply be called “improvised music.” The electronic age will test our openness to new ideas.


We must continue to listen to what jazz is telling us. It continues to ask us to respect its rich traditions while welcoming new ideas.





The only way to know if jazz is alive is to listen to its heartbeat, check vital signs and observe if its energy level is still high. These are all subjective observations and I have gotten different results from different sources.

A friend and avid fan of jazz painted a dark picture of Detroit’s jazz scene as stagnant and only by escaping to New York can jazz recover its mojo. Then I read a New Yorker’s view that only by escaping from New York can musicians be saved from conformity.

Frequent visits to jazz venues will be required to complete testing the health of jazz.








I was reading an article in the NYT about the future of jazz and this jumped off the page at me.

Makaya McCraven plays his jazz in Chicago. He was raised thinking about music as a binding agent.

In so many ways music is a binding agent and without it in our lives a lot of things will fall apart. We must continue to nurture this glue. Music is the world’s common language. It is seldom threatening and has no known adverse side effects.


Majaya thought that he would like to do some binding in his hometown.


From the NYT article: “He thinks the young buskers playing street percussion on buckets around Chicago ought to get to know each other, possibly by improvising together. “They all have similar licks and a similar vocabulary, and I know some of them are in different neighborhoods or different crews and gangs,” he said, adding that he’d like to organize a way for them to be paid to perform together.

“I’m really interested in how the language has gotten passed around. Where do these licks come from? What’s the history? Who are the elders? Where have they learned it? How do the styles and things travel around the city, just like every aural tradition?”

We seem to know when music is needed to bring us together. This is probably the reason that jazz music will not go away soon. We have a pretty good instinct for survival.






Since jazz speaks to the human condition and to people’s hearts, it will increasingly be performed, listened to, enjoyed, analyzed, debated, and studied throughout the world.

It will continue to serve as a reminder that we can have our differences, but this great music will help to bind us together. It is a good thing to keep around.

As far as I can tell jazz is in generally good health but needs a few booster shots of youthful enthusiasm and education. All support mechanisms should be continued. We will have to be vigilant to avoid invasive strains of complacency and any unnecessary stress.

Specifically, we should be open minded to new approaches and open walleted at new venues.

Get out and support live jazz.

John Osler




May 15, 16




Michael will merge his understanding of the rhythms of West Africa from his travels with the  State Department with his knowledge of jazz he has learned playing with Art Blakey, Pharaoh Sanders and Donald Byrd. A learning experience.


MAY 17, 18





With each passing year Jason Marsalis continues to grow and develop as both a composer and performer. With a fire in his heart and a passion for the music, his will to swing has never been more resolute. The maturity and the command he possesses over his music is clearly evident to those who have heard or seen him.



Share This Article:


Henry David Thoreau



Last week I was in the Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It was Friday night and there was music. Pianist Mr B brought three more traditional jazz pianists and one drummer with him to play for us. The pianists  took turns. An old friend Bob Seeley returned to Detroit to be part of the event. Bob is now 90 years old but still has the hands of a teenager.



One night about thirty years ago Bob sat down at a piano and played three variations  of Eubie Blake’s song  I’m Just Wild About Harry. It was 3 o’clock in the morning at one of Mike Montgomery’s legendary rent parties. Ragtime players from around the country and world came to these weekend parties. It was a way of keeping traditional jazz music from getting lost. As a lot of the tunes were only on piano rolls, no one knew for sure how the music was played by the composers. Eubie Blake was about 90 years old then and had just come off a show on broadway about ragtime. He was at the rent party to learn some new tunes. Bob played Eubie’s song as he thought three of Eubie’s contemporaries would have played it. He tore it up. When he was done Eubie said in a gentle voice. “You are terrific,, but none of those guys could keep time. We wandered all over the place.”

Bob plays jazz like a Detroiter, with a persistent beat.



Bob grew up in Detroit and lived here for 88 years. It is in his DNA. He is known for his pneumatic left hand and a right hand that is constantly finding ways to remind us of better days. Watching him play in front of Diego Rivera’s mural depicting workers and machines in an automotive assembly line caused me to link the relentless beat that is the signature trait of Detroit jazz musicians with our history of keeping up with machines. That thump, thump,thump of the workplace has been part of what has made Detroit such a great town for music, especially for ragtime piano players and drummers.






Some of us who are told that we can’t sing and love music get drumsticks and give drumming a try.

My father needed a quiet space to concentrate on his work. He was a commercial illustrator and was under pressure to meet deadlines. This need for silence was in conflict with his son who really liked making noise, My heroes were big band drummers, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.

In an act of kindness I was given a pair of sticks and a rubber covered drum pad. It made as much noise as hitting my pillow. The sticks didn’t bounce like they do when you pound on a drum head. The sticks made a lot more noise when I used the furniture as a drum surface. That was the end of my career as a drummer.

When I had a basement of my own I bought a used drum set. I played the drums but my left hand never knew what my right hand was thinking. My son Bill figured it out. He is a really good drummer, and he continues to get better and better. For a long time I kept the drum set and would retreat to the basement from time to time for some drum therapy. I  came back upstairs a little happier. Self love.


“A good groove releases adrenaline in your body. You feel uplifted, you feel centered, you feel calm, you feel powerful. You feel that energy. That’s what good drumming is all about”.  Mickey Hart






It always seemed to me that drummers were having all the fun and so had to be hidden.

Behind or to the side of the band we can usually find the drummer. They will be sitting down next to the stand up bass. They can be seen occasionally when the band steps aside, signifying a drum solo is coming.






“I think that any young drummer starting out today should get himself a great teacher and learn all there is to know about the instrument that he wants to play.”  Buddy Rich





Sean Dobbin’s public face is behind his drum kit. Sean is unquestionably a first call drummer when he isn’t leading his own band. He is a powerful figure who visually seems always to just barely restrain himself from beating his drum set into submission. That is not all he is. Sean exemplifies what a jazz player and a great drummer should be. Jazz artists like Sean in the past were portrayed as talented souls hanging out in smoky jazz joints until the sun comes up. Well, times have changed.






When the sun comes up, you will often find Sean involved with getting his kids organized for school. He and his wife have shared the responsibility of bringing up three bright kids.




I have watched Sean Dobbins teach a class. He knows how to keep young minds focused and his lessons interesting. He continues to spread his knowledge of and his passion for jazz throughout  the community .

When Sean sees a need in our community he responds. In Detroit this is what many musicians do.

Sean is on the faculty at the University Of Michigan, Oakland University and Wayne State University. He is also MSU’s Community Music School Director

Sean Dobbins is working with young students in several youth programs. He created a series of events that he calls THE RISING STARS SERIES. This program allows the young talent that is coming  out of Detroit to be able to perform at multiple venues around the city.




Sean has for some time led some of Detroit’s most authentic jazz groups. All the bands have been formed out of his deep regard for jazz history. Sean follows his calling to keep jazz alive by honoring Detroit’s rich heritage. This week he is bringing The Modern Jazz Messengers to the Dirty Dog.


The Jazz Messengers were an influential jazz combo that existed for over thirty-five years beginning in the early 1950s as a collective, and ending when long-time leader and founding drummer Art Blakey died in 1990. Blakey led or co-led the group from the outset. “Art Blakey” and “Jazz Messengers” have became synonymous over the years,


The Modern Jazz Messengers


The Modern Jazz Messengers have become a mainstay in Detroit’s jazz world.  Like the band’s inspiration Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Sean Dobbins is big on rotating the members and keeping the band’s front line youthful and hard swinging.  Art Blakey, the original Sean Dobbins, who led the original Messengers would be proud to see where Sean has taken the music.


“Jazz is a heartbeat—­its heartbeat is yours. Langston Hughes


John Osler


Detroit drummers will always get some love at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café .


MAY 8 -11


Share This Article:

Visit the Dirty Dog Jazz Video Gallery to view our collection. Watch Now
The Dirty Dog brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
  RENAISSANCE   The Renaissance, a vibrant period of European cultural, artistic, politica [..]
  The modern “double bass” or simply  “bass” is the largest and lowest [..]
CONTINUING EDUCATION MONTH AT THE DIRTY DOG     June is here. It is time to safely put the [..]
Each week the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe hosts live performances from the greatest jazz musicians across the country.