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A Perfectly Tuned Evening Every Time...
Opened in 2008, The Dirty Dog is one of the premiere destinations in the United States for world class Jazz and cuisine. It combines the charm of an English-style pub with intimacy and meticulous attention to detail and hospitality.
The Dirty Dog brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
May 21, 2018



Springtime is like childhood, It takes an empty winter canvas and adds color bit by bit  until we are ready for summer. It is a time of discovery and wonder. Everything around us can seem fresh and new, but seems to pass too quickly.  We are reluctant to see the gently refreshing spring showers end and a little fearful of the summer storms that will follow.


Springtime is the ultimate elixir for our creative souls. Everything gets a fresh start. We have had a long winter to mull things over, and now the longer days will help us get things done. It is also that moment when we have only balmy weather in front of us. Spring is like a jazz set about to take off and soar. It is a chance to be a child again, if only we can remember how that felt. This is probably why we should check up on what our children and jazz artist have to say, and savor the season


Children are our true angels and can teach us a lot about how we can better our life.





Every day is a fresh start”.  – Pablo Picasso


Being Childish


Not all children get a chance to have a carefree childhood. Unfortunately some children are asked to grow up too fast, and some never get a chance to be a child. We need someone to be there to allow a child to explore the world around them. When things go as they are supposed to childhood should be cherished, remembered and when possible replicated.


.A lot of the gifts of childhood are neglected and lost as we grow up. It is never too late to include some springtime in your Autumn years.


Start each day as if it were the first day of spring.




Children seldom carry yesterday’s baggage into a new day. When you are young, every day feels like an eternity and a new day means new opportunities to make new friends, explore new adventures, learn new things.


“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” – L.M. Montgomery.


Live your day with some courage/ Open up to things




Children don’t know enough worry. They see possibilities not dangers. They play, sing, shout and take chances because they are not confined by fears of failure or humiliation.


Children are filled with hope and determination. They haven’t been beaten down,   As adults, we sometimes fear the unknown. We stay safely ensconced in our comfort zone and rarely venture out. Adventure can exhilarate and awakens

our spirit.

Include laughter and joy.





“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin


Children have the wonderful ability to find joy all around them. They see silliness everywhere.


Stay active



Kids keep moving when they aren’t sleeping, and they sleep well because they keep moving. I can get tired just watching kids. We all know we should join in, if only we could get up from our chairs.


Be open to friendships




Children like the company of other kids. They share a language. Kids haven’t developed filters and disappointments that get in the way of making new friends.


Be proud to be you.




“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” – Nora Ephron


Sometimes we wallow in our perceived mediocrity. Children accomplish something every day and feel pretty good about it. Left alone they can be a hero in the space they happen to occupy.


Remember that everything around you is worth a look.




“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault


When I walked with my wife  in spring she would point out to me the different flowers growing up through the cracks in the sidewalks, My kids were closer to the cracks and would spend time with all the little things all around them. We unfortunately neglect these joyful discoveries. We need to include these tiny miracles in our days.


Keep creating.



The creative process should remain part of all one’s life. When do we stop seeing creative activities as worthwhile?  When did play and fun become a luxury? I think that adults should take more time for some finger painting. Or take a moment for deep thoughts.




Childlike jazz artists


No one has to tell a jazz musician any of the stuff above. Their seldom forget the fun that childhood and jazz can be.


Jazz is extremely complex, yet when people can’t figure out how jazz works they often use the word “childlike” to describe it. “Blossom Dearie had a unique childlike voice” or when Sting tried to sing jazz he was said to “have adapted to a childlike voice”.  Theolonius Monk was said to use childlike pauses. This is more about editing out the unnecessary, sort of the way children do.


Last week Dave Bennett had his usual lineup of brilliant musicians with him. No one had sheet music in front of them. They were free wheeling, inventive and flawless. After the gig I asked bassist Jeff Pedras my standard question, “If reading music is important and if not, how do they do it?” He explained by pointing at his head and adding, “It is just the way jazz musicians think”.


Austin Hill Shaw of Creativity Matters wrote:


“According to science, humans are born with a brain that isn’t fully formed until well into so-called early adulthood. That means during childhood, especially early childhood, there are parts of our adult brains that aren’t even there yet, specifically the executive functioning parts of the brain. And, through the work of researchers such as Charles Limb, there is a particular part of the executive function, known as the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a region responsible for impulse control, that doesn’t form until children are nine or ten years old. In Limb’s research of putting jazz musicians into fMRI machines, he has noted that when the musician begins to improvise, the DLPFC turns off, allowing the musician to enter into a flow state, a state of creative outpouring.”




Children below the age of 9 or 10 don’t edit themselves the way adults do, which, as we all know, can have its pluses and minuses. It can be amazing, funny, and inspiring or it can be messy, annoying, and even dangerous. That is why parents get to join in on the fun.




We spend a lot of time making sure our kids get a chance to be kids. We should do the same for ourselves. Jazz musicians have the secret that allows them to let the child inside  take over and finish the tune.


John Osler




May 23 – May 24





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Mid week you will have a chance to be up close with the soulful saxophonist  Duane Parham. He is recognized as an innovator and top performer in Smooth Jazz, R&B and Gospel Music.


In 2012, Duane was nominated and voted “Best Horn Player of the Year,” by the Detroit Black Music Award. Also, in the same month Duane received a testimonial resolution and the Spirit of Detroit Award for his documentary DVD production, “The Unsung Musicians of the Motown Empire.”  It’s all about the legendary horn players that played for Motown and their names were never mentioned


May 25 – May 26






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.





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May 19, 2018







There are lots of great albums being released this spring and summer that have ties to Detroit, that we’ll be telling you about in the coming weeks. Last week we featured the new CD by Dave McMurray “Music is Life” this week we celebrate the long-awaited release from drummer, arranger, educator and composer extraordinaire, Gayelynn McKinney.



The title of Gayelynn’s new album “The New Beginning” is quite appropriate on many levels. She takes music composed by her esteemed father, educator, pianist, composer, Harold McKinney, and reinterprets it in her own voice. Classically trained Jazz pianist, Harold McKinney played many of his compositions with some of the top musicians in Jazz including John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Sarah Vaughn and others. Gayelynn is breathing new life into the music and reintroducing it to today’s Jazz audience.




The late Harold McKinney / photo by the late Hugh Grannum



One of Detroit’s most admired drummers, Ms. McKinney celebrates her family’s musical legacy with the new album. 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 plus for Gayelynn who started started taking lessons at age 8 and went on to receive a music degree from Oakland University. Soon after, McKinney co-founded the Grammy nominated, highly revered Jazz group Straight Ahead in the early 80’s.



Over the years she has toured and performed with such major artists as Chaka Khan, Steve Turre, Roy Hargrove, Ralph Armstrong, and the late Larry Coryell.



The long-awaited album has been in the making for nearly five years. Gayelynn received a highly coveted Kresge Foundation grant in 2014 that used specifically for this project. She also did a Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns as well. She did this all while teaching Jazz full time to Detroit high school students, playing and touring with numerous bands including Aretha Franklin and the newly reunited band Straight Ahead, for which she is a co-founder. She is definitely one of the hardest working artists in Detroit today.



A subsidiary of Detroit’s award-winning Mack Avenue Records, Detroit Music Factory promotes the best music from Detroit to a world-wide audience. People who travel in the international music circles talk about what a great reputation Detroit has on a global level. Other Detroit artists on the label include Ralphe Armstrong and R.J. Spangler, Gary Schunk, Rodney Whitaker, De’Sean Jones and many others..



Gayelynn McKinney’s band recently played at the Dirty Dog to “standing ovation” audiences each night. The new album features many of these same artists including trumpeter John Douglas, saxophonist Marcus Elliot, bassist Ibrahim Jones, as well as Wendell Harrison, Rayse Biggs, the late Marcus Belgrave and many others.




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 (NPR), where she was Director of Programming and daily on-air music host for more than 30 years.

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May 18, 2018




Dave Bennett will bring his band to The Dirty Dog this week.


Before the lights are turned down and the music begins, the Dirty Dog Jazz Café is a beehive of activity. Unseen by those who are settling in at their tables in anticipation of an evening of jazz,food and drink, the restaurant’s back hallway is busy acting as an efficient conduit for all the good things that the guests will be experienced that night.


The amazing thing is that it exists at all. When the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe opened, this part of the Dog was not in the plan. But when this space next door to the club became available, it made possible the vision that the club’s proprietor, Gretchen Valade, had of creating a truly great jazz club. This additional space created enough room to add some of the things that she had envisioned, including comfortable rooms for the musicians, room for a sound engineer, a place for groups seeking privacy, and a special corridor filled with photos of  artists who have played the Dirty Dog.





On the way from the green room to the stage is a narrow hallway that has just enough room for a musician carrying an instrument or a server with a tray.


A lot of the jazz club’s unseen magic happens along this corridor. All the good stuff, except for the customers, comes into the club through the back door and down this hallway. Generally the staff, musicians, food, wine and supplies show up in this hall.



Everyone entering has to get past work tables set up by the kitchen staff and pass by tempting food waiting to be prepared.






A left turn will take you into the kitchen which is a lot more crowded than those open concept kitchens seen on TV.



Fortunately the kitchen size doesn’t mean too much to this stalwart band of cooks as out of this kitchen comes their award winning cuisine.





The door across from the kitchen will take you into the green room which is strictly reserved for the guest musicians. The green room is Gretchen’s tribute to her fellow musicians. it is prove of her deep respect for the artists who play the Dirty Dog. The green room could also be the difference between the Dirty dog and other good jazz clubs. It is one of the best places in town to eat.







Further down the hall you will find a room just for storage of excellent wines and other beverages.

Carl Williams has the key.






All the jazz that you hear so clearly goes from the stage into a small room where it is balanced by the sound engineer and then is sent back to the room.



Jeff sets up the band and then is invisible unless there is a problem. This happened last week when Carmen Lundy brought her bass player and his stand up bass with her from LA. As he was warming up his bass fell apart.



This happened one hour before they were to start their first set. Jeff came to the rescue. He secured a bass , it was tested, played, and kept the musical bottom from falling out all of the weekend. He has a small room, but Jeff has a big role.




Photos of artists who have graced the Dirty Dog are placed along the hallway just in view but out of reach of trays and stand up basses that pass through the corridor.






The board room is open to private parties and groups, and of course it is loaded with art.



This hallway reveals some of what makes the Dirty Dog Jazz Café stand out as a special place to work and a place to play. There is art everywhere in keeping with the character of the place. The Dirty Dog is a good place to work,



and for the the musicians they have provided a place to pause and to be inspired.



There are a lot of good things that happen in this back hallway. Most of us have to be satisfied with the results that emerge into the jazz club. it is all part of a wonderful grand scheme.


John Osler




MAY 16 – MAY 20




Dave has so much talent that he probably could play anywhere in the world, playing any kind of music. Fortunately for his myriad of fans he will return to the Dirty Dog and show his appreciation for the support they have given him. Dave also has a lot of energy which maybe we can bottle and pass out to fans as they leave.





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May 14, 2018






Detroit based, world renowned saxophonist, Dave McMurray makes his Blue Note Records debut with his seventh album “Music is Life” which will be released May 18th.



Blue Note’s president and fellow Detroiter, Don Was and Dave McMurray, have worked together since the debut of Was’ self-titled 1981 debut with Was (Not Was). McMurray not only played on all of the band’s albums he has become Was’ saxophonist of choice for many of his various other projects over the years.



Always a favorite at the Dirty Dog where he’s been a regular for many years, Dave has played with a diverse A-list of artists ranging from The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan to Herbie Hancock, Bootsy Collins, the late Geri Allen and countless others. He brings these experiences “to the table” on the new album which also explores many genres from Jazz, Funk, Rock, Soul and more,  clearly reflecting  his multi-faceted career.



I’ve been a fan of his playing and music for many years going back to the mid-1970’s while first hearing him play with Griot Galaxy at the famed Cobb’s Corner, on Cass and Willis. I was struck by his distinctive powerful sound that  continues to define his unique style.






Recently I had a chance to talk with Dave about his new album which is, in my opinion, pure musical perfection. The excellent musicianship from all the players is evident throughout the release. Performing with his current band and some longtime collaborators also made for a powerful and tight unit.



With Dave as the album’s producer, The production values were very high…and that coupled with the opportunity to work with the esteemed Jazz label Blue Note, gave the album a very polished, and professional sound.



The new album contains mostly Dave’s original compositions as well as covers of the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”, Parliament-Funkadelic’s “Atomic Dog”, a song made famous by legendary French singer Johnny Halladay (who Dave worked and toured with for many years) entitled Que Je T’aime.  One of the originals that stands out is “Paris Rain” which is a beautiful string-enhanced ballad that pays tribute to one of his favorite cities.



McMurray not only plays soprano and tenor saxophones but also keyboards, percussion, bass clarinet, electronic programming, his bandmates include Ibrahim Jones on Bass, Ron Otis and Jeff Canady on drums, and special guest Maurice (“Pirahnahead”) Herd/Soulchestra on String Arrangements.



The album is a mirror of Detroit’s musical legacy as one of the great music capitols of the world. His songs “Bop City D”, and “Detroit Theme/Detroit 3″ pays homage to the Detroit sound. “Every time I hear an instrumentalist from Detroit play, it feels like they are singing. I don’t care if it’s Yusef Lateef, James Carter or Kenny Garrett. All of those saxophonists incorporated incredible technique too. But they had this singing quality in their playing. I think people hear that and connect with that aspect of it,” McMurray says






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 (NPR), where she was Director of Programming and daily on-air music host for more than 30 years.








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May 7, 2018




We can be deeply but quietly affected by passion, or get carried away.

but it sure helps to have a little in your life.



If you look around and see a lot of  people going place to place in your neighborhood without smiles on their faces, you probably haven’t had a good arts program in your schools for a while. To test this, go to a place where folks live in a environment where art and good design is all around them. It turns out that being surrounded by beauty is a good catalyst for contentment and being in the company of grinning neighbors.




We are in a time when we are drifting away from the arts in our education, in our lives and in our environment. The results can be seen in my neighborhood. Lovely traditional homes are regularly torn down and replaced by large structures that will later be torn down at the whim of a new owner. Large hunks of the city of Detroit are being purchased and then designed by hedge funds. What is happening now is a result of something that happened years ago. Too many of those who are in charge of our future weren’t influenced by a passionate arts teacher.


To find out how we can create a more vibrant community I think that we must look at what we think is important. Right now it is to get through the day. We are only developing  the skills to survive in a fast moving environment. It is too easy to think that there will be time for beauty and excellence at the end of our day. We are losing the ability to plan ahead.




Most educators agree that having more arts programs in our schools is a bargain. Arts programs are popular with all teachers because they increase the enthusiasm for learning which carries over to other studies.


We can learn a lot about teaching art by looking at how jazz has been taught in Detroit. It all starts by having teachers who are passionate about jazz, and then transfer that passion to the next generation. Learning to play jazz isn’t easy, yet excellence is achieved in part by including the following elements in the process.


Passion / Personal ownership / Getting along / Discipline, hard work, and excellence / Reward





Passion is when you put more energy into something than is required to do it. It is more than just enthusiasm or excitement to put as much heart, mind, body and soul into something as is possible. Passion can best be heard, seen or felt. You know it when you see it.


Passion is that something more than just being interested in something. It can last a lifetime. Passion is hard to quantify, and we don’t have tests to measure it. We can look around and see the results when a passion for the arts is missing and when apathy sets in.




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


Passion in a teacher spreads to their students who in turn get passionate about learning. It ignites their inner curiosity, generates enthusiasm,and it gives students confidence in their own capacity to learn. It brings out the best in students and allows their performances to soar.




“As long as musicians have passion for spontaneity & creating something that’s never been before, Jazz will flourish.”  Charlie Haden


The time I have spent around jazz musicians convinces me that they have a quality and an advantage that we need to inject into all teachers. Fun is injected into the lessons, as jazz is fun to play and learn. Jazz musicians seem to be able to work hard and have fun at the same time. Students see this, and they figure that hard  work and fun just seem to go together. They are likely to carry this thought for the rest of their learning lives.


Passion helps a teacher to persist and not give up when things get tough. Teaching can have setbacks, and teachers do get feisty. The kids know this, but students will also see the passion and stay on track.


A passion for teaching is contagious and now research shows that passionate teachers do get better results.




“I cannot play a lie. I have to believe in what I play or it won’t come out.”  Stan Getz


An honest passion for jazz has kept Detroit one of music’s great citadels of learning. Share the word about Detroit’s joy in teaching and learning art and music.


John Osler




May 9 – May 10






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.


May11 – May12




The Dirty Dog welcomes one of jazz’s treasures, who has been positively compared with Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. This world-renowned vocalist is a noted and prolific composer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and educator.





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May 4, 2018

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The multi-talented Carmen Lundy / Photo by



Internationally acclaimed vocalist/composer Carmen Lundy is touring off her latest album and will grace the stage at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café on Friday May 11 and Saturday, May 12. She will be featuring material from her extensive four decades-long career and her latest album “Code Noir”, where she uses her deep evocative voice in this collection of her original songs which she describes as “a song cycle for turbulent times”. “These songs encompass the musical and artistic influences from the African diaspora and its influence on Jazz and other genres – the bossa nova, the blues, swing, funk, the exploration into the avant-garde”, says Carmen. This is her 15th release to date.




CarmenLundyCredit Antonio Porcar


Photo by Antonio Porcar



The “Code Noir”  features an impressive, multi-generational list of artists, including Patrice Rushen, piano, Ben Williams, bass, Jeff Parker, guitar, Kendrick Scott, drums with Ms. Lundy on vocals, keys, guitar, string programming and background vocals.



Ms. Lundy, who is also the sister of world-renowned Jazz bassist, Curtis Lundy, started playing piano and singing as a young child while growing up in Florida. She is a multi-talented vocalist, composer, arranger and lyricist also plays keyboards, guitar, and much more. A gifted artist she also designs many of her album covers much like Joni Mitchell.  Although she’s often been compared to Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln, Lundy is a true individualist.







Over the years, she has received critical acclaimed from the New York Times, the Village Voice, the Los Angeles Time, the Washington Post, Downbeat and many more. She also received a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Miami.



Her compelling live performances are highly expressive partially because she has written and arranged all of the music which makes for a very personal approach. She’s a very special artist you won’t want to miss. She will be doing two sets each night next weekend. For more information and reservations, go to or call 313-882-5299.




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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May 1, 2018





This past week Sean Dobbins brought some of his jazz students to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café where his Trio was featured. These young musicians from the Spartan Youth Band had a chance to play in one of the best jazz clubs in America. Last week’s blog was a tribute to Sean’s dedication to keeping jazz going forward in Detroit. Wednesday night was the proof. We had a chance to listen and see these accomplished young musicians. What struck me was that they had acquired the same passion, manners and assurance that Sean possesses. They spoke to each other as equals.


Hearing such wonderful music coming from young people raised a nagging question. What can we learn from jazz teachers to help kids master other complicated courses such as science, math, language arts, or whatever?


Maybe it is that jazz-band teachers do one thing right in teaching that other teachers should think more about. They talk to the students as if they will soon be playing in a band with them.


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.  Include these mentors in your list of favorite teachers.





We are all capable of learning and teaching, but some people are better at teaching than others. It is a gift. It is hard work. It takes purpose, patience and sometimes humility.  We forget that this is exactly what we want in a teacher. Someone who is OK with letting us feel that we are capable of surpassing them. That is exactly what I see when I think back to those good teachers who were so patient with me. I see this gift today when I am around artists and musicians.


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. They have skills that I lack, but I am learning.






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.


This past week I was reminded what a great place Detroit is for learning There were so many remarkably nice people both teaching and learning.







I have an artist friend, Michael Horner who has been pretty good at everything he has tried including being a jazz drummer, boxer and professional golfer. Right now, Michael is on the search for the next best thing in art. He is hard working and open minded and just might find it. Along the way he also was good enough to instruct others as well. He still finds time to help someone just starting out. This week I watched him give a young artist encouragement at the Detroit Artist’s Breakfast Club, which is a casual gathering of all kinds of Detroit artists. Everyone gets a chance to show and discuss their art for a few minutes. It is really is a large support group for artists, a great place to get encouragement and a chance to chat and learn. Earnest artists fill the place every Monday. Friendly hands are helping Detroit to rise one student at a time.




Passion / Personal ownership and accountability / Getting along / High expectations and excellence / Reward


Meanwhile, any chance we get we should honor our teachers. One way is to come out and enjoy the music coming out of the classroom at your local jazz club like the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. Don’t forget to smile at the teacher.


John Osler




May 2 – May 5





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








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April 27, 2018




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



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



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



Jazz ranges from strictly organized compositions, through free form/improvisational music to written forms such as scores and charts.  Compositional techniques are the methods used to create most styles of music. These range from using written musical notation, to the use of improvisation, musical montage, and arrangements for various ensemble configurations.



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



One method to compose music is starting with a base series of chords. These chords could be selected arbitrarily or with specific purpose to reflect the tone of the emotion being conveyed. Once the series of chords is selected, additional lines are added to embellish – these and usually include a lead melody line.



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



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



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



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






The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra is a perfect example of group improvisation and musical creation on the orchestral level no less! They utilize many of the compositional techniques outlined above. The musicians in this recording are some of the most talented and respected “free jazz” artists in the idiom.

The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra was an American jazz group founded by Carla Bley and Michael Mantler in 1965 to further orchestral avant-garde jazz. Their 1968 double-album The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra featured soloists Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Roswell Rudd, Pharoah Sanders, Larry Coryell, and Gato Barbieri.

Happy listening!

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


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April 24, 2018




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, usually to wake up the audience. Drummers deserve some recognition for being really good musicians. In the last couple of months Detroit drummers Jeff Canady, RJ Spangler, Gayelynn McKinney and Sean Dobbins will have gotten some love at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café .  They are gifted musicians, arrangers and band leaders, and as band leaders they will have to stand up and accept our appreciation.







Henry David Thoreau







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. I still have the drum set and retreat to the basement from time to time for some drum therapy. I will happily remain hidden.


“I’ve wanted to be a drummer since I was about five years old. I used to play on a bath salt container with wires on the bottom, and on a round coffee tin with a loose wire fixed to it to give a snare drum effect. Plus there were always my Mum’s pots and pans. When I was ten, my Mum bought me a snare drum. My Dad bought me my first full drum kit when I was 15. It was almost prehistoric. Most of it was rust.” Billy Cobhan




“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




“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 who 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 would often find Sean involved with getting his three kids organized for school. He and his wife have shared the responsibility of bringing up three bright kids. His oldest daughter is in Sean’s words, “a brainiac”.  She took courses at Eastern Michigan University while still in high school. His youngest daughter is a serious soccer player and pianist..  His son began his days with a lesson from his dad on his drum set. Remember his son’s name, Matthew Dobbins. He is already a great drummer and is a good basketball player.




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


Sean sees need and responds. This is Detroit, and 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 two youth programs. He is Executive Director of the South East Music Academy and Director of Michigan State’s youth jazz program in Detroit.


Sean’s concern about the musicians coming out of our schools has led him to initiate a series of events that he calls THE RISING STARS SERIES. This program will allow 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 three 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.


The Modern Jazz Messengers


The Modern Jazz Messengers have been a mainstay in Detroit’s jazz world for over ten years. Like the band’s inspiration Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Dobbins is big on rotating the members and keeping the band’s front line youthful and hard swinging. The Modern Jazz Messengers songbook is heavy on hard-bop and post-bop staples. Art Blakey, the original Sean Dobbins, who led the original Messengers would be proud to see where Sean has taken the music.


Sean Dobbins Organ Quartet


The Sean Dobbins Organ Quartet is a

homage to an instrument that came out of the churches when the Hammond Corp. made organs portable. It became jazz’s most used keyboard instrument after the piano.


The Sean Dobbins Trio


This week he will bring the Sean Dobbins Trio to the Dirty Dog. He will be joined by Corey Kendirck on piano and Bob Bickly on Bass.





“The drummer is the key—the heartbeat of jazz”


Jo Jones


“Jazz is a heartbeat—­its heartbeat is yours. You will tell me about its perspectives when you get ready.”


Langston Hughes


You have to have a heart before you can have a heartbeat. Sean Dobbins has a big heart and a big beat. Sean is the whole package.


John Osler










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April 20, 2018


Electro/Acoustic Jazz pianist, Chick Corea




Although the festival doesn’t occur until Labor Day weekend work has already begun preparing for this annual event. One of the most exciting things about this pre-Festival phase is the announcement of each year’s Artist-in-Residence. This position is bestowed upon one of the top musicians in the idiom. Recent resident artists have included bassist Ron Carter, guitarist Pat Metheny, and saxophonist Wayne Shorter.



This year it is the iconic pianist and composer, Chick Corea, who is considered one of the major pianists and style-makers to emerge from the latter part of the 20th century.



The role the resident artists play can include various activities such as leading master classes with new and emerging musicians, performing live at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café, and also performing on each of festival’s four days. Each one of the Festival performances showcases the resident artist in different ensembles and focuses on different aspects of their music. The best part of all this is the fact that the Detroit Jazz Festival is free allowing thousands of people each year to have access to these deeply satisfying musical experiences.



Chick Corea came into prominence in the mid-1960’s as a member of Miles Davis’s group during an important period in Jazz when the genre began changing its basic style and instrumention to reflect major changes happening in music and culture in general. The style known as “fusion” mirrored the new sounds in electric rock, funk, soul, world music and other genres. Jazz artists, including Mr. Corea with his “fusion” band Return to Forever, began experimenting with electric instruments such as pianos, synthesizers, guitars, violins, basses, and more.



In the coming weeks, our Jazz Notes blog will be highlighting different aspects of Corea’s amazing career and the enormous influence his music has had on contemporary Jazz.  This week we focus on his recent live solo appearance at the Dirty Dog on April 11, 2018 which helped kick-off this year’s Jazz Festival season.



Mr. Corea is a National Endowment of the Arts “Jazz Master” who is also the fourth-most nominated artist in Grammy Award history. He is fluent in many types of music, including bebop, straight ahead, avant-garde and fusion Jazz, Latin and Classical music as well. He brought all of this with him to the Dirty Dog last week for his solo performance that included music from George Gershwin, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Joaquin Rodrigo and Stevie Wonder.



DSC0778 ChickJA 3


Judy talking to Chick Corea after his performance at the Dirty Dog. Photo by Debbie Kent



His playing was flawless with spectacular displays emotional expression, clarity and speed:a true virtuosic master. He created a relaxed atmosphere with his warm, personable style which included telling stories as he introduced each piece of music he chose to play that night. He also stuck around after the show, mingling with the Dirty Dog audience.  It was a magnificent evening




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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Each week the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe hosts live performances from the greatest jazz musicians across the country.
Duane Parham
STARTS: Wed, May 23 2018
ENDS: Thu, May 24 2018
Alexander Zonjic
STARTS: Fri, May 25 2018
ENDS: Sat, May 26 2018
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ENDS: Thu, May 31 2018
Steve Turre
STARTS: Fri, June 01 2018
ENDS: Sat, June 02 2018
Walt Szymanski
STARTS: Wed, June 06 2018
ENDS: Sat, June 09 2018