I have been away for the last month in a quiet and beautiful environment
and have had time to think about a lot of things. My time was winding down and my thoughts turned to what I can look forward to when I returned to Detroit. One of the things that made me smile was thinking about what my first encounter with my friend, Gretchen Valade would be like. She will probably say “where you been? you missed some good music!” She will then smile which is her way of saying it is good to have you back. Gretchen is a friend and is one of the reasons Detroit is a good place to return to.
WHERE ANGELS NEVER FEAR TO TREAD
DETROIT’S GOOD FRIEND
GRETCHEN VALADE is honest, straight forward, speaks her mind and follows through on her promises.
That is probably why most Detroiters, especially jazz musicians, feel that they have a good friend in Gretchen Valade. They are right. She has been a good friend to Detroit and its music.
FRIENDSHIP IS A GIFT
We all have memories of childhood gifts. Some gifts we played with to their extinction, some we hugged, a few we carefully preserved, and others we cherished until the next great gift came along. Later in life our focus became more on giving gifts. This is the greatest gift.
It is a shame when we lose the joy of receiving gifts. Sometimes we just don’t recognize them. One such gift is Gretchen’s gift to us of the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. Many times I have watched customers come up to Gretchen Valade and thank her for having given them such a great experience. The musicians playing the Dog certainly recognize and acknowledge the treasure we have in Gretchen and her passion for Detroit and its music.
The next time you come to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café you will begin to understand the gift Gretchen Valade has given us. She has created a warm place to hear great jazz and be served with grace. She has honored the artists with four day gigs and the respect they deserve. The joy on the patron’s faces is a reflection of her generous heart
GRETCHEN’S FRIENDSHIP: A VERY PERSONAL GIFT
It was 2008 and the world was in the grip of a serious recession. There were foreclosures and bankruptcies including Detroit’s auto industry. We all felt the downward pull. I went to a place that has always been therapeutic. I went to a local jazz club. It was a new, somewhat upscale place, called the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. I sat at the bar and at some point started talking to Carl, the club’s bartender and therapist.
We talked about art and jazz. I asked if it would be OK to photograph the artists for reference for future painting. He pointed to a bar stool and told me to sit there during the first set on a Wednesday night. I did as I was instructed. Before the band started up Carl introduced me to a handsome lady sitting next to me. That was how I met Gretchen Valade the owner and proprietress of the Dirty Dog, a genuinely classy person, the guardian angel to many and the savior of Detroit’s jazz at its darkest hour. It turns out I can be added to the list of those who have benefited from Gretchen’s big heart.
DETROIT”S GRAND CHAMPION
Detroit is a city that prides itself on being resilient. We are the comeback city. We get knocked down, and we get back up. True enough, but not that simple. We need some help sometimes. We look for a champion for Detroit to appear. Sometimes we get lucky and one of our own steps up. They tell us we count and that we are special. They get strong when the weak walk away.
In 2005 a champion appeared. Gretchen Valade said “PHOOEY” to the people that thought Detroit was dying. She saw the vibrant talent in the Detroit jazz community and she knew that the people of Detroit have their hopes permanently entangled in the city’s music. The music is of the city and it remains deep in the city’s DNA. The people still moved to the music, and the music hadn’t stopped. The machines may have slowed down, shop doors may have closed, politicians may have gone to jail. Meanwhile many leaders were throwing up their hands and walking away. The music was still really good, and Gretchen knew that something had to be done. And she did something. Detroit’s symbol of excellence, the Detroit Jazz Festival, was in trouble. As soon as Gretchen found out she set out to do what was necessary to keep it going. She was all over this task. How lucky that it was someone of Gretchen’s integrity who took charge. She was determined to keep the event, Detroit’s event. Today it remains free for all to enjoy and reflects the best side of Detroit’s character.
People know that Detroit’s festival is special. From all over the world jazz lovers circle the date of Detroit’s jazz festival. Those that come find jazz of great intelligence, energy and purity. There is little hype and a lot of music. Visitors learn that Detroit can throw a festival. We get the credit for doing something right. This year’s festival will run from Sept 1 – Sept 4 and will attract upwards of 750,000 people and bring in an estimated $90 million to our area.
Taking credit is not something Detroit is very good at doing. Gretchen has always shunned deserved attention for her good deeds. It is contagious.
This week guitarist Spencer Barefield will be at the Dirty Dog. Spencer has had a rich and acclaimed musical life and has a lot of stories to tell. When he plays the Dirty Dog Jazz Café he will come on stage quietly and speak mostly with his guitar, giving the audience what they came for. He probably will not promote his accomplishments. Mutual respect will fill the room along with some great music. This will please Gretchen.
THIS WEEK AT THE DIRTY DOG
AUGUST 16-AUGUST 19
This week Spencer Barefield will show up at the Dog and go to work. He is another Detroit artist with a long list of credits, who is eager to give his very best to the appreciative crowd that gathers at this club. Spenser will deserve and will accept applause.
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