I am often surprised when I go into a room and there is a piece of really good art on the wall. It may not always be my cup of tea, but I will carry forward a good feeling towards the person who thought that art was important. We all have different skill levels when we decorate a space hoping to make life more orderly and livable. When we first enter a room and glance around we get our first glimpse of someone. A room that I occupied would usually be a scene of disarray. Piles of stuff and unfinished projects would litter every corner of every room. Fortunately for me and anyone visiting our house, my wife has a better sense of presentation than I do. Any room where I am working would soon become uninhabitable if left ungoverned by my better half. I am grateful for all of the people who keep order in our world and especially those who place in front of me beautiful arrangements of beautiful things. It is often a woman with impeccable taste. When I am in the Canadian woods it is Mother Nature. At my house it is my wife, and at the jazz club down the street it is Gretchen Valade
When you enter the Dirty Dog Jazz Café you are greeted by a host and a dog that is scratching itself because it might be a little bit dirty. The dog is not real. It is just one of the many artifacts in a club chock full of charm, music, civility and art. Fortunately for those of us who like jazz played in an intimate yet expansive space, the Dirty Dog has been created in its proprietor Gretchen’s vision. She was looking for a nice place to spend an evening. The Dirty Dog is a handsomely turned out establishment that does not take itself too seriously. This is obvious when you encounter the holiday decorations and the art on the walls. The original art that covers the walls captures the joyous character of the club and its owner. Gretchen has shown her appreciation for the musicians and patrons by surrounding them with a veritable art gallery.
“The whole culture is telling you to hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Listen to the art.” -Junot Diaz
THE DIRTY DOG ART GALLERY
I have been asked from time to time to add a piece of art to the walls of the Dirty Dog. It is a little scary to try to live up to the standards that exist in the music, food and service. It always turns out to be a misplaced fear of failure as it is a place with a low judgemental factor, so you might as well have fun. That quite honestly is what this place is all about.
Gretchen has curated most of the stuff that finds a place on a shelf or a wall. There are a lot of images of dogs and jazz artists. There is evidence throughout the club that she is unafraid to put up what pleases her. She is confident that this is going to bring a little happiness to the rest of us. The Dirty Dog is dedicated to promote and support all artists. All it takes is to be authentic and give a good effort.
Louis Armstrong photographed by Hervé Gloagen
My wife and I were staying in a magical old house in the magical village of Le Beaucet in the south of France. I often painted outside in a small garden beneath a limestone cliff with the ruins of a 12th century castle on the top. The garden was part of a path that a visitor would use to wander through the village. One day a couple wandered into the backyard. They were both magazine designers from Paris. We shared an interest in art, jazz and a glass of wine They invited us to visit them in their home/gallery in the village of l’isle sur la sorgue.
Their first exhibition was going to feature the photography of their friend, photographer Hervé Gloagen. The poster featured Herve’s classic photo of Louis Armstrong. I next saw the photo on the wall of the Dirty Dog. Louis is only half in the picture, he is alone and in thought. We are given no clues where he is, what band he was playing in or why he was wearing white socks. This is a great photograph as it gives us a lot to think about and fill in. It captured Louis in a private moment. He was completely unaware of the photographer or absolutely comfortable with him. One of Hervé Gloagen assets was his ability to befriend his subjects. and the ease that the subjects felt in his presence.
All this is on display when the lights go back up after a set of jazz at the Dirty Dog.
Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand—as if it were necessary to understand—when it is simply necessary to love.” – Claude Monet
There are prints and posters of famous jazz artists by equally famous jazz photographers scattered around the club. This is to be expected. These are the giants that look over most jazz clubs. Gretchen has additional art on the Dirty Dog’s walls that mirror her love of the music and the soulful musicians behind the music. It is her sentimental tip of the hat.
Dee Dee Pierce oil painting by John Osler
Dee Dee Pierce and his wife Billie headlined a jazz band that was a fixture for years in New Orleans. He was an American jazz trumpeter and cornetist. He is best remembered for the songs “Peanut Vendor” and “Dippermouth Blues”, His wife Billie played the piano.
I never met Dee Dee or Billie except through some early recordings and by going through Tulane University’s archives. Their early playing was rough hewn, bluesy and authentic to their situation. I was moved to paint their story. I think there is a lot of a journeyman jazz musician’s struggle in his face. Gretchen must have agreed when she put the painting on the wall.
Here is a video of Dee Dee and Billie
“Art should be like a holiday: something to give a man the opportunity to see things differently and to change his point of view.” -Paul Klee
SHARING MUSIC AND ART
Art is in the eyes of the beholder, but someone has to get it in front of the beholders. The Dirty Dog is in this business. They share original jazz, art and food for those who like that sort of thing.
Come on out to the Dirty Dog, you will get a chance to thank Gretchen Valade for all she has done, and you will get a chance to support live music while having the time of your life.
THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ
November 20 – 25
Starting Wednesday of this week Detroit’s own Kimmie Horne will bring her alto voice to the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. Kimmie’s voice is a powerful thawing device.
Kimmie may be home grown, but she isn’t a secret to to her jazz and R&B fans around the world. This local girl is an internationally acclaimed artist and puts in her share of time away from home. When she returns home she shows her love of her hometown, and nowhere is she more at home than when she plays the Dirty Dog. She knows she will get lost in the warm embrace of family and friends. It happens every time she shows up.