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  • Writer's pictureJOHN OSLER'S UPBEAT Admin

Detroit’s 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 was in trouble, and 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 4 – Sept 7 and will attract upwards of 750,000 people and bring in an estimated $90 million to our area.


A tip of our community hat to all who have joined Gretchen in making this Detroit’s crowning event of the year. It takes a year long effort to assure us a successful festival. Gretchen and partners continue to protect the festival from becoming a corporate co-opted event. They have refused to have it become the BLASTECH FESTIVAL, although if there is a Blastech Company the festival could use some of their bucks.


It is time for others to step up. Join with Gretchen and her partners to fund the festival  for the long term.  Help assure that it remains Gretchen’s dream, a pure first class free DETROIT JAZZ FETIVAL for the foreseeable future.

We can continue to take the credit.


Taking credit is not something Detroit is very good at doing. Gretchen shuns attention to her good deeds. It is contagious.

Last week guitarist Dennis Coffey had a gig at the Dirty Dog.  Dennis has had a rich and acclaimed musical life and has a lot of stories to tell. I was struck by the fact that when he played The Dirty Dog Jazz Café he came out quietly and spoke mostly with his guitar, giving the audience what they came for. He did not promote his accomplishments. Mutual respect filled the room. Great music was enough.

This week David McMurray 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 show off his best and his newest to the appreciative crowd that gathers at this club. Dave deserves and will accept applause.

John Osler

Here is a video with Dave and some friends that you might know.

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