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One of the advantages of hanging out at a jazz club taking photos is that I also hang out with jazz musicians. I often have a chance to listen to a group talk about those people whom they have gigged with. Sometimes the talk turns into some bizarre road experiences and quirks of personality which then brings on a lot of head nodding and understanding guffaws. They all seem to have had similar experiences. Sometimes the conversation turns to those who have influenced and encouraged them. Each jazz musician, like all artists, takes his/her own path, yet the lives of musicians are full of similar thank you moments. Few musicians haven’t been nudged in the right direction by a friendly hand. One thing that you almost never hear is a derogatory comment.

Musicians also are generally mobile. They are exposed to a lot of travel and varied cultures. How they incorporate this in their music varies artist to artist but it is going to find a way into at least the beat of the music or the sway of their body.

This week at the Dirty Dog  saxophonist T. K. Blue will play with the Detroit Jazz Festival All Stars.


I didn’t know T.K. or his music, so I Googled his name and went to his biography. His was  filled with a lot of familiar jazz artists, false starts, trying different paths and a lot of gentle nudges from helpful people. It started me thinking about all the times that I have looked at artist biographies that looked a lot like T.K’s. So many talented musicians come through the Dirty Dog’s door who have been seen with a long list of jazz legends. If we look at the influences in their lives, we will find all varieties of folks. Diversity is the word we use now for what was natural to most jazz artists and certainly to T.K.


The thing that stood out about T.K.’s bio was his seemingly constant and respectful adventures with new ideas, places and cultures. He has remained in motion throughout his life and his music reflects his inquisitiveness into what has past and what is about to be done.

I think we can learn from his background.

T.K. Blue, also known as Talib Kibwe, was born in New York City of a Trinidadian mother and Jamaican father. T.K. began playing music at the age of 8 years old on trumpet.  In High School he played the flute. He took lessons from Billy Mitchell, the legendary tenor saxophonist with Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. At New York University he began playing soprano & alto saxophone. He earned a bachelor’s degree in both music and psychology, and a  master’s degree in music education from Teacher’s College at Columbia University.

T.K.’s bio goes on to list his education, his mentors, his travels including living 10 years in France and a page full of his important accomplishments. In his bio live many of the jazz world’s legends.

Please look at T. K. Blue’s complete bio at:

T.K.’s bio confirms that he is certainly “a musician of the highest caliber who is at the peak of his creative output.” T. K. Blue can be found on over seventy recordings and he has performed with a long list of great international artists

T.K. Blue just came out with his new CD “Amour” which was released May 12, 2017.


A life like T.K.’s is chock full of stories.

I put a call into T.K. to see if I was on the right track trying to figure out what or who were his greatest influences. He is obviously a well educated cerebral cat who has worked with poets, historically important figures and artists. I asked him if his music has been informed by more than  just other jazz musicians. He replied, “You are on to something”.

He began our conversation by telling me that while In high school he worked with a young poet who was part of NYC’s Last Poets. The Last Poets are considered the precursors to Rap. Then while T.K. was at NYU the two of them formed a band, the first of his many collaborations.

He started to go on and maybe realized that he was giving me his bio. T. K.’s voice paused  and he veered away from his written bio. He told me that one of the most powerful influences in his life was his father in law. His father in law was one of New York’s first black firemen. What T.K.saw was a man that was an anchor in the community, a rock solid husband and a loving father to his kids. The subject stayed on his family. T..K.’s mother returned to school to get a degree in art appreciation, an act that obviously filled him with enlightenment and purpose. As much as his adventurous spirit took him around the world and allowed him to meet influential people, he retained the values and purpose that was most important to him.

Finding purpose in the things and people around them is a common trait of jazz musicians  Jazz artists know how to include both adventure and home in their lives and  their lives show up in their music.


Yesterday was Father’s Day, and my son Mark wrote this tribute to his parents, using a part of one of my recent blogs. It was sure appropriate.

“Not long ago, my dad wrote this on his blog:

Our kids are especially vulnerable as they take their long road to emotional and physical maturity. As members of the human race we use up a quarter of our lives figuring things out, longer even than those much larger than we are like the blue whale. Our instincts are to shield, nurture, educate and protect our children. We are at a crossroads right now. We are being told it is OK to be concerned with our own safety and enrichment, but we don’t have an equal fervor to invest in our nation’s children, especially in the music and the arts….

Wayne Shorter had just been in Detroit in his role as the Detroit Jazz Festival’s Resident Artist for 2017. This remarkable jazz saxophonist offered to be part of a master class held at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. When he entered the club he was greeted with awe and respect. Great artists can be a little intimidating. Any intimidation melted away under the weight of Wayne’s manner and words, while the awe and respect carried on throughout the evening. At this moment in his life Wayne Shorter has little to prove. He still can’t enter a room without having something to say that needs to be said. Wayne came into the room where the young musicians were preparing to play and sat down in a chair facing them. Without speaking he waved to them to start playing. While they played he did what jazz artists do best.  He listened. He responded to what he just heard by saying that it is what you personally bring to the gig that is more important than your instrument and all your newest tricks. He told them to live life so that they would have something to say and know when it is appropriate to say it. They learned that their music would be only as good and as big as their lives.

I love that last part, where he hears what Wayne Shorter really meant. That’s what artists do. I remember once he told me that a good painting will represent the truth of a subject better than a photograph would. I didn’t understand what he meant then, but I do now.”

John Osler


JUNE 21 – JUNE 24

T.K. BLUE with the DJF All Stars

We get four days to learn more about T.K. playing with  some of Detroit’s greatest jazz artists whom we already know a lot about. They include Buddy Budson,Marion Hayden and David Taylor.

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