IS THE DIRTY DOG THE WORLD’S BEST JAZZ CLUB?
This is a question that I can’t honestly answer with my limited knowledge of the world’s clubs. I regularly hear musicians and the Dirty Dog’s guests making that claim.
GIVING THE NOD OF THE HEAD
I started hearing about the uniqueness of the Dirty Dog Jazz Café while sitting quietly and listening to Benny Golson and his mates chat in the Dog’s splendid green room. This was one of the first times that I was privileged to hear jazz artists in a casual conversation. The band that Benny assembled did what musicians do. They gabbed about jazz and shared their stories. Jazz greats like Benny Golson see a lot of jazz venues and have a ton of good and bad experiences. That day he stated unequivocally that this gig at that Dirty Dog was in a class of its own.The band included Detroit pianist Ian Finkelstein, who was at the time still studying at the University of Michigan. Ian responded to Bennie’s remark with a nod of his head and with Ian’s head of hair this is a significant nod. This started me thinking about what makes a great jazz club.
Ian has regularly been seen at the Dirty Dog leading his own band and showing us his head nod. Recognizing and then providing a place to help launch Detroit’s home grown talent has been one of the Dirty Dog’s roles. Since that time I have witnessed plenty of confirmation of the idea that the Dirty Dog is a great club for listening to jazz. One of the reasons that a jazz club is singled out is for the respect that the club freely gives the artists.
RESPECT FOR THE ARTIST
THE GREEN ROOM
The space that performers use while they wait to go on stage is often called the “green room”, a place to wait and prepare before they go on. The term “green room” was first referenced about 1671. Why the green room? No one knows for sure but we know that no one painted the rooms green. Maybe it was because the rooms for the actors were often greened by storing bushes and shrubs along with other scenery. It is thought that the “scene room” became the “green room”. For most people green is a soothing and calming color and that is a good thing for tense performers. The green room has become a common word for any lounge.
At the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe, down the hall near the service entrance is a room reserved for the musicians. The green room at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe isn’t your average employee’s lounge. There aren’t any vending machines, hard folding metal chairs, plastic plates or paper napkins. It is much closer to an executive lounge or what we would like to find in an executive lounge. It is more like a catered executive suite with comfortable leather couches and chairs, handsome pictures on the walls and an inviting dining area. Also, there is a private bathroom and a separate changing room. What’s going on here? I think it is to show respect for the artists playing at the Dog, something that comes naturally for the proprietor, Gretchen Valade. Gretchen believes that if you treat the musicians as being special they will give us back something special. It seems to be working.
In the theater the green room was often used to receive guests. Wealthy benefactors had access to the actors. Respect often lost out to the quest for greenbacks. Gretchen has rejected that idea. I have been privileged to spend some time with the musicians and hear their banter. Although serious business takes place as playlists and charts are shared, instruments adjusted, and new ideas discussed, there are times when the room fills with raucous laughter and brilliant banter. What a joy to spend this time with these generous, astute, humorous and smart professionals. The veterans and the new guys exchange insights and stories. The conversational glue is the common regard for the music and those who can play. Great stuff.
One evening I asked Gretchen if she ever went back to the green room to visit and share the warmth. I knew how welcome she would be. As is her manner, she summed up her feelings in a few words. She said, ” I have too much respect for the artists to do that”. The musicians, in turn, respect Gretchen and those who are fortunate enough to hear them perform.
IN COMING BLOGS WE WILL LOOK INTO THESE OTHER REASONS FOR THE CLAIM THAT “THE DIRTY DOG IS THE WORLDS BEST JAZZ CLUB”
JAZZ ARTIST GET FOUR DAY GIGS
JAZZ ARTISTS GET RESPECT FROM THE AUDIENCE
THE DIRTY DOG’S COMMITMENT TO REMAIN TRUE TO JAZZ AND ITS DETROIT ROOTS
BECOMING REALLY REALLY GREAT
Being bigly or talking about being the greatest is currently in vogue.
I admit to be sometimes guilty of casually declaring greatness when it is unearned.
Sometimes I do this tongue in cheek and sometime with my foot in my mouth.
The only thing that really counts is giving due to those things that actual do great things.
COMING THIS WEEK TO THE WORLDS BEST JAZZ CLUB: THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ FEBRUARY 22 – 25
Skeeto in any language means “a great lifter of one’s spirit “.
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