IS THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ THE BEST JAZZ CLUB IN THE WORLD?
I will keep asking this question until someone tells me that maybe it isn’t, and why.
I haven’t heard any jazz artists say that this club isn’t one of the very best venues in the world. I think it would be hard to beat the gang at the Dirty Dog and the jazz club they have built.
IT COULD BE
In the 1950’s I spent some time in New York City. My idea of a great night was to drink some beer and listen to jazz. The 50s were a time of creative breakout. We had been busy with war and reconstruction and the whole world was bursting with creative juices. Large expressive art was replacing the drab art of the war years. This was an exciting time, and jazz was at the center of it all. I spent time at familiar spots like Birdland and Jimmy Ryan’s and heard that Bird, Dizzy and Monk were hanging out downtown at The 5 Spot.They were changing the music.
Also in the 50’s I had a chance to go to the clubs in L.A. where one night Mulligan was playing across the street from Chet Baker. These were great jazz clubs. Great memories. I didn’t have a clue at the time how important these guys would be but I did know that something was going on. I have been blessed to live in Detroit where musicians have always found a place to share their gifts.
Today in Detroit there are plenty of good places to hear good jazz. Detroit jazz remains a force and permeates all our music. It was inevitable that a club would emerge that was dedicated to honoring the art of jazz. I am biased as I can usually be found at the Dirty Dog taking pictures. This has given me a chance to listen to both out of town and well traveled local artists talking about their favorite places. They talk about how they are treated, the respect of the audience, the sound in the room and the prestige of playing a first class club. When all is said and done, they often end up saying the one club that makes the effort to accommodate the musician as well as the customer is the Dirty Dog.
HOW DID THE DOG GET TO BE MAYBE THE BEST ?
The answer “why not” could explain the success of the joint. The Dirty Dog required a lot of “why nots” on its journey to success. For many people the very existence of a jazz club on the Hill in Grosse Pointe would be considered a long shot. However, Gretchen Valade had a conviction that everything is possible. Let’s just do it! With limited space but with unlimited will, Gretchen gathered the people necessary to create one of the world’s great spaces to hear jazz. Why not make it be the best club ever? And so it was built with first class acoustics, warm lighting, a great kitchen, and good sight lines for the guests, along with a green room for the musicians. Oh, and while they were at it, they included a meeting/waiting room.
Here are some shots of the Dirty Dog construction, courtesy of Tom Robinson.
Gretchen and her friend and cohort Tom Robinson began their task of converting a toy store into a jazz club. There were skeptics, but construction started and the job of assembling the right people began. Tom took care of all the how tos while Gretchen concentrated on the why nots. Why not give a jazz joint an English pub feel? Why not hire one of the region’s great chefs, André Neminis? Why not have the floor managed by Willie Jones, one of the community’s best? Why not add guys like the lovable bartender Carl, and why not staff the kitchen and floor with agreeable and capable people? Then they decided that they would get the best local and national talent to play to a small and intimate room, and while they were at it, treat the musicians with respect.
Ten years later we can see the results. Gretchen’s query “why not” permeates every detail in the place and luckily she has impeccable taste. Maybe they created the best jazz club in the world. Why not?
THE GREEN ROOM MAY MAKE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CLUB AND ALL THE OTHER “ALMOST THE BEST” CLUBS.
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 a deep respect for the artists playing at the Dog, something that comes naturally for the proprietor, Gretchen Valade. Gretchen has a scheme and that is, if you treat the musicians as being special they will give back something special. It seems to be working.
THIS WEEK THE DIRTY DOG WILL PRESENT A PRETTY GOOD CASE THAT IT IS A TRULY GREAT JAZZ CLUB
Chick Corea has been named the 2018 Detroit Jazz Festival’s artist in residence.
Chick Corea has won 22 Grammies. It will be a very special evening to hear himin this very special intimate club.
David is a multi talented Detroit area jazz artist. He will bring the fresh sound of his quartet to the Dirty Dog for one night.
April 13 – April 14
Sacha was born in Chicago and learned his jazz at the University of Michigan. His clear voice and fresh interpretations can now be found on Mack Avenue Records and for two days at the Dirty Dog.