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  • Writer's pictureJOHN OSLER'S UPBEAT Admin

Is The Dirty Dog Jazz Club The Best Jazz Club In America?

Dennis 1


In the 1950s I spent 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. Large expressive art was replacing the drab art of the war years. There was a lot to be said, and we had been too busy with war and reconstruction to talk about it. It was an exciting time, and jazz was starting to change. I spent time at familiar spots like Birdland and Jimmy Ryan’s and heard the new music downtown at The 5 Spot. This was Bird, Dizzy and Monk. They were changing the music.

I also had a chance to go to the clubs in L.A. in the 50s where one night Mulligan was playing across the street from Chet Baker. These were great jazz clubs. Great memories. It turns out these were legendary jazz musicians. I didn’t have a clue at the time how important these cats would be but I did know that something was going on.

Today, I get around Detroit listening to music, and Detroit has good choices of places to hear good music. Most of my time I am at the Dirty Dog taking pictures. This has given me a chance to listen to both out of town and often well traveled local artists talk 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 one club that makes the effort to accommodate the musician as well as the customer is the Dirty Dog. At the Dirty Dog Jazz Café they also get served some of the best food in town in their own green room and get a four day gig .

Many of the artists return, and when they do they share with the audience that as far as they are concerned the Dog may be the best jazz club in the Country and some say in the world. And it is in our back yard.



Guitarist Dennis Coffey

I remember when a lot of good young musicians would gather in our basement because my son is a drummer and the drum set didn’t travel easily . Another reason that they were in our basement was that we tolerated the young players as they found their new sounds.  Music filled the house with a lot of earnest effort. I almost reconsidered our open invitation to practise at our house with the sudden discovery and overuse of the wah wah peddle by  the quite brilliant guitarist John McClain, He was 17 at the time and  can be forgiven. Playing at the Dirty Dog this week will be Dennis Coffey, who is  credited as the guitarist who introduced the wah wah pedal to Motown, He too can be forgiven because he is a great artist. I was first introduced to Dennis by the superb 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Dennis Coffey had played as a member of the Funk Brothers, the studio band that recorded countless hits in Motown’s recording studio known as the Snake Pit and was featured in that movie. The last time Dennis played the Dirty Dog he mentioned the singer/ songwriter Sixto Rodriquez who he had befriended and who he helped produce his early recordings. Sixto’s remarkable story has been told in the 2013 Academy Award winning documentary, Searching for Sugar Man, where once again we find Dennis featured. These two films are the strongest displays, to date, of Detroit”s great music scene. Perhaps we should just follow Dennis around to see what is going to be the next big story.

At the Dirty Dog you will get a rare close up view of his magic. Dennis explores the music, He doesn’t stand still, and you won’t either.

John Osler


Dennis Coffey has been around the block, maybe a few times, and seen his share of jazz clubs. Here is what Dennis had to say about the Dirty dog along with Rayse Biggs, Ralphe Armstrong, Grace Kelley, Gene Dunlap and Dave McMurray.  They discuss the possibility that the Dirty Dog is America’s best jazz club. They could be right.

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