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  • Writer's pictureJOHN OSLER'S UPBEAT Admin



Looking at a healthy plant or tree we don’t always see their roots. Only when you try to uproot a tree or pick a flower do you realize how powerful the connection there is between any  plant and its roots.

For decades Detroiters have been buoyed up by the great  artists who have hung around and shared their gifts with their neighbors. They have kept our spirit and blood moving. Maybe it is because there has been  a constant source of opportunity for our young musicians  in our churches. It is an inspiration that continues all their lives. Our young artist have early exposure to stories of enduring adversity and good people rising to challenges. Detroit’s ability to keep moving on shows up in the power of the  music we hear today. We can listen to the rich story telling and the loyalty to the beat when we sit down for an evening of jazz. Detroit’s roots are many and go deep.

For all of my life I have been puzzled by the brave passivity of those under siege. People who can’t seem to be heard yet remain quiet and calm. That is until they speak. This makes their message so powerful when it comes out . They challenge violence with gentleness and tragedy with forgiving. Often it is the result of the cumulative experiences and messages that are deeply embedded in the heart of generations of church goers. We hear it in the music.

In a New Yorker article by David Remnick about the tragic shooting at Mother Emanuel Methodist Church in Charleston,  James Campbell, a ninety year old Charleston citizen told David:

“That memory is almost genetic, the DNA of the community, and I don’t think it manifests itself in rage. it manifests itself in the resolute patience of a long-suffering people. And their determination is expressed through the permanency of the church. That may wear thin with some of the younger people, but it will be a while before you see it change.”


The permanency of churches is dependent on the next generation, as is the future of jazz. The root for Detroit’s most important music has always been jazz and the soil that jazz has sprung from has certainly been enriched by the our churches. Part of the message from our churches has been to persevere and to teach the next guys. This continues to happen.

When Detroit jazz fans leaf through my photos in the book Detroit Jazz I hear a constant “Oh, they go to/play at my church”.   This tipped me off that the church is still an important catalyst in keeping the music on track for some time..


This week Alvin Waddles brings his many talents into the Dirty Dog for, thankfully, four nights of music. This group will convince you that the local music hasn’t wavered  in giving us  hard driving, free swinging music that we know is true to its roots.

Alvin will swing into the Dirty Dog Jazz Café this week. Alvin in old English means elf friend, making Alvin’s parents a little prophetic. Alvin does have an elfin twinkle in his eye when he performs. He has enormous talent that he uses with grace. For many Detroiters he is the friendly face of jazz.

Alvin’s musical career is a Detroit story which means that there is a generous and gifted teacher that showed up at the right time. For Alvin it was Mrs.Gusseye Dickey who took the gifted 8 year old Alvin under her wing. Alvin says that it was Mrs. Dickey that first instilled in him his life-long love of classical music. Alvin took his early lessons at Cass Technical High School, the Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Michigan School of Music and added his rich Detroit culture to become a multi talented master musician.

Alvin is in demand as much for his voice as his explosive piano. Alvin has never stopped expanding his horizons. He has brought his unique gifts to many diverse Detroit events and organizations including The Detroit Jazz Festival, The Detroit Opera House, Detroit Music Hall, Ann Arbor and Detroit schools, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church. New Bethel Church, Hope United Methodist Church, the New Millennium Choral, the Fats Waller Revue, numerous theatrical productions and wherever else a vibrant artist was needed.

In 2003 Alvin received the Detroit Musician’s Association award for excellence. He has also been a soloist and featured artist around the world playing gigs in Barbados, Beijing, Paris, Barcelona and Ghana, West Africa.


Next month Detroit’s Chris Codish will be featured on the Hammond B3 organ. On August 23 and August 24 he will likely bring his Hammond with him, which isn’t an easy task. It is heavy and clumsy looking. does make a difference. Chris will always be true to the music, which makes him a busy guy, but he still has had time on each Sunday for over 18 years to be the organist/keyboardist at the God Land Unity Church in Detroit. Chris’ commitment is a familiar story in Detroit’s music community. Chris has serious roots in the music and the arts.

Here are some quotes from Chris:

“I have nothing against technique and dexterity, I’m always working on gaining more myself and I acknowledge and appreciate the time and dedication it takes to play fast tempos, passages, etc. But PLEASE don’t sacrifice emotion, feeling, expression and interaction in the pursuit of being “the baddest cat.” It’s an empty goal. Make music that moves people and gives them something they “need” even if they don’t know it..”

” I was able to play two really fine Steinway pianos at both Cliff Bell’s and at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. I can hear the difference. Time and time again it seems that the people who I really enjoy listening to are also very genuine, diversely educated, warm and engaging and this often comes through in their music and even beyond that in their personal presence. You could say I enjoy those who have cultivated their human side and allow it to permeate their music.”

“The best improvisers, performers and entertainers are those who actually take the music somewhere and thereby bring the band and the audience with them.”

“That’s what I believe we need to be striving for as musicians and performers. Engaging the music, your band members, the audience, and the space you’re in at the moment. Can you hear the difference? Have you listened?”

Come on out to the Dirty Dog this week and you will hear the difference. It’s in the roots.

John Osler




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