Last week I put my camera down and watched the sold out Dirty Dog crowd respond to Alvin Waddles, Marion Hayden and Djallo Djakate as they  held in their hands a sold out Dirty Dog Jazz Café crowd. It was Thanksgiving eve and when Alvin sang moving stories about giving thanks, I saw women put their hands to their faces to support / conceal their glee. When he took us on wild rides of syncopated rhythms, the crowd would flash identical smiles filled with understanding and pure delight. This was all done in unplanned unison. This was done involuntarily by those of all ages, races and dispositions.

At the beginning of the Thanksgiving holiday I was witnessing the power of the music to reveal our common humanity. This was a beautiful happening. Music is healing and these were magical moments.


“Cécile McLorin Salvant has poise, elegance, soul, humor, sensuality, power, virtuosity, range, insight, intelligence, depth and grace.” — Wynton Marsalis


We are at the right place at the right time, A few years ago I happened to be at the Dog when Cécile McLorin Salvant first sang professionally in the USA. How were we to know something special was about to happen?  Well, some sure did. Why else would they have flown her in from Paris to perform at the Dirty Dog for that one night. She was being given this chance to perform at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café because she won the prestigious 2010 Theolonius Monk Competition. Some pretty smart people from Mack Avenue Records  noticed.  One in particular, their executive VP Al Pryor, took action.

At the competition Cécile McLorin Salvant, then only 21, came out and brought down the  house with an aching, husky “I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone.”  Al Pryor, along with the judges, were blown away. Shortly after the competition Al asked Cécille to come to Detroit so that Gretchen Valade and others could hear her live at the Dirty Dog. Following that magical night at the Dog, she was offered a contract with Mack Avenue. One of the principal band members at the Monk competition was Detroit’s own Rodney Whitaker,  a Mack Avenue Recording star. Rodney recognized her out sized talent. He recalls that she had a mature understanding of the material far beyond her age. The rest is musical history. Her 2012 album for Mack Avenue Woman Child was nominated for a 2014 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album. She swept the 2014 Down Beat Critics Poll, winning in four categories: Best Jazz Album, Best Female Vocalist, Best Rising Star Female Vocalist and Best Rising Star Jazz Artist.

Cécille has always remained true to herself.  Jazz was introduced to her through the voices of Abbey Lincoln, Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Ethel Waters. She understood their gifts of storytelling and how they could share the stories in their music. That is maybe why her singing is so clear and straightforward. She does not garble the message. Cécile is not a traditional singer. Hers is a unique approach with deep respect for those who proceeded her and those truths that they embraced. In her delivery you do not sense any mimicry, only clarity. How lucky we are.

It is remarkable what support from Getchen Valade has done for jazz, not just on the local scene but on an international level. Come share Gretchen’s gift to us with a night out at a truly great jazz club. Who knows what they are cooking up. Maybe you will get lucky.





What a week!    John Osler


The New York Times’ Ben Ratliff says, “Her voice clamps into each song, performing careful variations on pitch, stretching words but generally not scatting; her face conveys meaning, representing sorrow or serenity like a silent-movie actor.” Critic Stephen Holden speaks enthusiastically about the many qualities of Salvant’s singing: “Perfect pitch and enunciation, a playful sense of humor, a rich and varied tonal palette, a supple sense of swing, exquisite taste in songs and phrasing, and a deep connection to the lyrics.”

Onstage she moves within a small perimeter and talks evenly, mostly in facts, to the audience. She has short hair and white, thick-framed glasses; she smiles easily, but doesn’t have the typical mannerisms of many younger jazz singers — conciliatory, or flirty, or mystical. Ms. Salvant is as serious as a library, and never corny.

She radiates authority and delivers a set with almost a dramatic arc.

“Her intonation is impeccable, her diction is impeccable,” the pianist Aaron Diehl

“She’s gotten to a level of understanding the vocabulary within a span of five years that for most people takes a few decades,” Mr. Diehl told me a few weeks ago. “She can hear, she can sing, she knows form. Her intonation is impeccable, her diction is impeccable. It’s something special.”

Here are some of my shots from that night when Cecille showed up..

Here is Cécille:

#Detroit #CécilleMcLorinSalvant #DirtyDog #AlvinWaddles #Music #DetroitJazz #DirtyDogJazzCafé #MarcusElliot

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