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  • Writer's pictureJOHN OSLER'S UPBEAT Admin




We live our lives surrounded by sounds and sights, background stuff that is always there. There are times when the sounds and sights are worth taking note. We stop and listen. If it is interesting, we continue to listen. Sometimes we get so deeply into the sounds that we get lost in the music. What usually draws us in is a familiar story that draws an emotional response.



Last week we celebrated SMILE WEEK at the Dirty Dog. The fortunate audience along with the staff took seriously the task of having a good time. It helped to have the Four Freshmen in the room who always seem to lift our spirits. Regardless of the artists playing,  most people leave the Dirty Dog feeling that they have had a unique experience. Each artist brings his story, which will certainly influence the music and the listener.


We all get beaten down. As strong as we are we can’t avoid all the blows that come our way. Sometimes our pain is caused by a deliberate and cruel act, but usually it is just part of the lives we are given. We are offered no guaranties of a comfy path with no bumps. Too often we are given little time to prepare for the turns that our fortune takes.

How we act at these times can define us. Musicians and other artists grab these moments and it becomes a strength. It becomes a lesson in resilience.

Getting back up is a recurring story I hear in Detroit. There are times when I hear this theme when a musician reaches back and brings another player up a level. Sometimes it occurs when  the music builds and just gets stronger and stronger.

Creative artists are perhaps most powerful when they draw on personal experiences.

We all share the ups and downs of life. It is not limited to artists, so when we hear an artist share an experience we often recognize the emotion buried in their skill. Jazz players often have shared experiences  which let them communicate as they play. Together they may wail or laugh.

Here is an example of resilience: It happens to be in a poem.


Many people responded. Rain often comforts us and brings lush fields and rainbows.  What caught my attention was not a haiku, but a poem written by  Donna Humphrey.

Donna was murdered at the age of 89 by a disgruntled litigant seeking to strike back at her daughter who was a judge. After her mother’s death, Donna’s daughter discovered poems written by her mother. She collected her mother’s poems and published them in a slim volume, “I Speak of Simple Things.” They are stunning, jewels.


My favorite was Donna’s poem “Summer Storm”.

They looked out on the field of corn Where, just this morning, Hope stood, dark green And shoulder high. They saw it through a blur Of steam and mist as wind and rain and hail Combined to wreak a senseless fury On the green and innocent promise Of the fields. Silently they watched. The roar of the storm so loud To drown out the sound of speaking. Silently, they waited for the storm to pass.

Gradually the roar became a murmur, then a drip Of an occasional raindrop on the roof. And then, as though nothing at all had happened The sun broke through and cast a shining rainbow On the dark and hurrying cloud. The man pulled on his boots, she made no move to go; This was his time to be alone. She watched him As he slowly slogged his way through all that muddy waste Where, just this morning, Hope stood, shoulder high. Returning to the house (which held his riches, after all) He grinned a little wryly as he said, “The Lord giveth, And the Lord taketh away.” She smiled and touched his hand. “And blessed is His name,” she answered.

Wrapped up in this poem are two good people who have shared the experience of doing their best. A spring and summer working hard and then a storm just before harvest wipes it out. They could have picked up a fiddle and guitar and played a lament. She chose a pen and a pad.

This poem  had the same effect on me as listening to the music at the Dirty dog often has,


like the last time George Benson brought his sax to the Dirty Dog. When I watched George play,  he sometimes seemed to disappear from the moment  and take us on a trip into his past. I felt his emotions even though I didn’t know what episode in his life had just reappeared in his thoughts. Listening to George play a ballad we know that George has experienced some love. As he played, George’s face showed his story as much as his saxophone.

This week the Dirty Dog Jazz Café presents Tad Weed, George Davidson and Ron Brooks who form the Tad Weed Trio. Detroit jazz at its very best.

John Osler

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