The Dirty Dog Jazz Café is an intimate jazz club. Everyone has a chance to be a witness to jazz in the making. Being up close allows you to catch the signals the musicians are passing and hear the slap of the hand on the bass. The immediacy to the action is often sited as one of the reasons the Dirty Dog is considered possibly the world’s best jazz club.

It is also a destination for great food and service. Being a small club in a small space requires a skinny and agile staff with good reflexes. If you have dined at the Dirty Dog you may not have even noticed the staff. They are so quick and accurate with their food delivery that they are almost invisible. That is until you need something, when they suddenly show up and happily serve you. This is all part of a plan.


Sometimes when I show up early at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café there will be a staff meeting underway. Later  there will be  small gaggles of the staff going over their responsibilities for the coming evening. There are a lot of things that need to be planned for. There will often be a lot of things that happen every evening that are also unplanned. Hanging out at the Dog photographing the artists I have had a chance to observe a generally busy staff constantly adjusting  for these unplanned events. I have learned to move quickly to avoid being in the way of their fast moving trays. I have learned to sense their presence even with my eye up to my viewfinder.


I have tried to follow Carl around  on a very busy Dirty Dog night. The only way I could predict his next move was to watch his eyes. Carl’s eyes never stop moving except when he is listening to someone’s request or story. He locks on. I eventually gave up and tried to follow the club’s manager Willie Jones as he went about his duties. I found the same problem. I took my camera into the crowded kitchen and ducked out of the way to let Chef Andre pass by. I then went to the bar where I got Carl’s eye and had a beer.


There are times when the Dog has a quiet evening. The band comes out and faces a lot of empty tables. This happens. One night like that I entered into a conversation with one of the staff by observing that it was sure an empty place. Her response was one that I was struck by. She was not upset by the fact that she wasn’t busy nor her tips wouldn’t add up. She lamented that it was not right that such a great well run joint with a band that was playing over the top had tables available. Lauren felt that the management was doing all they could to make this the best club possible. She talked about how fortunate she was to have wandered into such a great place. This was a unsolicited heartfelt endorsement.




Mid week you will have a chance to be up close with the soulful saxophonist  Duane Parham. He is recognized as an innovator and top performer in Smooth Jazz, R&B and Gospel Music.

In 2012, Duane was nominated and voted “Best Horn Player of the Year,” by the Detroit Black Music Award. Also, in the same month Duane received a testimonial resolution and the Spirit of Detroit Award for his documentary DVD production, “The Unsung Musicians of the Motown Empire.”  It’s all about the legendary horn players that played for Motown and their names were never mentioned.



The Freshmen bring jazz, memories and wit to their enthusiastic following. RReservations are highly recommended.

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