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Maybe it is because I am getting a little long in the tooth, but winter isn’t as it used to be.

I remember when the ice froze over for months of skating, and the snow hung around for skiing and was white.

It looks like we will have temperatures above freezing this coming week. Your car and house windows will still have an icy glaze in the morning that makes it hard to see. a

Again this year there is more slush than crunchy snow. We are active people and being holed up usually doesn’t fit our nature. We can become grumpy. We need some relief.


I have a doctor who smiles when he walks into the small cold room where I sit waiting for my yearly medical exam. The nurse had just left looking like I had failed my electrocardiogram. She had given me a glance full of pity after studying my blood tests. My blood pressure soars with with the potentially bad news. What a relief it is then to see this smiling kind doctor come through the door. He asks me some questions and then listens as if he were interested in what I have to say, things like “It hurts right here a little.” and “I am about to go on a diet.” His warm non responses are assurances that I am not terminally ill. He is a nice guy and can be trusted. I should remember to schedule the visit to the doctor in the winter when I can use some warmth. Fortunately there are some other places that I can go. I sneak out to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café.

We can stay huddled by the fire with a book, but we really should get out.

We don’t want to become grumpy and hemmed in. We need a pretty good reason to leave a warm home, scrape the windshield and then navigate the icy roads. We  need to get to a place that will get our juices flowing again. We need to be warm down to our bones.

Just yards from where your car is left for the Dirty Dog Jazz Café’s complimentary valet parking  is one of the warmest places in town. The warmth comes  from the heating system, the music, the food, the pub like atmosphere and most of all the pleasant smiley staff.

Once they get settled, visitors to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café often find a smile sneaking across their faces, especially this week when Ralphe Armstrong’s music and good nature can be counted on to pick up our spirits.

Playing outside isn’t everyone’s first choice.

Ralphe Armstrong the great Detroit jazz bassist prefers warm places to hang out and play. He does have real choices as he is often invited to gather up his bass and get to warmer climes when Detroit ices over. When he does hang around town you can find him at the town’s warmest place, playing jazz at the Dirty Dog jazz Café.

Ralph Armstrong travels a lot.When he is in town and has a gig at the Dirty Dog, he will get some friends on the phone and enlist them for his band. Detroit is full of first call professional jazz musicians who have shared the stage with Ralphe. Yet Ralphe remains loyal to his musical partners. These are all survivors of Ralphe’s sort of witty remarks, but all his band mates know they have a chance to play in a welcoming venue with a very warm man.

Ralphe Armstrong is a genuinely warm guy.

Ralph Armstrong is an animated performer and it is hard not to take your eyes off of him. He is hard to miss. He is that gregarious friend in grade school. The one who always got you in trouble. You should never have followed his lead, but his eyes told you that he knew something that would make everything turn out OK. Ralphe has the knack of filling a room with his good natured  warmth. Being around Ralphe is a good place to be.

I happened to notice this Facebook post from Ralphe Armstrong. It tells us something about his heart.

Today I Gave 15 Year Old Cameron Morgan a brand new keyboard, given to me by organ legend Bobby Wright!  Bobby heard this young man play !! And gave it to me . I went to buy a case , then went to The Dirty Dog to give it to this CASS TECH piano prodigy. I’m exhausted, but this was truly worth it”.

Ralphe really warms up when he talks about Detroit

A wondrous spirit, Ralphe Armstrong will bring a good argument that Detroit’s jazz is on  the rise. Ralphe is a true champion of Detroit and of its greatest export, its music.

I am a blatant fan of Detroit, where I was born, but I pale in my enthusiasm next to  one of Detroit’s staunchest advocates, Ralphe Armstrong. Ralphe will certainly mention his love for his town when he takes the stage at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café this week. Ralphe can be, well, glib. He has the gift of gab. It is hard to take his picture without his getting that devilish glint in his eyes. But when he talks about Detroit up on that stage, it is from the heart. Ralphe is one of many of our homegrown talents who are in demand worldwide and have spent a lot of their life on the road. Ralphe always comes home, and when he does he tells us how happy he is to be back.

What is it that keeps an internationally renowned artist like Ralphe Armstrong so rooted? Is it his many friends?  Perhaps he likes being around so many other great artists. Maybe it is because Detroit is a  good place to draw inspiration.

I believe that Ralphe Armstrong is aware of many of the snarly things growing in the soil of Detroit. He knows of the rocks and weeds that make the flowers struggle to bloom. But bloom they do. The children of Detroit when given patience and opportunity work hard and achieve. They are what Ralphe sees happening when he looks into a student’s eager to learn eyes, and it’s what keeps Ralphe teaching and inspiring children in our schools.





On these cold winter evenings the Dirty Dog will assemble a staff that understands the winter blahs. These are the folks who will welcome the guests into  a warm, serene and uplifting experience. This process happens long before the band or any patrons show up. What I have observed is that the management sets the tone. Their  respectful and good natured work ethic is contagious.

I have had a chance to watch the staff prepare for an evening’s upbeat event. Tables were prepared while the kitchen started to hum.  They went about their tasks with a great deal of independence and purpose. The service at the Dirty Dog is a team effort and so was the preparation. This kind of service is not an easy task, and success is not an  accident.  Gretchen, Tom, André, Willy and all the staff seem to like being around each other. The Dirty Dog is a warm place even before the guests arrive.

Every time Ralphe Armstrong comes to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café he reminds us that we  have something really good in our backyard.

John Osler


January 29 – February 1


A wondrous spirit, Ralphe Armstrong will bring a well educated argument that Detroit’s  jazz is on  the rise. Ralphe is a true champion of Detroit and of its greatest export, its music

Ralphe Armstrong will make you forget about your woes when he brings his big bass and big heart to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café for two nights this week.

Ralphe Armstrong makes what he does look easy. That is because his dad built a bass for him when he was little, many others encouraged him, and he worked hard. The result is that we now get to spend some time with a world class musician.


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