WHAT COMES AROUND
Dave Bennett will be playing for four nights at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café this week.
For all four nights the place will be packed. it will be jammed with those who have an appreciation of jazz roots. They will be treated to being only feet away from musicians who share their love of jazz and will be playing it about as well as anybody could. They will unabashedly play music that makes one feel good to be alive.
Last week I shared an email that I received from a New York resident and Detroit jazz fan Yvonne Cummings that is worth repeating.
Good Day John:
This was the 4th year in a row that I have attended Detroit’s Jazz Festival. It is by far the greatest festival I’ve ever attended. What impresses me most is not only the cross section of music artists; both local and world renowned, especially Detroit’s own but the commitment of this festival to youth through providing high school and college students with an opportunity to present to a wider audience as will as giving them intimate exposure to the professionals, and where they can grow as musicians by participating in jam sessions. As a native New Yorker I am jealous that we do not have anything as big, organized and cohesive as Detroit’s Jazz Festival. My other observation has to do with the wide spread support of jazz by local people; I haven’t witnessed such support in NYC at any venue whether free or for charge. As an African-American I’ve been concerned that knowledge and legacy of jazz may be lost to NYC youth. In NYC it is very rare to see more than a hand full of younger African-Americans at jazz events; usually they feel like AARP gatherings. It is wonderful to see kids in attendance, without their parents, at times with younger siblings in tow. This festival gives me confidence in the future of jazz because of it’s commitment: to providing a venue for young musicians to improve, to support local artists and to expose everyone to the music. Jazz is alive and well in Detroit.
Yvonne’s comments refer to the Detroit Jazz Festival but could also be directed to anything that Gretchen Valade has touched. Yvonne would have remained put in the Big Apple, except for Gretchen’s love of jazz and her determination to see that everyone gets a chance to hear it. Without Gretchen we would only have politicians making speeches in Hart Plaza on Labor Day, and our local artists and soon to be artists would not have a chance to be honored and discovered.
WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND
Manhattan’s 52nd Street, 1948. Photo by WIlliam P. Gottlieb.
Gretchen Valade found herself in school in NYC, and was introduced to jazz. In the 1940’s, New York’s 52nd Street and Greenwich Village were littered with jazz clubs.
52nd Street was also called”The “Street”, The Street of Dreams” or “Swing Street.” After going from club to club on 52nd Street, it was only a short cab ride down to Eddie Condon’s in Greenwich Village
These were musician friendly places where the artists could have their mail forwarded and were given a chance to be heard by the crowds stopping on their way to and from the theatre. Gretchen Valade discovered jazz at places like Eddie Condon’s. On 52nd Sreet she may have seen Art Tatum play piano at the Famous Door, Coleman Hawkins at Kelly’s Stables and Willie “The Lion” Smith at the Hickory House. Bright lights might have drawn her to the 3 Deuces, the Onxy Club, 21 Club, Jimmy Ryan’s, Leon & Eddie’s. Artie Shaw, Billie Holiday, Erroll Garner, Oscar Pettiford, Jack Teagarden, J.C Heard, and Count Basie all played “the Street.”
So many clubs all packed together created a strong sense of musical community. Artists could play a set at one club and walk to another to either listen to or sit in with another band. This created an exchange of ideas which pushed the music in new directions. Young musicians got to play with established masters. There existed a sense of solidarity and democracy that kept the music alive for three decades until the clubs gave way to new construction.
I had a chance to spend time on 52nd Street in the fifties and bought the mandatory two drinks at Eddie Condon’s. You never knew who would show up and sit in. Jack Teagarden might drop by with his trombone to play duets with “Wild” Bill Davidson.
Fortunately for Gretchen and me, we probably heard more jazz masters in one evening than most get to hear in a lifetime.
Entrance to Condon’s on West Third, NYC, 1945. Photo courtesy Hank O’Neal
Without the existence of these clubs so many of jazz’s pioneers wouldn’t have had a place to pioneer, and Detroit wouldn’t have one the world’s greatest jazz promoters.
Dave Bennett and jazz musicians from around the world now have a showcase like Gretchen’s Dirty Dog Jazz Café. Our young musicians, as Yvonne Cummings noted, have a chance to be heard. Today Detroit continues to be a destination for jazz lovers.
We can be thankful that Gretchen needed to open a jazz club like Eddie Condon’s just down the street, create a record company and save our jazz festival. It was all because of what she learned while at school.
DAVE BENNETT WILL BE AT THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ THIS WEEK
Sept 19 – Sept 22
Dave Bennett has promised us that he will bring some heat and smiles to those coming in hoping to find the same energy that Gretchen found on 52nd Street years ago.