[JPL] Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe celebrates six month anniversary

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Sat Aug 16 18:03:58 EDT 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

  Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe celebrates six month anniversary

        Lawrence B. Johnson / Special to The Detroit News

>From her familiar seat at the bar, Gretchen Valade surveys the scene at 
her Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe, which marks six months of operation this 
weekend, and declares herself pleased.

"I love it," says Valade, the octogenarian entrepreneur who also owns 
the jazz label Mack Avenue Records and provides lead sponsorship of the 
Detroit International Jazz Festival. "We're trying to show the diversity 
of Detroit musicians. There's a lot of talent in this city -- even more 
than I realized, to be honest."

Six months into this Grosse Pointe Farms venture -- a tricky combination 
of serious jazz emporium and high-end supper club -- the smartly 
appointed Dirty Dog is still frisky, still inspires wide-eyed 
enchantment and, like any pedigree pup, is still going through some 
behavior adjustment.

Perhaps the most notable change is the recent addition of late-night 
sets on Friday and Saturday. Wednesday and Thursday nights, the club 
presents two hour-long sets pegged to dining, at 6 and 8:30 p.m. But on 
Friday and Saturday, the musicians also take the stage again at 10:30 to 
play for a late crowd in a more casual atmosphere. And the $5 cover for 
the early shows is waived for the late jams.

Bassist Marion Hayden, whose band Straight Ahead plays at the club this 
weekend, says the new scheme gives the Dirty Dog a more authentic jazz 
club vibe.

"The late sets are wildly popular," says Hayden, who has performed at 
the club often with various groups. "People like to show up late and 
hang out."

Straight Ahead's brand of jazz, which mainly ranges through the 
standards from decades back to more contemporary, falls right at the 
center of what Valade calls the "broad range" of music you'll find on 
the Dirty Dog menu. The real surprise, and the challenge, has been 
blending the jazz fare with the other menu -- the elegant small-plates 
cuisine that patrons are encouraged to nibble quietly while the 
musicians are playing.

That's where another, more delicate kind of behavior modification enters 
the picture. It has been the job of house manager Willie Jones to train 
patrons to respect the artists by keeping conversation and other noise 
to a minimum while savoring their upscale repast.

A veteran manager of fine-dining establishments in Metro Detroit, Jones 
says he has been impressed by the sensitivity displayed by the Dirty 
Dog's patrons.

"At first, I would make the point clearly when introducing a band that 
quiet was very important," he says. "Now I rarely say anything. Our 
patrons get it."

And so apparently do the musicians.

"People come out for a lot of reasons," Hayden says. "Sometimes they're 
a little talkative, but I don't worry about that. Most people are there 
to hear the music."

/Lawrence B. Johnson is a Detroit-based cultural writer and critic. You 
can reach him at lawrencebj at gmail.com 


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