[JPL] Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe celebrates six month anniversary
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
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
"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
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
"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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