[JPL] Mack Ave./Detroit Jazz Fest's Valade opening jazz club
drjazz at drjazz.com
Tue Feb 5 09:12:05 EST 2008
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Jazz comes alive in Grosse Pointe
Susan Whitall / The Detroit News
Detroit's live jazz scene will get a boost next week when Gretchen
Valade's long-awaited Dirty Dog Jazz Café opens up at 97 Kercheval Ave.
on The Hill, Grosse Pointe Farms' commercial district.
Valade's $10-million dollar endowment solidified and expanded the
Detroit Jazz Festival held over Labor Day weekend, and by opening the
Dirty Dog she's taken her passion for jazz a step further, giving jazz
musicians a much-needed venue to ply their trade.
Her intimate, cushy club featuring a bistro-like tapas menu and live
jazz will be open Wednesday through Saturdays, starting Feb. 13.
Valade oversaw every detail in the 60-seat club, including dishes like
the grilled hearts of romaine salad, decorative details like the warm,
dark red walls (with sound-absorbing padding underneath), framed
black-and-white posters of jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald, yellow pine
floors; minimalist white dinnerware, and especially the state-of-the-art
"I wanted it to be like the Blue Note," Valade says of the fabled New
York jazz club. "That was my second home."
Valade is the granddaughter of Hamilton Carhartt, who founded Carhartt
Inc., the construction clothing company beloved of young urbanites, as
well. She is a jazz pianist and songwriter herself, and founded a record
company, Mack Avenue Records, in the late '90s.
Bucking her Grosse Pointe family, Valade was a jazz fan from her
earliest years, and in the late '40s and '50s she frequented New York's
52nd Street. Although the jazz buff and philanthropist also owns Sweet
Melissa's, a restaurant on Sanibel Island/Captiva, the Dirty Dog came
about almost by accident.
Valade owns the building that houses the Dirty Dog, and after a florist
vacated the space, she began looking for a new tenant.
"Then she said, 'Oh, let's just put in a jazz club,' " says Tom
Robinson, president of Valade's Mack Avenue Records. "Eighteen months
later, here we are."
The Dirty Dog will feature local and national jazz artists, many from
the Mack Avenue label, and it will of course be a hotspot during the
Labor Day weekend when so many national acts are in town for the jazz
For its opening week, Feb. 13-16, the Dirty Dog will host bassist Rodney
Whitaker and drummer Carl Allen for two shows a night, 8 and 10 p.m.,
joined by singer Jennifer Sanon, a Wynton Marsalis protégé, on vocals.
"She sounds like Billie Holiday," Valade says with a sigh.
The dog theme is no accident; Valade is the proud owner of three golden
retrievers, C.J., Alfie and Bridget. The Dirty Dog's centerpiece is a
large antique painting of a spaniel mother dog and her pups, hung in
pride of place behind the bar.
Robinson, who also heads up a construction firm, acts as Valade's
unofficial scold, warning her when he thinks she's spending too much
money on things. Despite that, Valade insisted on extensive
sound-proofing, which means you won't hear a cacophony of clinking
glasses and human chatter while soaking up the music.
Valade's eye for detail extended to things like hooks under the bar so
female patrons can hang their purses. The sound system, by Illuminating
Concepts of Farmington Hills, allows for pitch-perfect sound both in the
front and back of the club. Because there are two flat-screen TVs, the
musicians are always visible. (Each artist who performs in the club will
be offered a DVD or CD of their performance.)
There will be no cover charge, although that policy may be revisited
down the road. No smoking will be allowed, a boon to jazz fans used to
watching their favorites through clouds of nicotine.
"The musicians may not like it, but they can go outside," Valade says
Told there is no jazz club like this in the north suburbs, she looks dreamy.
"Gretchen, no!" Robinson scolds.
/You can reach Susan Whitall at (313) 222-2156 or swhitall at det news.com./
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