The Ralphe Armstrong Quartet at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe


The bar at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe

I walked into the Dirty Dog between sets and sat at an open seat at the bar. Carl, the bartender greeted me cordially  as he greets everyone and even though I hadn’t been there in a long time, I felt comfortable.

The Dirty Dog is owned by Gretchen Valade, heiress to the Carhartt clothing fortune and the major benefactor to jazz in Detroit. She is a major sponsor of The Detrot Jazz Festival and is tireless in introducing jazz to as many people as she can. The Dirty Dog has an intimate atmosphere and provides great jazz every week. She was sitting at the bar enjoying the music.

However, I found out just before the second set that my seat at the bar had been reserved for the second set. As I walked to the front to talk to the maitre d’ who chose not to notice my existence, I greeted a friend. She saw my predicament and knew someone who could help. One of the long time employees asked a single man (the father of one of the musicians) if I could sit with him. His wife had just left and so he said I could sit with him.  I was really grateful and I got a better seat than the one at the bar.
The Ralphe Armstrong Quartet like so many jazz quartets was put together for the engagement this week at the Dirty Dog. Ralphe Armstrong in an internationally known bass player who is native to Detroit and still lives here.


Ralphe Armstrong

The piano player was Carlos McKinney who is one of the Detroit famous McKinney jazz family. Carlos McKinney, another Detroit native, lives elsewhere and it is not often that he is available to hear locally. I enjoyed hearing his playing so much.


Carlos McKinney

Alex Colista, alto sax player, is a young and very talented musician. I have seen him out and about for about eight years. He is in the Wayne State University jazz program. Watching him grow as a musician has bee a great pleasure.


Alex Colista

The last and not least member of the quartet is Gayelynn McKinney who is also related to the McKinney jazz family. She is one of the outstanding sought after Detroit drummers and a mainstay in the Detroit music scene.


Gayelynn McKinney

The set I saw was seamless moving from one number to the next. The music is so much fun when the musicians work to compliment each other rather than compete with one another. My favorite song of the evening (the one that moved me the most) was called “Gretchen’s Groove” after Gretchen Valade and is on Ralphe’s latest CD called Detroit Rising. It was upbeat and each of the musicians had solos. The playing was such that that were pushing each other to excellence. And the fallout for me was that I was so stimulated that I could get to sleep for over six hours after the performance ended.

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