Last night on June 5, 2014 I went out to see the Spencer Barefield Quartet at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. This is a place where the food is also something to remember.
I got there in plenty of time and was seated at a table where it was easy to see and hear the musicians. There is a little note on each table reminding patrons not to talk during music. It did not deter the ladies next to me. However, they were talking quietly and were not really a disturbance. They had the special of three courses for $ 30 and I found that it was too much for me to eat the last time I went so I order a starter and an entree of things I had not ordered before. Taking pictures of the food is so difficult since the lighting during the music is red and it colors the food. So I will describe it as well as I can.
The starter I ordered was fried onions. They came after they served me some different kinds of bread with an herbed butter. The bowl of fried onions was large enough to serve as a starter for two or three. They were very thinly sliced sweet onions which had been dipped in a batter and fried to a crisp. They were served with a curry garlic aioli and with a spicy ketchup. They were great dipped in either sauce. I ate about half and the waitress asked if I wanted them to start the entree. I did.
I had ordered what they call the Fork and Knife Burger. It was once ground beef on a garlic toast with cooked spinach, mushrooms, a fried egg, a thin slice of foie gras topped with béarnaise sauce. It was large and more it was served with French fries. I was stunned by the size of the meal. It was wonderful. All the flavors went so well together. It was cooked medium rare just as I wanted.. Next time I ll order this alone. It is enough. I took home portions of the fried potatoes, fried onions and half of the burger.
Left to Right: Djallo Djakte (percussion), Dave Young (bassist), Spencer Barefield (guitar) and Dwight Adams(trumpet).
Although I was eating and a split attention can make it harder to listen, they did a great job of having a balanced set that went with the atmosphere. I had not heard either Spencer Barefield or Dave young before. I can only say I enjoyed the set a lot. What I liked was that each of the musicians had a place to shine during the set and all of them did. None of musicians dominated and it was one of those times when you here people playing together and making each other sound better.
The two numbers I liked the most were “Nigerian Marketplace” and “A Night in Tunisia”. On “Nigerian Marketplace”, Dave Young took the lead since he had played this with Oscar Peterson. I liked it and came home to see other versions on YouTube. I am relatively new to jazz and sometimes when a song is in my head, I like to hear more of it. And this was one of those nights. The good thing about “A Night in Tunisia” for me is that it is familiar. When they play a familiar song, I like to see what they can do with it. And I enjoyed their version.
It is so good to hear a set of mature musicians who know what they are doing and do it so well.
This was a long time coming. I decided to use a “real” camera and getting the pic from there to here the first time was a “learning experience”. And there were also some other major distractions.
The first time I saw Tumbao Bravo was at the Michigan Jazz Fest in about 2005. That is a great place to sample things and they got jumbled with the many other groups I heard that day. I do remember that when I hear the words Latin jazz, they were not what I expected. The Dirty Dog jazz experience is set up so that what you get is one set with something to eat. For me, it is hard to combine the two.
For this evening, the group was Alberto Nacif on congas, Paul Vornhagen on sax, flute and piccolo, Javier Barrios as a multi percussionist, Brian Debasio in piano, John Barron on the upright bass and Paul Finkbeiner on trumpet. Bob Mojica also stepped in on a couple of trumpet numbers.
Left to right: Javier Barrios, Alberto Nacif, John Barron, Paul Finkbeiner and Paul Vorhagen
Overall the music had a definite Afro- Cuban beat. As I said, it is hard to eat and thoroughly listen to the music. So, a lot of this is impression rather than intent listening. I am missing the intense listening and have some planned for this evening. The impression I had was, for the most part, a happy , energetic music that just made me feel good. I felt good to the point where although an additional venue beckoned, I decided not to go. My favorite numbers of the evening were “El Chico” and”Los Moros”. They made me sit up and really listen. I liked the complex rhythms and melodious songs where the melody twists like a vine through the beats of the rhythm leading my mind to a quieter place.
When I first noticed the three course for thirty dollars, I had wanted to try it. When I checked out the prices, it was a good deal. So last Thursday night when we went in to see Tumbao Bravo ( another post), I finally ordered the meal. All the choices were also on the regular menu.
I started with the spinach salad. I had eaten it before and it was not spectacular. It was different from the usual house salad. The spinach was baby spinach. In addition, there was a half a hard-boiled egg, some red onion, some roasted red peppers and mushrooms. The dressing was light and the salad was not heavily dressed. As it comes to the table, the spinach is in the middle and the other ingredients are in each corner. And it is a mixing project at the table.
For the entrée, I ordered the baked salmon. I cook salmon often at home and I have developed a couple of sauces and ways to cook it that I really like. There was a little alarm voice going off in my head saying don’t do it. I asked the server if it was wild caught or farmed. She said farmed. The little alarm got louder. It said baked with seasonal vegetables. And a louder alarm sounded. I was so hungry for salmon, I ordered it anyway. It was over cooked and bland for my taste. I can say the glaze which was a good addition. I think it was ginger, soy sauce and honey or some other sweetener. The seasonal vegetables were Brussels sprouts and chick peas in some sort of other seasoning. As I ate the veggies, I got a definite crunch in my mouth. It was bacon. In fact, there were several noticeable pieces of bacon in the seasonable veggies. The pic below is really much worse than the food. I turned off the flash and the camera compensated by adding a red filter. The restaurant asks that patrons do not use the flash while the musicians are performing.I did as much as I could with my limited editing capabilities.
The dessert saved the meal. They called it an apple crisp with cinnamon ice cream, in a phyllo pastry cup on a bed of caramel. The apple in the phyllo cup was diced and cooked in apple pie seasonings and warm. It was topped with the cinnamon ice cream. I managed to scrape a little caramel off the plate with each sweet, tangy bite. It was a wonderful ending especially with the great coffee they serve.
Tumbao bravo was performing that evening and they are different from what I usually see. That is for another post.
As you may notice, this post is quite a while after the event which took place October 17, 2013. I got some feedback that was a little upsetting and it stopped me cold. It took a bit of time to process. I also didn’t go out much. The other part of the hiatus was the feeling that I was in a rut. And I was hearing the same numbers that I liked at the same places. I am in the place rut but I have heard quite a few different numbers when I have gone out recently.
When I heard the Dwight Adams was playing at the Dirty dog, I really wanted to go. At the Dirty Dog, the people really listen so that part of being there is great and they listen very quietly and still. I am one of those who move my body to the music when I feel it. Dwight is a favorite because I feel his music easily. The best place for me in this kind of environment is in a corner so I can move to the music. So when I got there I took the available corner.
Dwight was playing with musicians I had never heard him play with before. Mark Lipson was on drums. Tony Viola was playing guitar and Gary Shunk was playing the piano. Also, Bruce Caterer(sp) was on bass. Also Angie Smith did “Take a Chance on Love” and “My Funny Valentine”. They played a number called “Hibernian Nights” composed by Mark Lipson and Tony Viola added vocals to a samba.
Left to Right: Tony Viola, Dwight Adams, Bruce Caterer, and just a peek at Gary Shunk
The music I heard during the set was different than most of the things I heard Dwight play. It may have been that he was taking the audience into consideration. So I got to hear a new side of Dwight Adams with musicians that I had not herd him play with before that evening. As usual with Dwight, his playing is great. The clarity of his notes and how he hits notes without slur or hesitation is a listeners delight. He decorates his notes with ornaments which adds such depth and feeling to his music that I can hear him through the music and I love it. All the musicians got to play solos that exhibited their strengths. All in all the set was satisfying but not in the way I had anticipated.
The Dirty Dog is a great place to go for music. It has really excellent food. The sound is good. They ask patrons to keep the conversation down during performance. The music is almost always a real gig. You know who and what you are getting when you walk into the place.
A friend and I saw the Rayse Biggs Quartet last Thursday. Thursday is a “no cover” day for the most part. They do want you to order food. There are sides and appetizers available for the frugal.
Left to Right: Gayelynn McKinney, Ib Jones, Rayse Biggs, and on the screen you can see the hands of Buddy Budson.
The first number they played was “Oriental Folk Song” which is a Wayne Shorter composition. I really like the melody on this one and was pleased to hear it. I don’t hear it often. sometimes I tend to go see the same folks play and altering my choices can renew my joy in the music. this set was one of those that pushed me back into music. Also, Thursday is a quiet night and it is so nice to sit and listen and not have a loud table right next to me. It was about the music. They also did “First Light” by Freddie Hubbard and the flugelhorn was wonderful. And “Break City” by Horace Silver was another number. For me, this was an especially good set since I do not hear these numbers often.