Blue Dog

Years Active: 


Detroit area avant jazz ensemble Blue Dog takes its name from Thelonius Monk's Blue Monk and Led Zeppelin's Black Dog. Keyboardist Mick Dobday and guitarist Erik Gustafson formed the group after expressing mutual dissatisfaction with the direction of big band rehearsals that formed part of their Wayne State University Music School studies. Dobday and Gustafson felt kinship not only with the Motor City's jazz tradition but also with its soul, pop, and rock music history — from the Temptations and Funkadelic to the Stooges. Blue Dog, also featuring drummer Alex Trajano, saxophonist Michael Graye, and bassist Jaribu Shahid, thus became a vehicle for exploration of divergent strains of popular music, setting off different styles and highlighting their contrasts in often bold relief. Blue Dog's channel-surfing approach invited comparison to John Zorn's Naked City and attracted the attention of Knitting Factory Records label head Michael Dorf, who released the band's first CD, What Is Anything?, in 1994. Touching on everything from Henry Mancini to the MC5, What Is Anything? received generally favorable reviews, and Dorf sent the group touring through Europe in the mid-'90s.

However, Knitting Factory lost interest in marketing and supporting Blue Dog, and the group performed only sporadically in the Detroit area during the remainder of the decade. Erik Gustafson drifted off to join the first incarnation of composer/guitarist Bill Brovold's instrumental art rock band Larval, appearing on that group's first two CDs. In addition, bassist Shahid was becoming increasingly unavailable, moving to New York City for session work and joining Roscoe Mitchell's Note Factory ensemble. However, Blue Dog was not ready to fade away, and all the original members assembled to record Lurch, a second CD of Dobday compositions and deconstructions released on the band's own Cobalt 61 Records label in 1999. As the new century begins, Erik Gustafson has left Larval but remains in Blue Dog. The group has begun investigating new sound possibilities arising from a quartet line-up without a bassist. Live gigs in southeastern Michigan continue, including a film score project presented at Detroit's Gold Dollar Bar. Blue Dog perseveres, and an adventurous future may still be in store.

[Lynch, Dave.]


Event Date Venue City Region Countrysort descending
Maceo Parker 03/17/1995 Power Center Ann Arbor Michigan USA
Blue Dog 04/18/1995 The Ark (2) Ann Arbor Michigan USA
Spanking Bozo 05/28/1992 Alvin's Detroit Michigan USA
Friday Night Live 03/12/1993 State Theater Detroit Michigan USA
Earth Fest 08/14/1993 Michigan State Fairgrounds Detroit Michigan USA
Bootsey X & the Lovemasters 09/24/1993 Alvin's Detroit Michigan USA
The Luddites 12/18/1993 Alvin's Detroit Michigan USA
Blue Dog 01/22/1994 The Impound Detroit Michigan USA
Blue Dog 01/28/1994 Alvin's Detroit Michigan USA
Blue Dog 03/18/1994 Lili's Hamtramck Michigan USA
Higher 03/31/1994 3-D Royal Oak Michigan USA
Tremor Records Review 04/28/1995 Alvin's Detroit Michigan USA
WCBN Benefit 02/13/1993 Blind Pig Ann Arbor Michigan USA
Blue Dog 01/16/1997 Magic Stick Detroit Michigan USA