Saxophonist John Doheny was born in Seattle Washington in 1953 but has spent much of his adult life in Canada, primarily in Vancouver and Toronto. After early experiences accompanying strippers in bars and cabarets he became a professional R&B sideman in the late 1970s, touring and recording with artists both prominent and obscure. In 1991 he returned to Vancouver and began a program of intense musical study, both in academe (Vancouver Community College, the University of British Columbia) and in the more informal area of performance. He asserts that "all human intercourse is either an opportunity to learn or to teach. Everything that I know about jazz performance (to the extent that I know anything at all) I owe to those players, teachers and students who have suffered to share the bandstand and the teaching studio with me." Since 2003, Mr. Doheny has been a permanent resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, but makes every effort to spend summers in Canada because "it's too damn hot down here then."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

An Interesting Year, So Far.

Well, it’s been, as Incurious George up in the White House might put it, a heck of a year, so far. I’ve been appointed Director of Jazz Performance Studies here at Tulane University.. John Korsrud (AKA Johnny Reno, AKA Styles Bitchly) came to visit. Wynton Marsalis delivered a great speech, and a great performance, at Tulane’s Mcalister Auditorium. Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra are now officially Artists in Residence at Tulane. Krewe De Veaux, the Carnival organization that specializes in irreverent political and sexual humor, paraded through the Fauborg Marigny and the French Quarter. Phil Dwyer brought his Krewe of Kanucks to town. Our landlords’ house burned down, and we are without gas and electricity. And the United States of America (or at least its’ federal government) of which we are presumably a part, continues to ignore us.

The directorship gig is mostly just a title; I’m still doing the same stuff I did last year, with the addition of a little extra work in taking on the newly resurrected jazz orchestra. The university has let a lot of people go post Katrina, and those of us who are left are all being asked to take on extra work. So far, no one’s complaining. We’re just glad to have jobs. An awful lot of people don’t.

And as of today, an awful lot of people won’t have a roof over their heads, either. Today is the day the brain trust at FEMA stops picking up the tab for about 12,000 people in the New Orleans area who are staying in hotels at government expense. The agency claims to have found housing for ‘about 80%’ of those folks, but that still leaves over 2,000 people out in the cold. And it is cold right now, almost went down to freezing last night (perhaps Mr. Dwyer brought some Canadian weather with him?).

Since a large number of police and firefighters and their families were being housed this way, I figure it’s a good bet that some of the firefighters who responded to the fire at our landlords’ house yesterday will soon find themselves on the street. Frank and Carol got through the storm and the flood all right, no water and minimal roof damage. The roofers were just putting the finishing touches on the repairs when a torch they were using to heat gum sealant on a flat part of the roof set it afire. Normally, the fire department would have been there in five minutes. Post Katrina response was forty five minutes. My wife Darlene, Frank and Carol, and various neighbors all tried to extinguish the fire with garden hoses, but water pressure is still very weak in the system, and the house is a write off. Our landlords are now staying down the street in a guesthouse, and at the end of the month will move into one of their son’s properties. Meanwhile, because our meter was on their property, we have no gas or electricity.

Irvin Mayfield’s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra is normally based out of Dillard University, but since Dillard’s campus was trashed by the flood, they are now headquartered here at Tulane. It’s a little early in the game to know how this will shake out in terms of benefits to my students, but I can’t imagine how having a big-band’s worth of some of the best players in New Orleans around would be anything but a benefit. Stay tuned for more on this as the situation develops.

Mr. Korsrud was only here for a couple of days, but I’m pleased to report he was a model house-guest. A light snorer. Doesn’t take up too much room on the couch. Knows how to make a bar tab disappear. Perhaps he’ll post his take on the trip over in the Forum?

John, the ball is in your court.

Carnival season technically starts January 6th, at the Feast of Epiphany (know to all good Catholics as ‘the day Mary got her stitches out’), but the first really big parade this year was the Krewe De Veaux this past Saturday night. Unfortunately that was the same night Phil Dwyer brought his Krewe of Kanucks to the House of Blues. Sorry Phil, but a gig’s a gig. I had to give the Kanucks a pass to freeze my butt off with the Hot 8 at Krewe De Veaux..

The Krewe De Veaux’s theme this year was “C’est Levee.” Lots of blue-tarped roof-hats. Not surprisingly, lots of phallic/sexual imagery (My wife Darlene exclaimed, more than once, “I’ve just been poked by a giant penis!”). And flyers urging the French to repatriate the state of Louisiana (“Buy Us Back, Chirac!”). Fifteen, count ‘em, fifteen brass bands. And a float in the shape of a giant vagina labeled “MANDATORY EJACULATION.”

My personal favorite though, is a small business card reading “Bush and Brownie Reno Contractors: Funky. Like Your Fridge.” I shall treasure it, always.

In the midst of all this, the city is still deeply, deeply damaged. Large areas are still without electricity, almost six months after the flood. Mail service is spotty, many other government services are nonexistent. Only one hospital (Touro) is open in all of Orleans Parish.

Everyday, I deal with people who have lost everything. Irvin Mayfield lost his own father to the flood. They are still finding the odd corpse in the lower ninth ward.

People here feel abandoned by their own government, and who can blame them. Many thousands more still cannot return, because there is no housing for them.

The United States cannot allow this situation to continue if it wishes to be perceived as a civilized nation.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Krewe De Veaux

Carnival season is again upon us with a vengeance. Such a vengeance, in fact, that I was presented with an unresolvable scheduling conflict. Either catch Phil Dwyer and his Krewe of Kanucks at the House of Blues this past Saturday, or freeze my cojones off (Phil brought some Canadian weather down with him) at the Krewe De Veaux. Since I'd caught Phil up in Vancouver last fall at the Commodore, and since this years theme at KDV was "C'est Levee," I went with the local guys (sorry Phil).

The Krewe De Veaux is a reletively new organization as carnival krewes go, 26 years old this year. They are also the only krewe that still parades through the French Quarter (Veaux Carre) in the old fashioned way; with horse-drawn, hand-made floats. This year, as you can well imagine, had a Katrina theme. Lots of leaky-blue-tarped-roof hats. Handbills for "Bush and Brownie Reno Contractors (Funky. Like Your Fridge)," and postcards asking for repatriation of the city to the French ("Buy Us Back, Chirac"). Lots and lots of irreverant sexual imagery (this is, after all, an organization with many gay and lesbian sub-krewes, and splinter groups with names like "Krewe of Spermes"). Lots of phallic-themed costumes (my wife Darlene exclaimed, more than once, "I've been poked by a giant penis!") The KDV is also the biggest employer of brass bands, fifteen this year, so their parade is probably the funkiest, with the possible exception of Zulu. Zulu is almost two weeks away, and who knows what they'll do this year. So many of their members are without homes, exiled from the city.

This theme (homelessness) lends a very bittersweet subtext to Carnival season this year. Nearly six months after the flood, hundreds of thousands of New Orleanians are still scattered across the country, many of them without permanent shelter. Here in the city, thousands have been housed in FEMA-financed hotel rooms, and a cruise ship is docked in the French Quarter as a kind of floating hostel. All of these people are due to be evicted at the end of the month, when FEMA financing ceases. The cruise ship houses many members of the police and fire departments and their families.

This last is especially poignant to me, because I just this morning received an emergency call from Darlene, telling me to come home at once. Our landlords had been in the process of having their roof repaired, and the roofers torch had set it afire. The fire department took 45 minutes to arrive. In the interim, Darlene, our landlords (Frank and Carol) and various neighbors tried to extinguish the fire with garden hoses and rescue our things (lest the fire spread to our small guest house). Water pressure is a joke post-Katrina. They were able to prevent it from burning to the ground, but it looks like it's a write-off. They'll be moving in with their son, Frank Jr.

This is the way life is here now. Every day, I deal with people who have lost absolutely everything. Trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, who is now 'artist in residence' here at Tulane (along with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra) lost his own father in the flood.Large areas of the city are still without power. The lower 9th ward looks like a bomb hit it. Lakeview and Lakevista are both mile after mile of ruined, empty houses. The stretch down St. Claude Avenue, from Esplanade, though the Faubourg Marigny and upper ninth ward to the St. Claude Avenue bridge, once one of my favorite strolls, is now too depressing for words.

In the midst of all this, Tulane, Dillard, Xavier, Loyola, and the University of New Orleans are all up and running. Here at Tulane we've all been asked to take on extra work to make up for significant staff lay-offs. As newly minted Director of Jazz Performance Studies, I now teach four courses (two jazz combos, a big band, and an improv workshop) as well as six private students, about double a normal teaching load. So far, no one is complaining. We all feel lucky to have jobs.

I'm going to do my level best to do some comprehensive posting on Mardi Gras this year, especially since this is shaping up to be anything but Carnival as usual. I've also got some obits to write, as we've lost a few members of the jazz community, not just during Katrina but in the aftermath as well. Stay tuned.