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."

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.

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