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."

Thursday, June 08, 2006


There are few things in life more satisfying, it seems to me, than moving one's agenda forward. In this case I'm scheming to make sure that the applied music instruction in the jazz studies department here at Tulane is of the highest possible quality. The instructors must of course be excellent teachers. But they must also be working musicians with a high profile in the jazz community. That has always been the traditional conduit for students who are really interested in playing jazz seriously (I'm constantly amazed at how small this cohort actually is) to enter the professional arena. First you're studying with someone. Then you're sitting in. Then you're hired.

Our new jazz piano hire, Frederick Sanders, embodies both these qualities, with the added bonus of having an absolutely stellar attitude. Have you ever met someone that people just hate to be around? Well, Fred is the opposite of that. People just love to be around him or associated with him in any way. Students light up in his presence. Professionals, when I tell them Frederick is on the gig, can't wait to get on board and couldn't care less about the money. But as Fred himself says, it ain't got to always be about money. Sometimes it's got to be about serving the music, and moving it forward, and making sure the culture survives in a hostile world. We're all headed for a hole in the ground, and that's a fact. But it's what we do while we're here that's important.

Frederick was a student of my friend Alvin Batiste, when Alvin headed the jazz studies program at Southern University. I hooked up with Alvin through my old friend Alan Matheson, who had met Alvin at Clarke Terry's wedding in Dallas in 1993. When I told Frederick this, he told me that he had met Alvin at that same party. He knew Clarke, and Clarke had hired him and Roy Hargrove and their band to play. Frederick also told me, "I believe everything happens for a reason."

We're also short one drum instructor since Katrina. The department head had asked me for suggestions, and I said the obvious choice would be John Vidacovich, the dean of New Orleans drummers, and a longtime adjunct at Loyola right next door to us. I had a long talk with John, who regretfully declined (he's just started a gig with Joe Sample that involves a lot of travelling, and is having a tough time meeting his obligations at Loyola, much less taking on extra hours with us), but recommended an ex-student of his, Kevin O'day. I'm really stoked about this, and I hope I don't jinx it by talking about it here. His interview with the head is tomorrow. Kevin is one of those super eclectic young guys who can play anything. He's the drummer with local R&B heavy Walter "Wolfman" Washington's Roadmasters. He shares the drum chair in the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars with Neville Brothers drummer "Mean" Willie Green (the token schvartzer in the band) and has recorded with all kinds of offbeat types like Malaaco Records bluesman Papa Mali and Royal Fingerbowl. He's also co-leader of ex-Dirty Dozen sousaphonist Kirk Joseph's band Backyard Groove.

If Kevin gets hired, we'd have one killer rhythm section around here. I played with Fred and longtime Tulane bass instructor Jim Markway the other night and was thinking that adding Kevin to that mix would make it possibly the best rhythm section I've ever played with.

Comments on "Conniving."


post a comment