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."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


My apologies to Brian Nation for swiping the title off a post in his blog. Well, paraphrasing, anyway. His post was “A Day In The Jazz Life.”

I remember reading an interview with Kate Hammett-Vaughn a few years back, where she said something to the effect that people make the mistake, because they see local (Vancouver) artists getting some pretty sweet gigs at jazzfest, that we spend all year long swanning about the world on big stages getting bouquets of roses placed at our feet.

Now, I ran into Kate shortly after that, and we discussed the issue a bit. I think she’d just put out her first CD (“How My Heart Sings”) and it had gotten some pretty good notices, and she said she’d stopped the conversation dead at a dinner party by telling the assembled guests the actual, truly pathetic dollar figure that comprised her total take from singing jazz the previous year. As I’ve said before, show me a jazz musician who doesn’t have a day job, an employed, indulgent spouse, a teaching gig at a community college or a large batch of private students, and I’ll show you someone living in a cardboard box in the park.

On the other hand, if you can somehow find a way to overcome the mundane necessity to put food on the table, it can be a grand life. In the last year, I’ve visited San Francisco (three times) Dallas/Fort Worth, Seattle, New York City, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and now, currently not-so-sunny Vancouver. Here’s a thumbnail version of my glamorous life in the last few days:

I’m staying in the West End, so I took the Granville Island ferry over to my jazzfest gig at the Railspur Alley Stage on Canada Day. A combination of great sound (courtesy of sound tech Sherry Dance) and superlative musicianship (thanks to Joe Poole, Tony Foster and Jon Roper) made the gig a joy from downbeat to encore. Tony is well known around town and elsewhere as a first rate jazz piano player, but he’s also becoming a real monster on Hammond B-3. Since he doesn’t actually own one though, and must rely on various ‘house’ instruments when playing organ gigs, there are certain…gaps, in his technical understanding of the beast. Like how to turn it on. (Note to Tony: It’s like turning over an old Model T. Click START. Hold it down. When it catches, click RUN).

The next Tuesday I reacquainted myself with the horror that is the Greater Vancouver Transit system by taking the bus up to the musician’s union, and over to Gavin Walker’s place to drop off a copy of our new CD to play on his Monday night show on CITR. I didn’t even own a car till I was 37, so I’ve had lots of experience with the “transit” system in Vancouver. I always thought that the word transit was kind of a misnomer, since it actually implies movement of some kind. Mostly what you do is wait. And wait. And wait. I remember moving back to Vancouver from New York in 1990 (having had my conceptions clouded by the speedy NYC subway system) and trying to get home to the East End one night after attending a jam session at the Yale. Took me almost two hours. I deduced that, including waiting time, my average travel speed was about one and a half miles per hour. Despite the addition of the “Sky Train” (which is utterly useless for most inter-urban travel) things have changed not one whit in the intervening years.

Next was a taping of CBC Radio’s “Hot Air.” I’ve done a fair number of these over the last few years and have come to think of host Paul Grant and producer Neil Ritchie as old friends, so this was a fun and no-stress experience for me. Since I moved to New Orleans I’ve become kind of the ‘go to’ guy for Louisiana music on that show, and I brought a bunch of rare and esoteric stuff to play; discs from clarinetist Alvin Batiste, drummers John Vidacovich and Shannon Powell, Sousaphonist Kirk Joseph’s band Backyard Groove, and the Rebirth Brass Band. Also some truly weird Mardi Gras Indian field recordings. The show airs July 15th at 5:05p.m on CBC Radio One.

I’ve got two more gigs while I’m up here. Tomorrow night (July 13th) at the Railspur Alley Café, and July 20th at the Cellar. I’ll also be re-recording a couple of the things we did in a session last fall (when I was evacuated up here post Katrina) with Tony, Joe and Jon. I managed to hit enough clams on those two things that I’m not comfortable releasing them, so this is an opportunity to fix that. I’m also going to try and block off some time to write music for the Professors of Pleasure CD we’ll be recording in New Orleans in the fall.
It’s a grand life if you don’t weaken.



Blogger Haze Ablaze said ... (4:28 PM) : 

It’s a grand life if you don’t weaken.

What a great line.
I often feel that way about poetry.
And life in NOLA, 'specially now.


Blogger John Doheny said ... (12:08 PM) : 

Yeah, it is a great line. I wish I could remember where I stole it from.


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