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."

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Five Rules Of Touring

Shortly before I left New Orleans June 30th I had a question from one of my students at Tulane about touring. My short answer was that nothing he would do as a jazz musician would ever warrant as grandious a description as that. Maybe "scrabbling around the country like a starving rat" or " zapping from one end of the continent to the other like methedrine crazed weasels." "Touring" is what the Rolling Stones do.

But then I realized that all my recent (last 10 years) experience in this area has been as a leader. This is totally different from the 'sideman' perspective,where your level of involvement in the process extends only as far as "What time's the bus get here? Eleven? Okay, I'll be in the lobby with my bags." When you're a leader you are responsible for every...damn...detail.

Rule Number One: If you are paid for a gig in cash, immediately disburse this money as wages. That way you are no longer responsible for it. But try to avoid cash if can can, because guys who want to pay you in cash are almost always the same guys who are reluctant to file a contract with the union. No union contract means if they screw you there's nobody who'll pursue the matter but you, and since it usually takes a few days for the check to bounce, you'll be two or three cities down the road by then. At least if you've filed with the AFM their legal department will pursue the matter on your behalf. Sometimes they'll even be successful. In 1985 I was in a funk band that got screwed out of a weeks wages, and ten years later they actually ran the guy down. We got almost double our money because of accrued interest charges.Bottom line, if you're out there in the marketplace as a musician all by yourself with no organization to back you up, sooner or later( and most likely sooner) you are going to get bent, greased and fucked. Join the union and maybe they won't stick it in quite so far.

Rule number two: When presented with an opportunity to eat, do so:Do not be suckered in by promoter's promises of "a nice meal after the gig". It'll be cheese and crackers. You see that Wendy's over by that freeway exit? Pull in there, NOW.

Rule number three: Woolite is your friend:Learn to do your own laundry in your hotel room. Nowday you'll almost never be lucky enough to get a 'residency' or a 'season' on the road (ie. a gig in one place for a week or longer) so it's all one nighters, pal. Do NOT be a fool like me and fall for the empty promises of "Same Day" cleaners( so long, my favorite pair of pants. Hope you enjoy Baton Rouge). Wash things like socks and underwear when you check in before the gig, and leave them to dry on the shower rod so they'll be dry by checkout the next morning. I hate to say this , since I abhor synthetic fabrics, but wrinkle free wash and wear stuff is the way to go on the road. The only exception I allow myself in this area is south of the Mason Dixon line. I would rather be wrinkled than endure the horror that is Louisiana in the summer wearing ANYTHING made of polyester. And stick with dark colors that don't show dirt. My personal mentor in this area was long time Mingus drummer Danny Richmond, who introduced me to the concept of "Ready Roll", meaning always be dressed ready to play to allow for the possibilty of no hotel stop before the gig. Danny ALWAYS looked ready to play, even at eight o'clock in the morning.

Rule number four: Your practise regimen is out the window. Get used to it.The horrible irony is that when you're not working there's always plenty of time to practise, but when you're playing every night and really NEED those chops, suddenly you don't have time. Forget practising on the bus. This ain't "The Glenn Miller Story". Sometimes, if the club you're playing is in the same hotel you are staying at, you can get staff to let you in there to do some blowing. For this and about a billion other reasons, always tip and make nice with hotel staff. They have the power to make your life much easier. As for practising in the room, well...sometimes you can get away with it,but... I remember checking in once years ago with the Kenny Brown band, and deciding to do a little practicing. I was really getting into it when the phone rang. It was Kenny, asking me if I'd mind cooling it for an hour so he could take a nap before the gig. I figured he was in the next room but it turned out he was on the other side of the hotel 3 floors down. That sound really carries.

Rule number five: You are NOT Keith Richards:Obviously the physical and intellectual demands of playing jazz preclude the possibilty of doing the whole tour shitfaced. You'd think this would be obvious. And yet I did an out of town gig about 12 years ago as a student in a university jazz ensemble (I went to university as an old man of 37) in which the FACULTY broke almost all of the rules I've outlined here. They did not take advantage of several opportunities to eat during the trip (I, of course, did) and ultimately wound up ordering pizza for themselves and their cranky, starving students after being confronted with the tour "organizers" promised apre concert meal which was, of course, cheese and crackers. There was, however, plenty of beer, resulting in several facaulty members getting so wrecked they missed checkout time at the hotel and had to pay an extra day out of their own pockets. I had to drive the department head back to town in his car as he was still much too drunk to drive. This was after ONE DAY on the road.

Is it any wonder I feel like a fish out of water in Academia?

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