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, August 29, 2006

We Are Not O.K.

There's a meme going around among New Orleans bloggers, posting "We Are Not O.K." today, along with the date 8/29/05.

I'm cool with that, and as you can see, I've done my bit to pass it on. But I also think it's important to keep saying things, over and over again, until we get some traction in the National Discourse (such as it is). Because there's still an awful lot of people out there who don't get it.

For instance, if I hear this referred to as a 'natural dister' one more time, I'm gonna have to hurt somebody. There's nothing 'natural' about the design failures of the Army Corps of Engineers that allowed my city to flood. Neither was this 'hurricane damage.' Mississippi got hurricane damage. We got mugged by the Corps. Then, as we lay there bruised and pleading, George W. Bush and his gang of cement-headed stumblebums came by and kicked us in the ass. Which they continue to do to this day.

But I promised you folks an overview of the club scene here post-Katrina, so here it is. Most of the classics are back open. Some appear to be, sadly, gone for good. And a few new ones have come onto the scene. This last amazes and delights me; that somebody would actually invest money in a music club (a risky investement at the best of times) in this ruined city.

Tipitina's, long the epicenter of New Orleans funk, has been open again for over nine months now. (500 Napoleon Ave. (504)895-TIPS, www.tipitinas.com). Tips has been and continues to be home to several generations of New Orleans musicians, from the late Professor Longhair (the club sports a bronze bust of 'Fess on the premises, and is named after one of his songs), to the Neville Brothers to the Radiators to Bruce Daigrepont to Ivan Neville's band Dumpsta Phunk. It is also now, during the day, the official New Orleans Musician's Community Center.

The Maple Leaf Bar (8316 Oak Street, (504)866-9359) is another joint that re-opened shortly after the flood, running on generator power and featuring Walter "Wolfman" Washington and the Roadmasters. It's a measure of how much music means to people in this town that places like Tips and the Maple Leaf were among the first businesses to re-open, and were packed from the git-go. In times of trouble, music can save your soul.

Mid-City Lanes, AKA the Rock N Bowl (4133 S. Carrollton Ave. (504)482-3133; www.rockandbowl.com). This combination bowling alley and music club was another early re-opener. I highly recommend Zydeco night (Thursdays).

Down in the Faubourg Marigny (downriver from the French Quarter) the Frenchman Street club strip is happening. Cafe Brasil (2100Chartres St.) has survived the summer on latin vibes, particularly Fredy Omar con su Banda. Reggae drives the schedule at the spot now occupied by the Palm Tavern (606 Frenchman Street, (504)220-1785) but blues is also common. The Spotted Cat (623 Frenchmen Street, (504)943-3887) offers acoustic jazz and brass band music from the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, Washboard Chazz and others. d.b.a. (618 Frenchmen Street, (504)942-3731; www.drinkgoodstuff.com) offers both blues (Dave "Honeyboy" Edwards, R.L. Burnside Jr.) and oddball modern jazz (James Singleton's 3 now 4) and Snug Harbor (626 Frenchmen St., (504)949-0696) remains the premier spot in this part of town for straight-ahead jazz, with frequent appearances by Elllis Marsalis, Irvin Mayfield, Astral Project and others.

A lot of places continue to mix up their music policies. Donna's Bar and Grill (800 N. Rampart, www.donnasbarand grill.com) continues to feature brass bands but also has jazz jams in the mix. Vaughn's Lounge (800 Lessups St. (504) 947-5562) has exanded on it's thursday jams with Kermit Ruffins by adding a wednesday session with the Palmetto Bug Stompers. When Wynton Marsalis is in town, he often sits in here. Le Bon Ton Roulez (4801 Magazine St. (504)895-8117) continues with the Soul Rebel's mix of brass band and hip hop in a regular Thursday night residency.

This is, really, only the tip of the iceberg. If it seems like I'm trying to get all of you to come down and listen to some music, you've got it exactly right. I felt that it was important, on the first anniversary of Katrina, to let people know that we're still here, and still doin it.

New Orleanians love their city. They will go to enourmous lenghths to stay here, or to come back, and that love is contageous. I did a phone interview on the CBC A.M. 690 'Morning Show' this morning, and I actually choked up on air.

If you can, come and visit. See for yourself why I love this city so.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


By now I hope you’ve all seen Spike Lee’s documentary on the Great Flood. I haven’t. We don’t get HBO. Hell, we don’t even have cable. We get one snowy channel over the aerial and it’s a Fox affiliate so we almost never watch it.

I have read some reviews though, and two things jumped out at me. One was a local Times Picayune reporter who had his panties in a bunch because there weren’t enough white people in it. There’s a trope going around these days that this was an ‘equal opportunity flood,’ that both whites and blacks were affected, and that by insinuating that blacks suffered in disproportionate numbers compared to whites Lee, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and others are ‘playing the race card’ (this is conservative-speak for ‘pointing out obvious and existing race-based disparities that make us look bad’).

It’s true that white people were affected. My bass player buddy Jim Markway lost everything but two upright basses. I also know a number of middle class folks who lived in Lakeview who were flooded out. One couple now live in Alabama. They both have jobs, and recently purchased a fine new house. Meanwhile most lower 9 residents are still sitting, god knows where, without a pot to piss in. This is a year later.

The second thing I noticed was Lee’s ‘failure to refute’ the notion held by some black New Orleanians that the government deliberately dynamited the levees to flood them out. This is seen by some white commentators as evidence of persistent paranoia in the black community (the same rumors circulated after Hurricane Betsy flooded the 9th ward in 1965). I hope Lee has included the fact that those rumors in ’65 were a result of the well documented fact that the city fathers of New Orleans (with the collusion of the federal government) actually did dynamite the levees in 1927 to prevent flooding further upstream. The resulting flood decimated the areas of what is now the lower 9th ward and St.Bernard parish. No one knows how many people died as a result, because dead Cajun trappers and people of color were not considered worthy of enumeration in those days.

Meanwhile, back here in the supposedly enlightened 21st century, we’re coming up on another significant date besides the one year anniversary of Katrina, and that is the running out of the statute of limitations for suing one’s insurance company. Many people are choosing not to do this, since the chances of a private citizen prevailing against a huge corporation with vast legal resources are Slim and None. And Slim is out of town. Playing devil’s advocate with a friend of mine who is still trying to get his insurance company (Allstate) to approve funds to repair his roof before wind and rain from the current hurricane season damage it even further, I suggested that these companies have huge exposure in this event, and may be fighting for their continued viability. He pointed out that Allstate posted record profits this year. They’ve been using the example of Katrina in their television ad campaigns all over America to persuade people to buy additional coverage. In Lee’s film, there is a man who paid insurance on his modest home for 50 years. He has received nothing. This scenario is being played out thousands of times across this city.

One last thing. In my travels people sometimes express surprise to me at the slow pace of rebuilding here. Some of the more uncharitable ones even suggest that we ‘need to help ourselves’ and wonder what we’ve done with ‘all that money the government sent down there.’

For the record, that money is still hung up in congress. Except for federally mandated emergency relief funds which the government is legally obligated to pay out in any disaster (and which the Bush administration likes to fold into it’s larger totals to make itself appear more beneficent), the feds have sent us, so far, not one fucking cent. The work you see here is being done by people on their own dime, through private funds, church groups, and plain old sweat equity. The initial cleanup work, rather than being offered to displaced New Orleanians, many of whom would have been delighted to come home and help, was instead given in no-bid contracts to four well connected companies who brought in foreign (mostly Latino) workers on guest worker visas. It appears now that many of these workers have been paid nothing, or only pennies on the dollar.

One can only hope there is a special place in hell for these people, since, with the present administration in Washington securely in place until at least 2008, there is little chance of their being brought to account in this life.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Referencing that old Percy Mayfield tune, with its’ lyrics evocative of a laid-back Loo’sana lifestyle, seems kind of ironic. I haven’t had a day off since I got back to town.

I presented a paper at a seminar at Satchmo Summerfest August 6th, and Darlene and I hung out and caught a bunch of free music. Along with food and dancing, free music is what New Orleans does best. We heard a whole whack of brass bands, as well as Trombone Shorty (AKA Troy Andrews) and his new, funk oriented outfit. Troy is another one of Wynton’s protégés, and he’s also a graduate of NOCCA (The New Orleans Center For Creative Arts), New Orlean’s fine arts high school and incubator to many, many jazz musicians over the years. The guy can play the hell out of both trombone and trumpet in pretty much any genre from traditional to modern, but his new band is very much in the Maceo Parker mold. It was mostly youngbloods, the only guy I recognized was keyboardist David Torkanowsky, who’s a old guy like me.

I’ve gotten the go-ahead from the department head to proceed with the faculty band CD. Looks like it’ll shake out to be John Dobry on guitar, Frederick Sanders on keys, Kevin O’Day on drums, Jim Markway on bass and yours truly on tenor. I’m going to try to set up some preproduction rehearsals in the next week or so, with actual recording in mid September. The Deadline for submissions to the New Orleans jazzfest is Oct. 31, so there’s some time pressure. I’d dearly love to bring this band to the Vancouver festival as well, but that presents some logistical challenges. We shall see.

I’m going to try to get an article up soon on the current state of the club scene here. There’s some new joints opened up, plus a lot of the old ones, and several that look like they are, sadly, gone for good. But right now, the freight train that is the beginning of the academic year is heading down the track. Straight at me.

More later.