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, November 27, 2006

John Doheny On WWOZ New Orleans.

If anyone is interested, I'll be holding forth this wednesday, november 29th between 5 and 6 p.m. central time (that's 3 to 4 p.m. pacific time) on WWOZ, New Orleans' jazz and Heritage station. The 'Jazz With Judy' show.http://www.wwoz.org

We'll be playing some rough mixes from the upcoming "John Doheny and the Professors of Pleasure" CD (Frederick Sanders, piano, John Dobry, guitar, Jim Markway, acoustic and electric bass, Kevin O'Day, drums, John Doheny, tenor and alto saxophone), as well as plugging our gig the following night (nov. 30th) opening for Irvin Mayfield at the Mcallister Theater.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Prayer From The Conquered.

Since Darlene is out of town (a business trip took her to Toronto and she decided to extend a bit with a visit to her family's farm near Van Kleek Hill, Ontario) I'll be enjoying my traditional thanksgiving routine of practise in the empty bandroom (so nice to be able to really get with the horn without all those pesky students and teaching obligations interrupting me) and a feast of spaghetti-sauce-in-a-jar.

I've spent a lot of holidays alone or on the road with bands. The trick is to avoid feeling sorry for yourself or hard done by, and to do your best to maintain a sense of connectedness to the larger family that is the human race, which is really the only 'home' we have. Connecting your sense of 'home' to any physical place is a mugs game, since the physical can be swept away in a heartbeat. New Orleans isn't suffering right now so much because the buildings are damaged (although that aspect of this catastrophe is no fucking joke, believe me) but because so many of the city's people are still displaced. It's the people of New Orleans who summon, like a hologram, the spirit of this place. People from here carry that with them wherever they go.

I guess what I'm saying is that while the possible death of New Orleans would mark something precious and irreplacable going out of the world, the spirit will live on in the diaspora of her citizens. (And I use the feminine case deliberately. If ever a city was a woman, New Orleans is. Think Blanche Duboise crossed with Courtney Love).

I hope the city survives. On my good days I'm sure that it will. But this conviction is based entirely on observation of the enormous effort and personal sacrifice that the people here put forward every day of their lives. The rest of the country, I sometimes feel, couldn't care less. The things that are important in New Orleans, culture, tradition, connectedness of spirit, family and community (real family and community, not the false faces and fake piety that impersonates these things in public discourse) are not part of the economic system that defines serious value in this country. And as long as those values run the discussion, New Orleans is in serious trouble.

Anyhoo, since it's thanksgiving, and doubtless most of you are bunged up securely with family and friends in cities with working traffic lights, functional criminal justice systems, reliable electricity and municiple budgets that can actually afford to do things like repair infrastructure, I thought I'd offer up this prayer from the First Americans. It's actually from Wabanaki Algonquin writer Bedagi (Big Thunder), and dates from the 19th century.

Give us hearts to understand;Never to take from creation's beauty more than we give;never to destroy wantonly for the furtherance of greed;
Never to deny to give our hands for the building of earth's beauty;never to take from her what we cannot use.
Give us hearts to understandThat to destroy earth's music is to create confusion;that to wreck her appearance is to blind us to beauty;
That to callously pollute her fragrance is to make a house of stench;that as we care for her she will care for us.
We have forgotten who we are.We have sought only our own security.We have exploited simply for our own ends.We have distorted our knowledge.We have abused our power.
Great Spirit, whose dry lands thirst,Help us to find the way to refresh your lands.Great Spirit, whose waters are choked with debris and pollution,help us to find the way to cleanse your waters.
Great Spirit, whose beautiful earth grows ugly with misuse,help us to find the way to restore beauty to your handiwork.Great Spirit, whose creatures are being destroyed, help us to find a way to replenish them.
Great Spirit, whose gifts to us are being lost in selfishness and corruption,help us to find the way to restore our humanity.
Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind, whose breath gives life to the world,hear me; I need your strength and wisdom. May I walk in Beauty.

So give thanks today, and enjoy yourselves. But please spare a thought to us folks down here, and remember that when trouble comes in this great country of ours, you can always count on government and your fellow citizens...to tell you to fuck off and die.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monk, Terence Blanchard, Clinics, ICMC, and My Dinner with Andrew Walters.

It’s been a helluva month, and I’m just now getting my head up. Last week Tulane hosted the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC). The conference theme was “Multidimensionality.” Two junior faculty members, Tae-Hong Park and Paul Bothello, put the whole thing together, and at the one concert I managed to attend (mainly because I played on it) Tae-Hong received a well-deserved standing ovation as organizer.

The piece I played, “Pushing Buttons” by Andrew Walters, was billed as a “duet for alto saxophone and two-channel electro-acoustic instrument.” When Tae-Hong approached me last spring about participating in the conference, I sort of casually agreed because it seemed like fun. Then, in August, I got the music in the mail and realized this was a serious chunk of work I’d let myself in for. In addition to a bunch of altissimo stuff (some of which was so far up there I had to look up fingerings on the internet) there were a lot of wide intervals at a fast tempo that necessitated more research for alternate palm-key note fingerings that I could grab that would make playing the lines possible without a lot of burbling and rogue notes getting in there. There were also a bunch of multiphonic effects, which, for the uninitiated, involves playing two or more notes simultaneously on the horn. It doesn’t really come off as a chord, more like several pitches strobing back and forth rapidly.

I won’t bore you with the headaches involved in getting hold of a decent classical mouthpiece in a disaster zone like New Orleans, except to say that you really can’t play this stuff on a Meyer Medium 6. And, if you’re ever really, really stuck, Northwest Music in good ole Vancouver will fed-ex you a nice NC 4 New Classic in three days, tops. Big up to Northwest.

The night before the concert, I had dinner with the composer, Andrew Walters (who turned out to look and sound exactly like a young Wallace Shawn) and afterwards we went back to the campus to go over the piece. Aside from the technical difficulties in the alto part (which I more or less had under my fingers by that point) there was the issue of how to deal with the pre-recorded “electro-acoustic” part. Dropping so much as an eighth note would put me out of synch, and there was also the issue of how to catch downbeats out of fermatas without him being on stage conducting me, which apparently was a no no. He was very helpful in offering suggestions for cues within the pre-recorded part (so I could quickly get back on track if I got lost) and counting strategies for making (often fortissimo) entrances out of silent fermatas. Thanks to his help, the dress rehearsal the next day went well, and the actual concert also went off without a hitch, except for me missing one four note cell (I got out four notes, but they weren’t the four I was aiming at) and blowing one of the multiphonics (it came out a ‘uniphonic’). As scary as the practicing phase can be, it’s fun to challenge yourself with these kind of works.

Right before that, we hosted a pair of clinics at Tulane, one by Paquito D’ Rivera’s bassist Oscar Stagnaro (Paquito was in town to play the Contemporary Arts Center, and graciously comped my wife Darlene and I into the show) and Cuban guitarist-bassist Juan Carlos Formell. Both of these clinics were facilitated by my good buddy professor Javier Leon, and Tulane’s Latin Studies department.

Last week, Barbara Jazwinsky (chair of Tulane’s music department) and I attended a meeting at Loyola University next door, with Loyola’s dean, trumpeter-composer Terence Blanchard, members of the executive of the Thelonious Monk Foundation, and representatives from Dillard University. It seems the Monk Foundation’s agreement with USC Los Angeles expires this year (they teach a two year diploma program coached by top jazz musicians) and the foundation is looking for a new host university. Since Terence Blanchard was born and raised here (and still lives here much of the year) and in light of recent events, he suggested that perhaps the foundation should look to New Orleans for its’ home.

My feeling is that in the end it’ll probably come down to us and Loyola (Dillard’s campus is still not even close to repaired) and I’m really pumped at the idea of having guys like Terence, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter on campus teaching two months out of the year for at least the next two years. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.