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."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Death Don't Have No Mercy In This Land.

My first day back in the office, and I'm informed that my friend Tad Jones, jazz historian, freelance writer, 'discoverer' of Louis Armstrong's 'true' birthdate, and all-round good egg, died new years eve in a freak accident. From what I can gather, he was coming home through his courtyard, which had a mal-functioning fountain in it that had created a huge pool of water on the ground. He slipped in it, cracked his head, and drowned in six inches of water.

Tad was a good cat. He was kind enough to book me at Satchmo Summerfest last year (the bread came in real handy) and was always forthcoming with advice when I needed it. When I first arrived at Tulane as a grad student, he was a guest speaker at one of my graduate seminars run by the curator of the Tulane Jazz Archive, Bruce Raeburn. When I started frothing all over him about what an honor it was to meet the man who had 'discovered' Armstrong's actual birthdate (which even two of his biographers had erroneously reported as July 4th, 1900) he fluffed it off. "It wasn't rocket science, man," he said. "I just walked into the church and said 'where da baptismal records at?'"

The lack of an official birth certificate (which few black people had in those days, since most were born at home) or a notation in a family bible (Armstrong's home environment in early life was unstable to the point of living on the street part of the time) didn't stump Tad, who figured that, since Armstrong's mother was Catholic, the church would be a good place to look for an official record. He also pointed out to me that the baptismal records DOB (August 4th 1901) was not necessarily accurate either. But at least he was smart enough to know that researching Armstrong's early life, which was spent in New Orleans up to about age 20, might possibly involve actually leaving New York or Chicago and journeying down here to our provincial little backwater for a spell. Tad, who was born and raised here, spent the last years of his life doing extensive research on Armstrong's early life and musical development. That manuscript will likely go to the jazz archive now, and many of us are hoping that it can be assembled into some kind of publishable form, perhaps along the lines of Bill Russell's "Jelly Roll Morton Scrapbook."

Meanwhile, the city continues to fester. A recent 18 hour period saw 6 homicides, including a well liked local filmaker who was shot in the neck in her home on North Rampart. Her husband, a doctor, was found with three bullet wounds, cradling their unharmed toddler on the front steps. He's in stable condition in hospital. My money is on an attempted drug robbery, since he was a well known physician who had worked at the Little Doctors Clinic on Esplanade pre-Katrina.

Most of the mayhem seems to be the usual drug-related shooting and cutting, though. Wednesday night, for instance, a victim was found shot in the head in the 2700 block of St. Ann Street (about 5 blocks from my place) with a vial of crack still clutched in his hand. This does not surprise me one little bit since I've had a guy attempt to sell me drugs in that very block about a month ago. I'd been driving home from work one night and had attempted to make my usual three right turns behind the Zulu Social Aid And Pleasure Club at Orleans and North Broad (you can't turn left up Orleans, so I go around) but the police waved me off. There'd been a shooting. One cop told me that they'd been attempting to move some drug dealers out from behind the Zulu Clubhouse, but that there were so many ruined, abandoned houses in the neighborhood that the drug dealers soon set up shop elsewhere.

Sure enough, as soon as I turned up the side-street (St. Ann) there was that 'little guy' coming up on my window. "Got that rock."

In the interests of Chamber of Commerce style tourist pimping I should probably point out that none of the neighborhoods I'm talking about here are anywhere near 'tourist' areas. But all this 70s-South-Bronx type abondoned housing is really causing problems, which are being exacerbated by the capture-and-release nature of the deeply damaged and dysfunctional criminal justice system, not to mention the stress level inherent in a population with large numbers of people who have lost abso-fucking-lutely everything and often don't know from one day to the next what the future will bring. The admittedly small percentage of that population which is criminally inclined are just as stressed as everybody else, and they're a lot closer to the edge. This is what happens when a bunch of them jump off it into the black night of the soul.

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