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, February 27, 2007


Mardi Gras morning found me on the Zulu parade route at Jackson and Simon Bolivar, shouting at Rick Cluft over a cellphone.

Apparently I've become the 'go to' guy for CBC Radio on all things New Orleans. The Good Morning Canada show had interviewed me last August 29th on the first anniversary of Katrina, and I'd choked up on-air. I thought it was embarrassing, but the CBC people apparently thought it was good radio, so they came back for a second helping on Carnival Day.

No disrespect to the folks at CBC. I was happy and honored to be chosen to speak on-air about my adopted home town. It's just that I'm a little uncomfortable about all this info-tainment style 'journalism' and the seeming invisibility of the real story, which is the Army Corps of Engineers and their faulty levees. Try going to Anderson Cooper's site on CNN and googling "Army Corps of Engineers." You won't get one hit. What you will get is a lot of sob sister journalism and 'inspirational' stuff about plucky black folks rebuilding their houses in the lower nine with chicken wire and spit; what used to be called "human interest" stories. All well and good, but ...where's the beef?

Zulu was cool, as always. I finished shouting at Cluft just in time to see the Free Agents Brass Band go by. The Free Agents are members of a half-dozen different bands who got together informally after Katrina. The diaspora of musicians has meant that existing outfits wind up sharing a lot of personell, so an ad hoc grouping under the name "Free Agents" seems like an obvious step.

The rest of the day, Darlene and I hung out at the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the Treme, where there's always a block party Mardi Gras day, and around the corner at a small neighborhood club called the Little People's Place. We did dip down into the French Quarter for a bit, to check out the drunken-frat-boy, girls-gone-wild action, but quickly found it so annoying that we fled back to the ghetto, where folks may not have much, but at least they've got manners.

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