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."

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Altoist Wes "Warmdaddy" Anderson is no longer a Louisiana resident. He and his family have a good situation up in Michigan now, so his appearance recently at Snug Harbor was perhaps a bigger deal than if he was just clocking in on a 'local' gig.

Anderson gets tagged as a jazz 'neoclassicist' by a lot of critics, who lump him in with the Wynton-ites in that regard. Playing lead alto in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra probably pushes that perception ahead a little bit. The thing is though, from where I'm sitting as a working musician, those catagories are abstractions. Yes it is true that there are a lot of musicians out there on the national stage, many of them African-American, and many of them associated, past or present, with Wynton Marsalis in some way. Most of them don't spend much time or effort incorporating European folk themes into their music, or tone-row compositional techniques. But I don't recall these choices ever coming up in conversation as statements of any lofty artistic intent. People around here play funk and blues things because that's the local musical culture, and a lot of em are black because a lot of New Orleanians are black. Beyond that, I can't see any percentage in chewing it over, really. Unless you're a critic looking for something to write about.

Seeing as the band (Herman Jackson on drums, Jesse Mcbride on piano, and Harry (no relation) Anderson on bass) was a pickup affair (although all these guys have played together before many times, in various combinations), Anderson limited himself to standards. If memory serves, the first tune was a Charlie Parker number. Anderson showed off his gorgeous tone and stellar chops on "Night in Tunisia," Herman Jackson messed with everybody's head by inserting an internal duple subdivision inside the dotted quarter, 6/8 time signature of "Footprints," and Harry on bass and Jessie on piano carried on in a grand fashion. Davell Crawford came up to sit in on piano, and sang a harmonically altered version of Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World" that was so hip it made you forget how overdone that tune is around here.

But to me, the exact, geometric center of the gig occured during a long, long blues shuffle, with Wes setting up riff figures with the piano and rolling out chorus after chorus of monstrously swinging blues cliches. And I absolutely do not employ 'cliche' as a pejoritive here. Those licks were something we all know as well as we know our own names, and they go down like the best home cooking, which is what they are. The rhythm section was swinging so hard, the whole room was rocking from side to side, till I thought the damn building would tip right over. An elderly, grey-haired African-American lady got up and started dancing in the aisle near the stage, vociferously cheered on by audience members, some of whom also joined in.

Anybody who thinks jazz is 'nerd music' needs to come by here.

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