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."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My Students At Jazzfest.

Things started getting a little tense the week before the gig. The students began pressuring me to add extra rehearsals to "make sure nothing goes wrong." My response was to assure them that I could pretty much guarantee that something would. Something always goes wrong at a performance, the trick is to roll with it and be in the moment. It really is possible to over-rehearse stuff. But I went with it, because I wanted them to have a good feeling about the gig; to feel like they were really prepared.

I also didn't want them to make too big a deal out of it. Yes, it was an exciting, important opportunity,but, at the end of the day, it's just another gig. Life is not appreciably different pre and post-jazzfest debut. The Rocket to Stardom does not leave April 27th from the Sheridan New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage. And, since it's an outdoor gig, the sound will probably suck.

On this last count, thankfully, I was wrong. Thanks to stage manager Chuck Blamphin, production manager Clarence Reginald Toussaint, and the rest of the sound guys, the stage and front end sound was thoroughly decent, although our drummer Max Behrens (who'd never played a big outdoor stage before) was amazed at how loud it was up there. My students, god bless em, rose to the occasion and delivered what might be their best performance ever. Truly, the thought of embarrassing yourself in front of a festival-sized audience focusses the mind wonderfully.

They opened up with Alan Matheson's composition "Jackson Square," which we'd positioned first in the set because we felt that the funky, second-line style drum opening would be the perfect way to introduce the group to the crowd. After that came another Matheson original, "Cypress," and then Alan's arrangement of "Parker's Mood."

I could sense some nerves in these first three performances, but when the guys broke out their own head chart of Tad Dameron's "Lady Bird" things really started to loosen up, with good solos all around. Tenor saxophonist Caleb Dance offered up a particularly intelligent, harmonically organized series of choruses, filled with quotes and pleasant little surprises. Then came the Miles Davis arrangement of "Oleo," with trombonist Jamie Holcomb playing slash-and-burn on the outchorus, playing the line a tri-tone away from the other two horns.

My original plan had been to play alto on the two things that needed a fourth horn ("Jackson Square" and the closer, Matheson's arrangement of Cedar Walton's "Ugetsu") and then stay out of the way, but trumpeter Joel Greco, who'd also been acting as MC, insisted that I come out and play tenor on a beautiful trumpet-tenor duet called "Pas De Deux" that Matheson (yes, we do play an awful lot of Al's music) had written in 1992 for Clarke Terry's wedding. So, the old guy got his turn in the spotlight after all, as well as a real "Goodbye Mr. Chips" moment when Joel said a bunch of nice things about me and my efforts on behalf of the jazz performance studies program at Tulane.

My sincere thanks to Will Buckingham, bass, Max Behrens, drums, Jon Cohen, piano, Joel Greco, trumpet, Caleb Dance, saxophone, Jamie Cohen, trombone and saxophone, and Pat Boyle, guitar. Several of these young men are graduating, and I'm going to miss their talents in the band room. Working with all these young men has been a pleasure and a privilege.

And just to prove what a small world it is, as I was leaving the stage, a woman from Vancouver came up to say hello. If you're reading this, I'm sorry, but I've forgotten your name. But, hopefully, I'll see you at the jazzfest up there this summer.

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