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."

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I've ranted on at some lenghth in various internet spaces (particularly the discussion board at my host website, http://www.vancouverjazz.com ) about the dearth of "jazz media," particularly press and radio, in today's world. The city of Vancouver, Canada stands as a pretty good example of the sorts of things that can happen when artists are deprived of the essential structures for bringing their art to the public.

Some of the best jazz musicians I've ever heard or worked with live in Vancouver. Yet the city (which is home to 2.2 million people and is a major international tourist destination) has only one functioning jazz club http://www.cellarjazz.com/ . There is no jazz radio station, and no publications of any kind devoted to jazz music. I recently played two gigs at the city's jazz festival http://www.coastaljazz.ca/ , an event with an international profile. Yet scouring local press coverage of the event, I was left with the impression than local participation was minimal at best. It's as if the city (which trumpets itself in other areas, endlessly, as "world class") had gone from jumped up lumber town to sterile, soul-less megalopolis without passing through civilization in between. The sad thing is that Vancouver will never, ever be truly "world class" until it starts recognizing and honoring it's own artists.

New Orleans is far from perfect in this regard, but it's head and shoulders above anywhere else I've ever lived. I led my own jazz ensembles for ten years in Vancouver, and played the local festival every year for five, yet I was never able to get the local arts weekly (The Georgia Straight) to so much as return a phone call. Four months after moving to New Orleans, in January 2004, Offbeat magazine gave my CD "One Up, Two Back" (which I'd never managed to get reviewed in my 'home town' of Vancouver) a terrific review. Local media in New Orleans actually believe supporting local music is part of their mandate.

That's especially true of local community radio station WWOZ http://www.wwoz.org/ . 'OZ doesn't play all local music, but they play an awful lot, and if you're a local musician with a professional quality CD, they will play it. That's what they're there for. No arm twisting necessary. And because their signal is available around the world on the internet, they are an integral part of helping New Orleans musicians develop international careers. The New Orleans 'brand' is nothing to sneeze at, especially in Europe, where it's worth serious money.

'OZ also has a wonderfull collection on it's site of local cultural documentaries, called "Street Talk," one of which ("Fruit Vendor") I linked to in my previous post, "Mr. Arthur."

The access to press, radio, and reliable local and internet record distribution (through local record store the Louisiana Music Factory http://www.louisianamusicfactory.com/ ) creates a synergistic field which gives musicians a real shot at getting some attention in the larger world. The almost total lack of attention given Vancouver jazz musicians by their local media would be inconceivable here.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mr. Arthur.

In New Orleans there's a big divide between "Uptown" and "Downtown." The dividing line is Canal Street and everything upriver from there is Uptown, everything downriver, Downtown (this can be confusing, because the Central Business District, the area with highrise office buildings and head offices and all the other stuff that makes it look like any other North American city's downtown, except for the palm trees and the winos that look and dress like Keith Richards, is upriver from Canal, and therefore, technically, 'uptown.').

Socially, Uptown is associated with the University District around Tulane and Loyola, the silk-stocking neighborhoods of the Garden District, white, middle class neighborhoods like the Uptown Triangle, and white-folks-with-money in general. There are some pockets of funk sprinkled in, like the Irish Channel (nowdays mostly 'black Irish'), our old 'hood on the river side of the 13th ward, and Central City, which is actually one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. But in general, when you say 'Uptown,' people associate that with 'white' and 'financially comfortable.'

"Downtown,' on the other hand, can be a code word for 'poor' and 'black.' It's an older part of the city. Canal Street was originally the dividing line between the French and Anglo-American parts of the city, and upriver from Canal was called the 'American Sector.' Some people still call it that. The 7th Ward has been traditionally inhabited by old-line, Creoles-Of-Color families, many of whom dominate the plastering, ironworking, and restoration-construction trades in the city. They are heavily Catholic and clannish. Over on our side of Esplanade Avenue, in the 6th Ward, there's more darker skinned black people with English surnames. Some people identify these neighborhoods locally as Gentilly, the Treme, Mid-City, 8th Ward, 9th Ward, and Lower Nine. But we're all "Downtown." And we have some local characters and traditions you don't see Uptown.

Shortly after we moved here from the 13th Ward my wife Darlene was working in her home office one day and heard a kind of metallic, chanting sound. She said at first she thought it might be Mardi Gras Indians, but it turned out to be Mr. Arthur and his produce truck.

For a terrific WWOZ radio documentary on Mr. Arthur (some people call him "Okra," but I've never been able to bring myself to address him that informally) click on this link.


There's no shortage of truck vendors in New Orleans but they tend to pick a spot and park. Mr Arthur is the last of a dying breed of mobile vegetable and fruit sellers. He starts way down in the 9th ward and works his way up through Gentilly and Mid-City. He never goes uptown past Canal.

People like Mr. Arthur are a godsend in the post-Katrina era. So many supermarkets were destroyed that in many neighborhoods there is no place to buy fresh produce. We have friends in the 8th Ward who routinely drive all the way to Chalmette to shop at the Wal-Mart.

But they buy their fruit and vegetables from Mr. Arthur.

Monday, July 23, 2007

George Brumat, R.I.P.

George Brumat, owner of New Orlean's premier straight-ahead jazz club Snug Harbor http://www.snugjazz.com/, passed away in his sleep July 7th at the age of 63. Cause of death was given as heart failure.

For a fascinating radio documentary on George, his club, and his place in the scene here, check out radio station WWOZ's "Street Talk" site. The Brumat piece is the second one down.

Snug was one of the first places to open up again after the flood, largely due to George's hard work and sense of obligation to the jazz community, which, in New Orleans is inseperable from the larger community of the city itself.

He was a stand up guy, and he will be missed.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Canadian Broadcorping Castration

A bit of shameless self-promotion: This saturday, July 21st, at 5:05 p.m. PDT, I'll be holding forth as a guest on CBC Radio One's "Hot Air" show.

Here's a cut and paste from their website:

Saturday July 21, 2007

Vancouver sax player John Doheny went back to school a few years back to get his Masters Degree in Music at Tulane University in New Orleans. John is now Professor of Practice at Tulane, and the leader of the faculty jazz quintet The Professors of Pleasure. When John drops by for his regular visit, he'll bring a copy of the band's new CD (not commercially released until September), as well as a stack of music you're not likely to hear outside of New Orleans Parish.

For listening outside British Columbia on the internet, click "CBC Radio One, 690-Vancouver"

For those of you not familiar with the Magic of Radio, I'm not actually in Vancouver this Saturday. We taped it July 5th when I was up there playing the jazz festival. I've probably done seven or eight of these things over the last ten years or so, and I consider host Paul Grant and producer Neil Ritchie to be personal friends, so it's always a lot of fun. This time I walked in on some kind of construction catastrophe that had the hard-hat set digging deep, deep holes around almost the entire CBC building. I had to walk all the way around the place (it takes up a whole city block) just to figure out where the 'temporary entrance' was.

In addition to the "Professors of Pleasure" CD, I brought along (mostly new) releases by singer Betty Shirley, trumpeter Christian Scott, my ace runnin podnuh Frederick Sanders and Wardell Quezerque's Slammin Big Band.

Check it out, if you dare.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Lord Have Mercy.

It's good to know it's not just my imagination; the space between seats on airplanes really is getting smaller.
Apparently we have the Carter administration to thank for this; they're the ones who reduced the minumum allowable space between seats from 34 to 27 inches. That, and the inevitable loss of flexibility that comes with age means after a flight of more than three hours duration I can't feel anything below the knees.
Saturday here in Vancouver I played with my good friend of 31 years, singer Colleen Savage. Colleen's book is always an adventure, filled with interesting and challenging material (particularly challenging for me, since I didn't arrive in town in time for the rehearsal, which took place while I was in Denver). Definitely not one of those "My-Funny-Valentine-Girl-From-Ipanema' jobs.
Sunday was the gig with my own band, my "Canadian Quartet" (Tony Foster B-3, Jon Roper guitar, Joe Poole drums), and we didn't need no steenking rehearsal. I've played with these guys for years in all kinds of contexts and it's a blast everytime. I'm not the kind of leader who feels something's wrong if I'm not the center of attention all the time, and I try to make it clear to everybody on the band that they should feel free to stretch out as much as they want. Gimme all of it, all the light you got. Sunday it sometimes got so good, I'd forget to come back in. I'd be standing there digging on Joe or John or Tony, and I'd forget I was supposed to be working, it was that good.
Almost everthing we played wound up moving into unplanned extensions, unexpected codas, and radical changes of form. We played a bunch of stuff we've done in various jobbing situations a few million times ("Stella By Starlight," "Sonnymoon For Two,""I'll Remember April") some things we recorded while I was evacuated up here after Katrina (someday I'll figure out a way to release that record) like Horace Silver's "Strollin'," the Meters "Cissy Strutt," and Tony Foster's original "Kim Chi Blues," a couple of my compositions ("Ridin With Sonny Ripp," "A Greasy One") and a few things we'd never played together at all, like "Harlem Nocturne" and Eddie Harris' "Cold Duck Time."
"Cold Duck" in particular was one of those great experiences that you're always striving for onstage but seldom get, where everthing is hitting just right and you feel almost like someone is playing the instrument for you. I'd been listening to the record this tune is on (Les Mcann and Eddie Harris "Swiss Movement") a lot before I left New Orleans, and at one point I suddenly realized I was channeling Eddie's solo from "Compared To What." Not note for note but conceptually, in the way Eddie uses kicked-out low Bbs as pedal points for contrapuntal statements up high on the horn.
"Compared to What" was recorded in 1970, but Eugene Mcdaniel's lyrics sound utterly contemporary:

"The president he's got his war, folks don't know just what it's for.
There really ain't no rhyme nor reason, have one doubt they call it treason.
You really got to be some kind of nut.
God dammit!
Try to make it real! Compared to what?"
A number of my friends and contemporaries came home from Vietnam in rubber bags. It really is depressing to see how we just get stupider and stupider as time marches on.