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, 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.

Comments on "Lord Have Mercy."


post a comment