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."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Professors and Rebels Double Bill

Wednesday, October 17th at 7:00p.m. I'll be appearing in Tulane University's Dixon Theater with the Professors of Pleasure, the university's faculty quintet. We'll be opening for the Soul Rebels.
I personally insisted the bill be set up that way. While the Professors are absolutely not your standard 'mainstream' jazz band ( our music is heavily influenced by the rich musical culture we experience in New Orleans on a daily basis, and thus contains heavy measures of funk and parade beats) we're positively cerebral compared to the Rebels, who are quite possibly the premiere exponents of cutting edge brass band music, which these days incorporates all manner of popular local musics, most notably the 'bounce' and 'dirty south' brands of hip hop. We'd be nuts to follow these guys. It would be like having James Brown open for Dave Douglas.
The concert is the second in a two part series. The first concert (scheduled for the night before, Tuesday, October 16th) will feature Dr. Michael White's Liberty Brass Band, and Tom Sancton's group. Sancton is a journalist and clarinettist who has written a fascinating book, 'Song For My Fathers,' that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in indigenous New Orleans music as it existed here in the late 50s to early 60s.
The concert series was conceived as a pairing of traditional and contemporary styles, with the Liberty Brass Band representing traditional brass band music, Sancton's group the traditional New Orleans style of small band jazz, and the Professors and the Rebels covering modern small band and brass band styles respectively. The Liberty performs often at Tulane for all kinds of ceremonial and social functions, and is an excellent example of the 'repertory' style of recreating brass band music as it was heard in the streets of New Orleans from the 1920s through the 1960s. I caught Sancton last year at Preservation Hall, and he's a first rate clarinet player in the George Lewis school; in fact he was Lewis' student for several years in the 1960s. The Professors and I will be trafficking in our usual oddball, grab-bag style of straight-ahead jazz, New Orleans street beats and funkified deconstructions of standards and originals. And the Soul Rebels will blow the roof off the sucker. For real.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Holding Our Breath

The weather is so beautiful today that it's hard to believe we're in for, best case scenario, 5 or 6 inches of rain on the weekend. The worst case scenario is that Tropical Depression Whot's 'is Name (a weather distubance off the east coast of Florida so unorganized at the moment that it doesn't even have a name) blows up into a Cat One 'Caine when it hits the superheated waters of the Gulf of Mexico and gives us a real-time demo of just how much credence there is in the Army Corps of Engineers' promises about the swell progress they're making with the levee repairs.

Earlier this week the smart money in my social set had it pooping out by the time it got to Disney World, but that now seems unlikely. The 'official' forecast is for it to develop into a tropical storm or a category one hurricaine, with a number of possible storm tracks coming disturbingly close to New Orleans. Pre-Katrina this would be a non-story, in fact I endured my first tropical storm here in the fall of 03 without even being aware of it (I just thought it was a windy and rainy day) . Now people are understandably a bit apprehensive.

Our old 13th ward neighborhood didn't flood at all during Katrina. Where we are now got about 3 feet (you can still see the floodline just below the third step up on the front porch) but we're at the Bayou St. John end of the neighborhood. The closer you get to North Broad, the deeper the water got, until down by the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club it was at least chest high, and over people's heads in spots.

Our block floods enough even during regular rainstorms to cause concern over water getting in the car. This weekend I'm going to make a point to park up on Moss Street, or over on Esplanade, both of which are on a little ridge. The Corps has been making a lot of reassuring noise about the reliability of their spiffy new floodwalls and floodgates, but of course they made the same noises before Katrina and that didn't work out so hot.

Wish us luck.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

She's Just Teasin' You.

Wilson "Willie Tee" Turbinton. Dead of colon cancer at age 63.
Man I get so tired of writing obituaries. Willie's brother, saxophonist and jazz educator Earl "The African Cowboy" Turbinton just passed a little over a month ago. These were not old men. I can't help but think that the stress of losing everything has and will continue to put a lot of New Orleanians into premature graves.
I first heard Willie on his 1965 hit "Teasin You." It was a slinky little pimp-a-delic number with an irresistable hook and some rhyming improv in the out chorus that never failed to crack me and my friends up as we played it over and over.
"You ain't nothin but a popcorn. Suckah Jones. They call you Doc. Ain't no more like you in stock."
A few years later I played on various bands in strip joints that covered it, but we could never get it to sound as hip as Turbinton's version.
A few years after that I had the life-altering experience of hearing the seminal Mardi Gras Indian recording "The Wild Magnolias." Turbinton was the mastermind behind the music on that, along with his brother Earl and a cast of New Orleans musical icons that included the blind guitarist and human jukebox "Snooks" Eaglin.
Unbeknownst to me at that time, Willie had a prolific recording career covering a wide range of styles. He recorded a whole mess of local hits on the Nola and Pelican labels, like "You Gonna Pay Some Dues" and "I Peeped Your Hole Card." Proto-funk instrumental groovers like "Swivel Your Hips." Hip, swinging big band stuff (with Willie on b-3 and vocals) like "Close Your Eyes." And on "Brothers For Life" (1988) he recorded, along with brother Earl, an album of first class contemporary jazz. I was lucky enough to catch Willie a few years back at Sweet Lorraine's on St. Claude and I can attest to his powers in that genre. He had an amazing, iron fisted approach, quartal-harmony based. Very much in the Mcoy Tyner bag.
Willie was smart with his money and didn't need to work much. The Wild Magnolias album (and it's followup, "They Call Us Wild") was apparently a nice paycheck for him, and he kept control of his copywrites from the R&B days. He bought a nice house out by the Lakefront. He appeared to be the antithesis of the hard luck New Orleans musician; it seemed like not much really bad entered his life, aside from getting his rhythm section stolen out from under him by Dizzy Gillespie in the 80s.
Katrina fucked all that up. The house by the lake was soup. A lifetimes worth of gold records and memorabilia reduced to papier mache. He took a nice turn on the New Orleans tribute album "Sing Me Back Home" with a reworking of his early 70s hit "First Taste Of Hurt." He got a gig as a visiting lecturer in the Jazz Studies department at Princeton for a semester. Then, back in New Orleans in time for his brother's funeral, he was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Survivors include his wife, Marilyn Martin Turbinton; a sister, Joyce Turbinton Gill; a daughter, Racquel Turbinton Bruno; and two grandchildren.

A funeral is scheduled for Sept. 22 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church. Visitation is from 9 to 11 a.m., with a service to follow.