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, 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.

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