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."

Friday, February 29, 2008

A Love Supreme

I recently saw the DVD of a performance of this work by the Branford Marsalis Quartet. My first thought was "man, these guys got brass balls!" To perform this iconic piece...I mean, the Coltrane recording always seemed like kind of the last word on the subject to me. Even the live version from Japan is a pale reflection compared to the original, which seems carved in stone, like Mount Rushmore.

The brilliance of the Marsalis concert recording is in the way they make it their own. Branford retains the basic four-movement construction of the piece, and some of it's salient features (the bass line in "Acknowledgement, for example) but doesn't duplicate Coltrane's signature melody in that first movement, instead, coming up with one of his own. Simple, uncomplicated, and clear as a country creek.

Coming hard on the heels of my experience of the Branford version was a performance, last thursday, of the same work at the Holy Name of Jesus Church on the Loyola campus. The saxophonist was my opposite number at Loyola, professor Tony Dagradi, along with bassist Roland Guerin, drummer Troy Davis, and former Tulane piano instructor Fredrick Sanders (he recently turned over his chair to Jesse Mcbride). The performance was equally interesting. Troy Davis, for instance, is a very un-Elvin-like drummer (think Shelly Manne with a touch of Philly Joe) yet he managed to make his own unique statement in the drum solo which introduces the "Pursuance" movement. Guerin played mostly arco in the bass solo which introduces "Resolution." Sanders can play very outside, but his excursions are less the quartal harmony of Mcoy Tyner and more the cluster methods derived from the late Alvin Batiste's "Root Progression Method" teachings. Since Fredrick was one of Alvin's many students, this comes as no surprise. Dagradi is, of course, New Orlean's Mr. Mainstream. He plays very chromatically, and his conception is heavily influenced by Coltrane. Yet at the same time it contains all the lessons he learned over many years of playing and recording with esoterics like Professor Longhair and Clarence "Frogman" Henry. A very interesting performance, in an acoustically (and physically) beautiful space.

Brice Winston did a clinic here at Tulane today with the students from the Monk Institute. I'll report on that soon, but right now I've got to go home and take a quick nap before tonight's gig.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Let's Go Get Em.

Lately I'm noticing more "little chiefs" at Mardi Gras Indian gatherings (these were taken on Carnival Day at about 11:00a.m by my wife Darlene at the corner of 1st and Loyola). Children have always been part of Indian culture, but it seems like I'm seeing a lot more kids at these things post-Katrina. I'm guessing this is a deliberate move on the part of the old timers to get more children and grandchildren involved in the culture. After the Federal Flood, many of us were worried about the continued viability of these things, and while this is still a matter of concern (Backstreet Cultural Museum curator Sylvester Francis, for instance, feels that the real crunch will come in about 10 years time, when the current generation begins finding it more difficult, because of age and infirmity, to participate) I think it's possible we underestimated the tenacity of these traditions. New Orleans has survived a lot of calamity, including devastating fires, previous (though less severe) flooding, and yellow fever epidemics that annihilated much of the population. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Bush Whitehouse are just the next in a long line of bad news.
Anyway, it was a real hoot to hear those kids chanting in response to their elders. The refrain "let's go get em" is a warriors chant, and a call to arms. To my ears it takes on additional meaning of hope for the future, when sung in the high, clear voices of children.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fat Tuesday

I'm going to keep this short and sweet, since I'm dead tired, sunburnt, and sitting here in my underwear and a purple and green Applejack 'pimp' hat that I caught at Zulu. Beat to my socks, in other words, so I'll forgo the usual expository stuff about Carnival, it's traditions and roots in various communities within the city, how, much to the disbelief of visitors schooled on "Girls Gone Wild" videos, it is actually a festival largely for the benefit of children. I write stuff like that every year, and you can read it here:
and here:http://vancouverjazz.com/jdoheny/2006_03_01_archive.html
and here:http://vancouverjazz.com/jdoheny/2007_02_01_archive.html

A quick aside: I just this minute looked out my front door and saw a crowd of people dressed like Arthurian royalty walk by. I can hear our neighbor Ms. Vera hollering "Awrite baby! Lookin' good!"

Anyway, Zulu was a kick. We met transplanted California bassist Rob Kohler and his family at Jackson and South Saratoga this morning. His wife Michelle proved to be a coconut catching fool, and his kids just loved the parade.

My wife Darlene, while she can't catch coconuts worth a damn, always finds some Indians, this time at the corner of 1st and Loyola.

The big disappointment of the season was the all-women Muses parade last Thursday. We have a number of friends in Muses and were really looking forward to it. Darlene collects the little shoe bracelet things they throw every year, and last year I was able to snag her the coveted 'shoe' throw (a hand-decorated shoe that is Muses equivalent of the Zulu coconut). I like to think I caught it cause I'm cute, but it was probably just somebody I knew. Hard to tell behind the mask.

Anyway, I had a rehearsal that Thursday night that conflicted with Muses. Then the parade got rained out, and rescheduled for friday at eight-ish. We got there at seven thirty, suffered through interminably boring, honky parades like Krewe De Etat and Morpheus, and finally gave up around nine thirty. It was cold. Our feet hurt. The crowds were getting thick, drunk and stupid. We went home.

Turned out they rolled at ten thirty.

We were so disappointed to miss Muses, it's giant fiber-optic shoe float, and all it's associated walking krewes. I felt like Darren Mcgavin's character in A Christmas Story, after the Bumpus dogs eat their turkey. No shoe float! No Baby Dolls! No Bearded Oysters! No Big Easy Rollergirls! No Camel Toe Steppers! Gone, all gone!

Until next year. There's always next year.