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.

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