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, June 25, 2008

Jesse Mcbride At The Piano.

Left to right: Jesse Mcbride, piano, Jim Markway, bass, John Dobry, guitar, John Doheny, tenor saxophone.

Hidden: Kevin O'Day, drums.

My mentor and friend, the late, great tenor saxophonist Fraser MacPherson, once told me, "the audience has no idea what you went through to get there, nor do they care, nor should they care." True, dat.

In my earnest and fumbling efforts to stay within the budget I'd originally submitted to Tulane University's Deep South Humanities Center of the School of Liberal Arts (who were underwriting a portion of the trip) I'd decided to fly us into Seattle, rent a van, and drive to Vancouver. There was always the possibility of picking up a gig in Seattle (which turned out to be a wash) and it would save us almost $300 a man in airfare. Of course by the time we actually booked the tickets the price had doubled, wiping out any potential savings and adding needless complexity and travel time. To top it off, our drummer, Kevin O'Day, had been offered some last minute touring opportunities (the Bonnaroo Festival in Memphis with Anders Osbourn, and some scattered dates with bluesman John Mooney) and would not be travelling with us, instead he'd be flying to Seattle from Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Everybody on the band had gigs the night before (mine was with the Oakside Brass Band at Broussards) so we were all fried at the airport in New Orleans at the 5:30 a.m. boarding call. They routed us through Atlanta (go figure) then a five hour hop back across the country to Seattle, where the Alamo Rental Car computer promptly rejected my credit card. Our pianist, Jesse Mcbride, saved the day with his fat bank balance courtesy of two weeks teaching at Donald Harrison Jr.'s summer jazz camp. Apparently my bank needed at least two business days to process Tulane's expense check onto my card. Funny how they can debit stuff instantaneously, but take their sweet time with the credits.

From there it was onward and upward to Canadian Customs, where, as per usual, we were treated like errant 15 year old boys who'd been summoned to the principal's office, and into Vancouver and our rooms at the Listel on Robson. Total travel time: fifteen hours. I managed to drag myself downstairs to O'Doul's to catch a set of Alita Dupray and to say hello to bassist James Forrest and drummer Joe Poole. I really wanted to make Mike Allen's jam, but there was no way. I shuffled off to bed about eleven.

Up at seven to deal with a seemingly endless stream of minutae and screwups, some my own doing, some not. At one point I had a cel phone in one ear and the hotel land line in the other. Stress city. In another economy move my wife Darlene and I (who was travelling with us) were moving into vocalist Colleen Savage's apartment (she's out of town) and because the place has both a kitchen and a piano, and because in New Orleans beans and rice are a traditional monday/washday dish and music is good any day of the week, I'd planned to invite the guys over for a big feed and jam session before the gig. Jesse was going to cook, as he almost always has people over to his place in New Orleans for monday red beans. But Jesse was getting sick. Bad. Some kind of stomach bug. He spent the afternoon in bed trying to get himself together, and I got to put my head down for a couple of hours to try and forget all this stuff and get my head correct and focus on the music.

We get to the gig, and it's a great space, nice acoustics. Good sound. The sound guy was tenor man Graham Ord, so I knew I was in good hands. We had a good house, I'm told that's somewhat unusual in that venue on a monday. And despite being sick as a dog, Jesse played his ass off. I mean burnin, bro. There were at least three points where he played something and all four of us turned and looked at him and went "Whoah!" Yeah you rite! Everybody played great. Even the three tunes we had literally never played before (we learned them at the sound check) came off without a hitch. As is sometimes the case, the mistakes happened on tunes we've played a lot. A ballad grew a new coda to make up for a missed entrance, for instance, and the form on another tune got re-routed around a drum solo. But those aren't 'mistakes,' really. They're happy accidents that lead to new and interesting things, and a big part of why playing jazz is such an exciting and scary experience.

Life is long and strange. One minute you're in New Orleans, playing "Just a Little While to Stay Here" in a brass band. Then, in what seems like the blink of an eye, you're three thousand miles away in another country playing completely different music. But it's not different, really. It's all of a piece.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Keepin' It Real parade.

This parade was mounted by a relatively new club, the Keepin It Real social and pleasure club. It ran through our neighborhood a couple of months ago, starting up at Orleans and Moss, running down Orleans Avenue, then taking a left onto North Broad at Orleans.

This guy is outside a great, old-school restaurant called the Crescent City Steak House, at the corner of Broad and St. Philip. Our house is about four blocks up St. Philip behind it.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

NOLA Jazzfest 2008 Photos.

Alan Matheson and I at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, spring 2008, with the Tulane University Jazz Orchestra. The stage manager had asked if we could do an extra ten minutes, so we called a Bb blues (Joe Newman's "Cue-in the Blues") with just the rhythm section.

Vocalist/pianist Rachel Brotman sings Alan's arrangement of Harold Arlen's "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea."

Alan solos on the arrangement of "Indiana" that he originally wrote for Clark Terry.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Festival Overload.

New Orleans is probably the last American city that functions on an pre-modern, agrarian 'festival' clock. With an emphasis on 'festive.' 'Festival' here is not necessarily genre specific. Although 'Jazzfest' is ostensibly about jazz, and 'Tomatofest' is centered around tomatoes, there is also music at Tomatofest and remarkable food at Jazzfest. And there's going to be dancing at both.

Many of these festivals are comparitively recent, chamber-of-commerce-generated events. Back in the day, festival season was anchored by the 'season' of Carnival which begins on Twelfth Night and climaxes with Mardi Gras, which usually occurs somewhere mid-february to mid-march. Jazzfest (last weekend in April to first weekend in May) became an extension of the parades and festivities (both religious and secular) of Easter and Holy Week. Thus in a city that is overwhelmingly Latin-Catholic (as opposed to tight-assed European-Catholic) the festive season moved smoothly through Christmas to Epiphany to New Years to Mardi Gras (culminating in Ash Wednesday, the day after Fat Tuesday) to Easter to....Jazzfest. So that while the rest of the country was resolving to lose that 'holiday five' put on over the Christmas break, New Orleans was just tucking into the first of the Carnival Season Kingcakes.

Somewhere along the line, somebody noticed that there were a few pesky gaps in this flow, areas where, sometimes for weeks, there were no distracting blowouts or opportunities for partying and pigging out. French Quarterfest, a free, outdoor music festival in the French Quarter, was added in mid April to break up the gap between Mardi Gras and Jazzfest. Essence Magazine weighed in with Essencefest, a festival of contemorary African-American music during the traditionally slow month of August, and Satchmo Summerfest (along with it's jazz camp for New Orleans public school students) filled the midsummer gap where July turns to August.

This year the new additions are starting to clog up the calender, creating a 'perfect storm' of overlapping or simultaneous festival activity. June 13 to 15, The Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival (sponsored by the Jazz and Heritage Foundation) takes place at two outdoor stages at the Old U.S. Mint at Esplanade and Decature. The lineup includes Wayne Thibodeaux, Keith Frank, The Soileau Zydeco Band, the Figs, Terrence Simien, Beausoleil, the Red Stick Ramblers, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys and many more. And yes, there will be food.

Concurrently, The Creole Tomato festival alternates chef demonstrations with musical performances in the Farmers Market and Dutch Alley. The Farmers Market Stage presents brass band, jazz and blues with Don Vappie, Jon Cleary, the Storyville Stompers and more, mixed with demos from chefs including Susan Spicer of Bayona, Tenney Flynn of G.W. Finn's, and Frank Brigsten of Brigsten's. The Dutch Alley stage has a Latin theme, with music by Freddy Omar, Ovi G. and the Froggies, AsheSon, and Julio and Caesar, along with demonstrations by chefs focusing on Latin cuisine including Glen Hogh from Vegas Tapas.

And concurrent to that is the Louisiana Seafood Festival inside the Old U.S. Mint. The music schedule has not yet been finalized, but the feature food will be by Antoine's, Deanie's, the Red Fish Grill, the Bourbon House, the Vidalia Grill, the Saltwater Grill and many others. There will be a Young Chef's Pavillion, with students from the John Folse Institute and Delgado Community College's Culinary Arts Program cooking and being mentored live. Fedex will be on site all weekend to ship fresh seafood, fresh Creole Tomatoes, or other fresh produce around the country.

And... Darlene and I are making a particular point this coming wednesday to go down to Lafayette Square (where a series of free concerts happen every wednesday in the spring and early summer) to catch R&B legend Irma Thomas.

You know, if I were a rich man, I'd make a list of all my friends who live in modern North American cities, places where music is a fringe 'cultural event' that happens in isolation from daily life, and I'd fly em all down here for a month around this time of year. I suspect a lot of them would quit their jobs and move here permanently.