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."

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.

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