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."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Harold Battiste.

The "Jazz at the Rat" series, co-curated by the Lagniappe organization and the Tulane Jazz Performance Studies Department, continues to serve up opportunities for students to interact with major figures in the music. April 1st at 8:00p.m., Harorld Battiste will be appearing with various combinations of students and faculty at the Rathskellar Bar in the Lavin-Bernik Center for Student Life on the Tulane campus.

Mr. Battiste may not be well known to the general public, but his credentials in the music business go back more than fifty years. In the 1950s he was a member in good standing of the first wave of New Orleans 'modern' jazz icons Ellis Marsalis, Alvin Batiste, James Black, Alvin "Red" Tyler, Nat Perrilliat and many others. During his thirty year tenure in Los Angeles he worked as an arranger-composer (Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," Barbara George's "I Know") as well as arranging and producing for Lee Dorsey and Dr. John. He started (and continues to run) New Orleans first black-owned artist run record company AFO (All For One) recordings. For 15 years he was musical director of Sonny and Cher's television show, earning six gold records along the way.

Upon his return to New Orleans in 1989 he was instrumental, along with colleague Ellis Marsalis, in creating the University of New Orleans Jazz Education program as it currently exists under the stewardship of director Steve Masakowski.

His influence as a jazz educator continues with the release of "The Silverbook," his compendium of compositions by New Orleans modern jazz masters. In addition to being an invaluable source of compositions that have become New Orleans modern jazz standards with which every practising modernist in the city worth his salt must be familiar (James Black's "Dee Wee," "Monkey Puzzle" and "Magnolia Triangle," Nat Perrilliat's "Little Joy," and Battiste's own "Nevermore," Opus 43," and "Beautiful Old Ladies"), it is also a comprehensive method for the study of jazz performance practise. As Battiste writes in the forward :

"The Silverbook concept is based on a process which started around 1946 when the Jazz learning process for a group of young New Orleans boys conciously began. Of course there was no forethought that they were developing a 'learning process' but fortunately, by documenting their activities and keeping track of the music they studied, I have been able to see "the process" in retrospect."

Those "young New Orleans boys" included Alvin Batiste, Edward Blackwell, Ellis Marsalis and of course Battiste himself who, in what I've come to recognize as a typical set of New Orleans-style social coincidences, is not only friend and mentor to my colleague, jazz pianist Jesse McBride, but is also an old and dear friend of my neighbor Miss Vera, and thus has ceased to be a distant and intimidating figure in music history and instead has become "Harold," a very nice cat who lives just a few blocks around the corner from me.

April 1st, 8:00p.m., Rat Bar, Tulane campus.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Harold Battiste, New Date.

We have a new date for the Harold Battiste/Jazz at the Rat concert. Mr. Battiste will be appearing at the Rat on April 1st at 8:00p.m., not March 18th as previously announced.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

the Dean's Breakfast.

One of those oddball gigs that show up on my calendar is this one, the Dean's Breakfast. It's a coffee and donut thing thrown the first friday of every month at Cudd Hall on the Tulane campus by the Lagniappe people, in this case the straw boss is Tom Moody, who snapped this picture of the trio. Left to right we're John Doheny, Rob Kohler (whose gig it is, so I guess we're the Rob Kohler trio) and yes that is indeed the Cadillac of Jazz Guitar, Steve Masakowski, on the right. We've had kind of a revolving cast of chord guys on the gig since it began last September, including Jesse Mcbride and Mike Pellera from NOCCA. Rob's brother Lee even drove in from Florida for a couple. It's looks like Steve's got the chair for the next few and we're very happy about that. People kept swimming up close and whispering "hey. That's Steve Masakowski!" and we'd say "aw, you know, we tried to get somebody good, but..."

Lagniappe is also underwriting the Jazz at the Rat series, a terrific opportunity for students at Tulane to listen to and in some cases play with some very heavy guest artists. Big up to the Lagniappe folks.

The really weird thing about the Dean's Breakfast gig is, the downbeat is at 9:45. In the morning. Amazingly, there are apparently two 9:45s in the same day. Who'd a thunk it?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Keep'n It Real.

Today was the annual parade for the Keep'n It Real Social and Pleasure Club, a young club (established 2004) with a route that passes right through my neighborhood, down Orleans Avenue from Bayou St. John, left on North Broad. Where they go after that I couldn't tell you, I usually let them go around St. Bernard Avenue. No matter how much fun following a parade is, it's good to keep in mind you have to walk the same distance back.

This year, as last, the band was the Hot 8, a 'new school' brass band specializing in funk oriented repertoire like "Miss My Homies," "Jisten To Me," and "You Can Run But You Can't Hide From The Truth." But this year, like last year, when the band approached the intersection of North Broad and Dumaine, they suddenly stopped and struck up the old spritual, "That Old Rugged Cross." This is the intersection where, a little over two years ago, Hot 8 snare drummer and Rabouin High School band director Dinerral "Dick" Shavers was shot dead in a stupid and tragic bit of violence.

I've often spoken of how much I love New Orleans and my life here, but there are times, and this is one of them, when the place will cause your poor heart to break. The deep and powerful humanity of the place contains this tragic element as part of it's fabric; you can't have one without the other and if you try, like many tourists and part-time residents, to just take the good without the bad, you are both setting yourself up for disillusionment and denying yourself the full experience of life here. If you really love New Orleans, you must love, understand and accept all of it.

On my good days, I feel like I've got this down. On bad ones, all I want to do is cry. But then, after a while, the band (as did the Hot 8 on this day) strikes up "Over In The Glory Land," and blasts it out all the way to Esplanade Avenue, and we all reaffirm to ourselves that life is fleeting, we're only here for a short while, so we might as well cut some decent steps on our way to the boneyard.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Profs of Pleasure at the Rat...

...or, more properly, the Rathskellar Bar in the Lavin-Bernick Center For University Life, but that's kind of a mouthful.

A little backstory on the Profs. When we all came back after Katrina, a number of applied music instructors (basically, the folks who teach private lessons) elected, for various reasons, to not return to the city, or not return to Tulane to teach. The chair of the department at the time, Barbara Jazwinski, asked if I could recommend replacements. While it would seem that this ran the risk of opening the door for rampant cronyism on my part (and to a certain extent it did; hey, you tend to hire people you've worked with in other contexts) it was also a wonderful opportunity to bring fresh ideas and attitudes into the department. The freshest of these turned out to pianist Frederick Sanders who, in his year here, was instrumental in cementing the idea that Tulane could and would have a jazz performance studies department that took a back seat to no one. Through long brainstorming sessions Fred and I developed the concepts that guide the department today; that jazz is a hands-on skill that should be taught by players active in the jazz-performance community, and that this connectivity in turn could and would be a means to stream the most gifted and hardworking of our students into the professional world. That's the way it happened for all of us (although admittedly, in most cases, in a non-academic environment) and we saw this as a way to pay the gift of our mentorship under master player-teachers forward.

Alas, Fred's family commitments dictated his stepping down after just one year, but his replacement, Jesse McBride, turned out to be first rate. Fredrick recommended two people to replace him, and by coincidence I'd just seen Jesse play a few weeks before at Snug Harbor, with Wess "Warmdaddy" Anderson. Shortly after that, I played a casual with him at Commanders Palace and we wound up talking about jazz, and jazz education, for over an hour after the gig was finished. The great thing about Jesse is that he just lives to "pass it on," and he doesn't really care how. It could be in an academic context like Tulane (or Dillard, where he also teaches), in the informal areas of the jam session or the after-hours hang, or in one of the two versions of the Next Generation (the ever-evolving institution comprised of up and coming students, a tradition started by the great Harold Battiste at UNO and taken over by Jesse upon Harold's retirement) that he currently has performing Tuesdays and Thursdays at Snug Harbor and Donna's Bar and Grill respectively. By any means necessary, Jesse is going to hand off the baton.

But I digress. At some point in late 2006 it occured to me that since we had all these great players working on campus it would be kicks to form a band, so we did. We played a few little gigs around campus, opened for Irvin Mayfield at Macallister Auditoreum, recorded a CD, and eventually, took it on the road up to Vancouver, Canada, to play the jazz festival up there in June of last year. The band we'll be taking into the Rat this wednesday March 4th will consist of Jesse Mcbride on piano, longtime Tulane bass instructor Jim Markway on electric and acoustic bass, new drum instructor Geoff Clapp, my office mate and partner-in-crime in the jazz studies department John Dobry on guitar, and yours truly on tenor saxophone.

8:00p.m. March 4th

The Rathskellar Bar in the Lavin-Bernick Center on the Tulane campus.

Admission is free.