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, September 30, 2009

In Algiers.

The Professors of Pleasure outside Word of Mouth Studios in Algiers LA. Left to right: Jesse Mcbride piano and Fender Rhodes piano, Geoff Clapp drums, John Dobry guitar, Allen Dejan Jr. tenor alto and soprano saxophones, Jim Markway acoustic and electric bass, John Doheny tenor and soprano saxophones, Andrew "Da Phessa" Baham trumpet. Sept 21, 2009.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Professors of Pleasure vol. 2. Bagged and Tagged.

Actually we're not quite there yet, as I need to do some serious listening to the ruffs and then get with engineer Tim Stambaugh for mixes and fixes but, for all intents and purposes, this record's done. And, much to my surprise, I like it.

Normally at this stage of the game, I'm somewhere between the "bargaining" and "denial" stages of recording. Those of you who've made records know what I'm talking about. There's "elation" (hey! We're going to record!!!), "apprehension" (Oh my gawd. Every wrong note will be on the permanent record), "bargaining" (hey, maybe no one will notice that huge clam), and "denial" (you know, if you listen to that clambake often enough, it doesn't sound too bad. Anyway, it's too late to fix it now). But I'm listening to a rough mix in a trial sequencing order and I gotta tell ya, it's sounds pretty good.

Day two of recording started out with trumpeter Andrew "Da Phessa" Baham coming in to lay a trumpet part on the bed track for "The Tulane Fight Song' we'd recorded the previous monday. We still didn't have a chart for the damn thing but it turned out 'Drew had gone to J.F. Kennedy and played all the football games so he knew literally every school song by heart. Allen and I chimed in on soprano and tenor respectively for a 'second line' front line and banged the thing out in one take, no sweat. Then it was a fast pass on a be-bop version of "Let It Snow" that we'd agreed to record for Tulane's e-christmas card. This one took two takes, but only because they'd specified it be about two minutes long and we had to make a slight tempo adjustment to get it to fit the allotted space.

The rest of the session was spent laying down "Funky Breeze" (a Jim Markway original he'd written when working in local tenor player Brian "Breeze" Cayolle's band) a beautiful Afro-Cuban thing by Harold Battiste called "Child Playing," nicely arranged by guitarist John Dobry for alto, tenor, and guitar, another Marway composition, the quirky "Elysian Fields" (on which I discovered, to my surprise and delight, that I could actually play a borrowed soprano sax in tune), and John Dobry's Pat Metheny-esque "Cautious Optimism."

It was a lot of music for two days (if we were releasing it on vinyl, it would be a double LP) but we actually finished a couple hours early, and that included a 90 minute lunch break and stroll through scenic Algiers Point, where Word of Mouth Studios is located. Now it's on to artwork, sleeve design, pressing, and release.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

In The Studio.

This past monday was the first of two days in the studio to record what will ultimately become John Doheny Presents the Professors of Pleasure vol. 2. I've managed to do a little money management within the departmental budget that should, if we keep recording costs rock bottom and session fees for adjunct instructors (who are paid an hourly rate for teaching. Since John Dobry and I are full-time, salaried faculty, we're contributing our services to the project gratis) as low as possible without being totally insulting, we should be able to do one of these CDs every two years. Aside from raising the profile of the department through CD sales and touring, we hope to be able to generate income streams that can be diverted into a scholarship fund. Tulane is an expensive school, and talented students with potential are not always fortunate enough to win the genetic lottery by being born to wealthy parents.

Anyway, in the interests of keeping costs down (and again I must stress that everyone playing on this project is either doing it for nothing, or for peanuts) we decided to use Tim Stambaugh's Word of Mouth Studios over in Algiers. As much as we loved recording at Piety Street Studios last time out, it would have broken our budget, even at studio owner and head engineer Mark Bingham's special jazz-bum rate (as Mark puts it, "yeah, there's a 'book rate,' but only Green Day and Dave Mathews pay it"). Stambaugh's facility simply offers a much more affordable price, and a couple of guys on the band had done projects there and had good things to say about it.

I must admit that my only real trepidation was over "seperation issues." Piety offers the option of recording in one big room without the use of headphones. Headphones are a major source of irritation for me, as I hate spending time getting a good mix in the cans, and the best headphone mix in the world is never going to be as good as hearing each other live in the room, as God in Her wisdom intended it to be. But Stambaugh's place offers the best possible equipment to achieve a semblence of this; each player has a series of buttons on his headphone 'tree' that allows him to essentially creat his own mix. No more watching the air get sucked out of a session by an hour of shouting back and forth about levels. The total separation of instruments (at Word of Mouth you are literally in seperate rooms, although they are glass-walled, so there's still visual contact) allows for real time punch-ins and fixes as well, something I was long suspicious of. I felt that a solo overdubbed over an existing rhythm track, for instance, was likely to sound "un-jazz-like," since a recorded track cannot 'react' to a real-time soloist the way a live rhythm section does. I still feel that way, but I must admit I really enjoy being able to go back in and fix that one Bb where my finger slipped playing the head out, rather than having to re-record the whole friggin' tune over again.

On monday the first thing we did was a two-tenor feature for me and new guy Allen Dejan Jr. (and yes, for you jazz history buffs, he is related to the late saxophonist and Olympia Brass Band leader Harord "Duke" Dejan). We chose the Tadd Dameron's "Ladybird"-based tune that Miles Davis wrote while playing in Charlie Parkers quintet, "Half Nelson," and took it at a tempo somewhere in between Miles' burning 'up' version from "Working With the Miles Davis Quintet" and the medium-swing Dexter Gordon-James Moody interpretation on Dexter's "More Power." On the first take we tried the "Mingus" gambit of first trading choruses, then eights, then fours, twos, ones etc. but in the playback that sounded too stiff, so on the next pass we started with chorus-trading but then just started getting loose with it, eliding phrases over bar lines, pushing and pulling each other, and ending with a chorus of New Orleans-style collective improvisation. Often this is only something you can pull off convincingly if you've been playing with someone for a while. Allen and I hadn't played together much before , and we certainly had never attempted anything like this, but it worked like greased lightning the first pass and we somehow peaked just in time to launch into the "Ladybird" shout chorus before trading eights with drummer Geoff Clapp, then head two times and out. Tune one bagged and tagged in less than an hour.

The whole session went more or less like that and by the end of the day we had rough mixes of "Half Nelson," a tune by bassist Jim Markway called "Don't Know About That," a beautiful reading of "Nancy With the Laughing Face" featuring Allen Dejan Jr., pianist Jesse Mcbride featured on a Harold Battiste waltz-ballad called "Beautiful Old Ladies," and yours truly featured front and center on the Hank Mobley cooker "This I Dig of You." We also got a bed track on a 'second-line' version of the "Tulane Fight Song" the university asked us to record for their web site, with me honking away pretending to be a trumpet on what I could emember of the melody (we didn't have a chart, just some chords Jim Markway had cribbed off a Youtube of the Tulane Marching Band that morning). Andrew "Da Phessah" Baham comes in next monday to record the trumpet part for real.

So far, it's going great. I'm pleased, and that has not always been the case for me with previous projects. Hell, I even like the way I sound.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

We're Number One!

Relax, I'm not going to get one of those silly big foam-rubber fingers and start jumping around shouting this. I'm much too cool for that. I'm just reacting to the Society of American Travel Writers rating of the Top Ten Cities For Live Music in North America.


1. New Orleans, Louisiana

2. New York City

3. Austin, Texas

4. Nashville, Tennessee

5. Chicago, Illinois

6. Memphis, Tennessee

7. Montreal, Canada

8. Las Vegas, Nevada

9. Branson, Missouri

10. Denver, Colorado

On reflection, I'm really not surprised they rated New Orleans over New York. New York has been the center of the jazz universe for over half a century, but in terms of the breadth and depth New Orleans has in a wide, wide variety of live music, and the the sheer ubiquitousness of it...I mean, live music can hit you any time here, a second line never roared past my front door in New York.

Austin? Hmmm. Certain times of the year, particularly festival times (South by Southwest comes to mind) Austin can look like music central, but that's kind of illusory, because a lot of those bands are from out of town. The old Antones-Jimmy-Vaughn-Thunderbirds-Lee-Ann-Barton axis ain't what it used to be, and I don't see anything that organic coming up to take it's place.

Nashville? Corporate country. Big black hats. Pass.

Chicago? Lots of good blues. Some great jazz, if you know where to look.

Memphis? Some great music. The Stax museum. Beale street has some good sounds, but I can't help thinking of everything they mercilessly tore down to build that sanitized safe-for-tourists strip. In some respects the real story in Memphis (and in New Orleans as well) is in hip hop music. I recommend a viewing of "Hustle and Flow." for the uninitiated.

Now Montreal...there's a well kept secret. Quiet as it's kept, the birthplace of Oscar Peterson has had a vibrant scene going back to the first half of the 20th century if you know where to look. Plus it's just a great allround cosmopolitan, sophisticated burg.

Vegas? I don't think so.

Denver I don't know much about, but I know cats there who can really play, and they tell me it's happening.

I'm dissapointed Vancouver, Canada didn't make the list. I lived there for many years and know from personal experience that the place is crammed with first rate musicians. A very underrated scene. The main problem is there's just not enough places to play, so maybe that's why it didn't make the cut.

Okay, so we're 'number one' in live music. Now if they'd just bring the bread up to that standard, everybody'd be happy.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Quick Hit.

Into our second week of classes here at Tulane and of course very busy. No dates confirmed yet for the fall Jazz @ the Rat series but I'll post them here as soon as I get them. The two confirmed artists are Bill Summers and Idris Muhammad, so I guess we're on a percussion tip.

Summers of course is best known for his work with Herbie Hancock, most notably the groundbreaking 1973 album "Headhunters," but his career is much broader than that, encompassing film and television work ( The Color Purple, Roots) as well as nine solo releases. In New Orleans he led the band "Summer's Heat" (guitarist and singer duo Bill Solley and Kim Prevost are alumnae) and currently works in Irvin Mayfield's Afro-Cuban Nuevo-Orleans project "Los Hombres Calientes."

Idris Muhammad I'm even more excited about than Bill. Muhammad is kind of a legend around New Orleans where he started life in 1939 as Leo Morris. The Morris family has been well known around town for producing top shelf drummers so apparently when young Leo arrived in his school band program they didn't even ask him his instrument-preferrence, just handed him the sticks. One of his earliest recording sessions (at age 15) was Fat's Domino's "Blueberry Hill."

As a leader he's released twelve discs, beginning with 1970's "Black Rhythm Revolution" on Prestige Records. As a sideman he's recorded with Johnny Griffin, Lou Donaldson, Pharoah Sanders, Freddie Hubbard, Grant Green and John Scofield. Since 1994 he's held down the drum chair in Ahmad Jamal's trio. To say that I'm excited by the prospect of playing with the man is the understatement of the century.

In other news we've confirmed recording dates (Sept. 14 and 21) at Word of Mouth studios
http://masterdigital.com/studios/data/wordofmouth.htm Bassist Jim Markway, pianist Jesse Mcbride, drummer Geoff Clapp, guitarist John Dobry and myself, along with new guy reedman Allen Dejan, will be recording Professors of Pleasure vol. 2. Now all we have to do is figure out what we're going to play, learn the music, and record it. But, as anyone who's done this knows, that's the easy part.