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, 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.

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