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."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Delfeayo Marsalis @the Rat, 8:00p.m. Nov. 19th.

...Rathskellar Bar in the Lavin-Bernick Center for Student Life, on the Tulane campus.

Delfeayo is, of course, the trombonist of the clan, but he's also one of those all-round cats that so many jazz musicians are or aspire to be these days. As a producer he's supervised numerous recordings over the years, both for his brothers (most recently "From the Plantation to the Penitentiary," "Don't Be Afraid," and "Swinging With the Cats" for Wynton, and "Steep Anthology" and "Romare Bearden Revealed" for Branford) and others (both trombonist and producer on Jeff Watt's "Citizen 'Tain," producer only on Marcus Roberts' "Marcus Roberts Plays Ellington"). As a trombonist his CV is equally impressive, with releases as leader (2006's "Minion's Dominion," 1996's "Musashi") and sideman (Brother Branford's "I Heard You Twice the First Time," former Sun Ra sideman Michael Ray's band the Kosmic Krewe's "Funk if I Know," Elvin Jones' "It Don't Mean a Thing").

That's only a sliver of the man's pedigree. For the full story, check his website: http://www.delfeayomarsalis.com/ .

I recently had opportunity to play with Delfeayo in a small band setting (with Jesse Mcbride's Next Generation at Donna's on North Rampart) and here's the deal. Stellar technique. Great ears. Endless supply of ideas, and total fluency with the language of jazz from the beginning to right now. You cannot lose him playing background figures, it's like trying to outrun your own shadow.

As usual, admission is absolutely free. Be there.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Kohler Recording Session.

After many false starts and a little actual pre-production, drummer Geoff Clapp, bassist Rob Kohler and I finally managed to get together for our first recording session last Sunday night in the Tulane Recital Hall. The Hall has excellent acoustics (the band room is dampened all to hell and makes my horn sound dry and puny) and is a wonderful environment for recording and performing.

We'd actually looked at a number of tunes in the one rehearsal we'd had (three of Rob's, one of mine) but Rob dragged in after an extremely rough week and said, "hey man. Let's just play 'free,' alright?," then set up a 6/4 groove in C minor and we were off.

I've always had a kind of conflicted relationship with 'free' playing. In some circles I've been lumbered with a rep as someone contemptuous of the genre, but that's really not true. I've simply avoided (for the most part) playing it because I don't think I've got the chops. It's one thing to play reactively with others within the perameters of a set of chord changes, it's quite another another to put yourself in a space where the music can go absolutely anywhere at any time, and you have no choice but to deal with it. It takes great ears, great chops, and the ability to play pretty much anything you can hear to pull it off with style.

I don't lay claim to being 100% in any of those areas but that didn't stop me, (or the other cats) from having an absolute blast. Geoff Clapp was playing so hard at one point that the air whooshing out of the hole in his bass drum head was making my pant leg flap around ten feet away. The stuff we did had structure, varying moodscapes, historical referrences (to funk, 20th century classical, be-bop, and early jazz) and humor. In fact, at one point something we played struck me so funny I fell out of my chair laughing.

Next session we'll probably tackle some actual tunes, but this is a very good start.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Bill Summers/Alexei Marti Pics.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Louisiana Repertory Ensemble.

Of all the oddball gigs I've done since moving to New Orleans, this one is probably the furthest outside my 'comfort zone.' Or maybe not, it's all music, after all.

The Louisiana Repertory Ensemble was originally formed by musicologist (and drummer) John Joyce Jr. and musicologist (and saxophonist) Fred Starr as a vehicle for reproducing early jazz, using transcriptions from recordings (where such recordings existed) and painstaking research into the performance practises of the period. A kind of Tafelmusic for early jazz buffs, if you will. Their initial recordings, like Moods of Old New Orleans http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=9506 and Marching, Ragging and Mourning http://www.louisianamusicfactory.com/showoneprod.asp?TypeID=70&ProductID=131 are painstaking reproductions of what jazz sounded like at the moment of it's genesis, around 1890-1910. "Mourning" in particular works very hard at capturing that moment when early jazzmen starting walking out of the paradigm of the traditional brass 'marching' band, breaking free of the written arrangements and improvising on top of them.

Over the years the band has evolved some, using a revolving cast of players and slipping more into the 'jammed' style of ad-lib playing that came to dominate jazz by the 1920s. But the ensemble still remains tied to it's pedagogical roots, and last night's concert at Dixon Theater (with drummer John Joyce Jr. at the helm) was conceived as much as a teaching device for the numerous Tulane jazz history students in attendance as it was as an entertainment.

Professor Joyce (J.J. to his friends) kind of took me under his wing when I arrived here as a grad student and we've remained friends ever since, so I suppose it was inevitable he'd eventually ask me to sub on one of these gigs. I don't claim to be any kind of expert at playing early jazz, but if you work as a musician for any length of time in New Orleans, you pick up a fair bit of traditional repertoire. What J.J. wanted me to do, though, was play the tenor sax part on Sam Morgan's "Bogulusa Strut" from the score of his transcriptions of the complete Sam Morgan recordings from 1927.

What surprised me about this, when the tune actually kicked off, was how hard this was. I suppose I might harbor a touch of the 'modern jazz player's' snobbery towards this stuff, but I'd like to think that after six years of studying the music I'd be past that. I really was surprised at how tricky the chart was, not an easy thing to sight read at all. "Bogalusa Strut" itself, as a tune, is actually fairly easy, I'd even played it before on gigs. But the tenor part in Morgan's nine piece band is actually a continuous counterline that has zip to do with the melody, and if you kack one eighth-note's worth, you're cooked.

The band this time out was packed with some of traditional jazz's brightest lights. On my left were trumpeters Duke Heitger and Charlie Fardella, and trombonist Rick Trolsen (also well known in funk and avante guard circles). On my immediate right, clarinettist-saxophonist Tom Fischer, banjoist Johnny Parker, pianist Steve Pistorius and Louisiana Philharmonic Tubist Robert Nunez (grandson of old-time New Orleans jazzman Alphonse "Yellow" Nunez). And of course John Joyce Jr. on drums.

The opportunity to play with both the bright lights of traditional jazz and the very best modern jazz players in America is one of the things that makes living here so special. I'm a lucky guy.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Percussion Discussion.

The Bill Summers gig at the Rat was a perfect encapsulization of why these sorts of things (the opportunity for students to share the stage with top-drawer professional jazz musicians) are so vital and inspiring for young musicians.

I'd told my students in front, "listen, Bill isn't messing around. He's not going to treat you with kid gloves, so you need to know your material strong or he will put you in the ditch. Don't be half steppin up there." These events are sometimes referred to among the jazz faculty as the "ritual humiliation" part of the course, the part where you get scuffed up a bit by players far above your level. I tell em I'm a fellow sufferer, because I get to play with these guys too, and while on the one hand this is both an honor and a privilege, it's also kind of scary. I mean, Bill was on Herbie Hancock's Headhunters. man! He played on Thrust! And of course he showed up with his wingman, master percussionist Alexei Marti.

The first tune was Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" as performed by one of Jesse Mcbride's combos. Bill and Alexei set up an introduction that was only distantly related to the tune's 6/4 time signature, but when it came time for the students to come in, led them there in the most obvious way. This gracious and selfless approach was the order of the evening; Bill and Alexei played their asses off on every tune and with every band, but went out of their way to not confuse anyone (they confined the tricky stuff to percussion breakdowns within the tune, leading the various bands back into the head with simple, clear percussion calls, or sometimes just counting it off with a stick against the side of the timbales) and really made the students sound good, creating luxurious pockets for the student drummers to solo in, and cooking grooves for student soloists and rhythm sections.

We finished up the evening with a short faculty set (our faculty bass and drums were unavailable, so Jesse brought in bassist Mike Ballard and drummer Jamal Batiste), and of course that's when Bill and Alexei really cut loose. "Afro Blue" had six kinds of time going, "Impressions" felt like Coltrane-meets-Tito-Puente taken at a hair raising tempo and went on forever, complete with feints, fakeouts, mini-dialogues within meter changes and scarifying percussion breakdowns. I've never seen the club so full, and the place was bumpin.

We really need to get these guys on faculty.