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."

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.

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