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, September 27, 2010

Shots Fired.

Every fall, I teach a class called TIDES. I taught it for two years before I even knew what the acronym stood for, which is Tulane Interdisciplinary Educational Seminar, but it's really just an introduction to New Orleans for freshmen, the vast majority of whom do not come from here. The music dept. has six sections of TIDES, of about 15 students each, and we meet in both small groups and large lecture-format meetings of all the combined sections, where various profs offer lecture-presentations on their speciality; Jazz, Opera in New Orleans, Drama (usually the Tennessee Williams play "A Streetcar Named Desire") Cajun/Creole Culture etc. It's an enormous amount of fun for me to teach, because the students are usually very interested in the subject at hand, and it's a subject I love to talk about. Nothing makes me happier than to introduce the city I love to newcomers.

One of the course requirements is attendence on two 'field trips,' which usually offer a range of choices. Performances by the New Orleans Opera Company, the Louisiana Philharmonic, trips to the "Fai Do Do" dance at Tipitina's, Zydeco Night at the Rock and Bowl etc. In previous years we even used to bus students out to Angele's Whiskey River Lounge in Henderson Swamp, an incredible Cajun dance hall with fantastic music and some of the most amazing dancing you'll ever see, but the university discontinued that. Too many logistical and insurance headaches.

For the last couple of years some of us have been pressing the TIDES program to include a "Second Line" parade in the field trip choices. We argued that the students will never have an opportunity to see something like this anywhere else in the world, and that the statistical probabability of them being victims of violence (even though the parades happen in ghetto neighborhoods) is actually less than at a Saints game.  Finally they came through this year and greenlighted us to take 28 TIDES students to the Young Men Olympian parade, one of the biggest and most well attended of the SAPC (Social Aid and Pleasure Club) parades.

I've been encouraging students in my other classes to attend these things for years, and I'm very gratified now to see increasing numbers of them, including recent graduates, at various cultural events around town. I've even taken groups of two or three students to these things on my own personal time. The first thing I noticed about this group though was how at ease they felt right off the bat; maybe they felt less conspicuous because they were a large group. And they absolutely loved it, man. When we fell into line behind the Hot 8 brass band (and right in front of theRebirth band, which was bringing up the last division of the parade) it was a glorious feeling on a glorious day. The heat has finally started to recede a bit here in New Orleans (though it's still damn hot) and the students danced and kibbutzed with neighborhood folks, who in turn instructed them in the finer points of shaking your stuff in a second line. I remember walking behind a group of three girls (two of whom are in my TIDES section) and thinking how great it must be to be young and seeing and experiencing these things for the first time. I jokingly asked one if she was sorry she came and she laughed delightedly, her face glowing in the heat. For those of you who've never done this, there is no feeling like being part of this kind of parade, not standing on the curb watching it, but being part of it, and dancing through the streets of the city while the Hot 8 plays earth-shaking funk out front of you and the sound echoes off the sides of buildings.

About two hours into the parade we made our first bar stop, at First and Dryades. A quick straw poll was taken among the students (many of whom were starting to feel the heat) and the rough consensus was that, as much fun as we were having, it was time to call the bus to come pick us up. We started moving the students two blocks up to Third and Dryads (the bus would have never been able to make it through the dense crowd in the street in front of the bar) and I went back to First and Dryads to look for stragglers. Then...pop pop pop pop pop pop, very rapid series of six shots, a whole clip of what sounded like a .32. Screams, pandemonium, me almost getting trampled by people fleeing the scene. I don't see any young, white faces near the action so I haul ass myself.

As shootings go, it actually wasn't bad, I know that sounds ridiculous but it's true. You hear automatic weapons that means real trouble, like a firefight between drug gangs. A full clip from a small handgun usually means a personal beef, and unless you're in the nearby crowd and catch a stray round (because these type assholes don't have the jam to get in close, spray and pray is their modus operandi) you're okay. It saddens me to have to say I know this from past experience but there it is. And sure enough I subsequently heard that the only fatality in this was a two year old boy sitting in a car. The target was unscathed.

I caught up with the rest of the students and faculty at the corner of Third and Dryads, and before the cops even got there (and they were there inside of two minutes) some very scary looking dudes on Harleys were scouring the 'hood, looking for the shooter. My primary concern at this point was getting us out of there, because I know these cats from my neighborhood and I know what they're capable of. They would have lit up the shooter on sight if they'd found him, and god's mercy on my students if they were in the line of fire. Fortunately the bus arrived and we got out of there.

Before it did though, a guy about my age, just a middle-aged guy in an undershirt, came over to us and apologized. "I'm sorry you had to see that," he said. "It wasn't always like this. Some of our young black men have a coward streak in them. They're not man enough to step to someone they have a beef with, they'd rather stand back and shoot into a crowd." He shook my hand. He shook Beverly Trask's (dance department faculty) hand. He apologized again and walked away.

When we got back to campus I took the three girls, the ones who had been so happy, aside for a private word. "I'm sorry your first Second Line ended this way" I said. "But maybe it's best in a way. What you've just seen is the Alpha and the Omega of life here. If you stay here long enough, no matter how much you love New Orleans, there will come a time when that love will be tested. And if you really love this place, you have to understand all of it. And love all of it."

I'm going to talk about this some more in class at our next meeting. I could see the shock and confusion in their faces; how could things be so good and then suddenly be so bad? I'm hoping I can help them understand.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Profs of Pleasure CD.

Finally, finally, available online and at  the Louisiana Music Factory on Decatur here in the French Quarter.


Here's a cut and paste of the liner notes as they appear on the inside CD cover:

Welcome to "Volume Two," the second offering from the Professors of Pleasure, Tulane University's Jazz Faculty band. In addition to some jazz standards ("Half Nelson," "This I Dig of You"), a sumptuous ballad ("Nancy with the Laughing Face") and a 'second-line' version of the rallying cry for Tulane's Green Wave football team ("Tulane Fight Song"), we've also thrown in a number of originals from band members as well as two tracks by the great New Orleans composer, musician and jazz educator Harold Battiste. This last marks the beginning of a commitment on our part to showcase as many 'modern' New Orleans jazz compositions as possible. The history of jazz in New Orleans does not begin and end with the 'traditional' form of the music. Rather it s a continuously growing and evolving entity, encompassing many genres and styles, not the least of which include the modernisms of the post-war period and the vigorous and contemporary 'second-line' culture which can still be found, vibrant and alive, on the streets of this great city.

John Doheny

New Orleans

January 2010.

As usual, many a slip between the cup and the lip on this one, but it's finally out there. I'm already planning the next one, which I hope will incorporate new faculty hires Edward Anderson (trumpet) and Deleayo Marsalis (trombone). These CDs are proving to be a terrific way to showcase what the Tulane jazz performance faculty can do. Volumes one and two have both ended up being sort of "omnibus" recordings, where we've tried to include as many different kinds of tunes as possible (funk, straight-ahead, jazz standards, fusion etc.) but the addition of Delfeayo and Edward will give us a four-horn 'mini-big-band' front line, and an opportunity to more fully show off the arranging talent we have on staff.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Music of Jasper Clarke session Pic.

Left to right: Allen Dejan, tenor sax, clarinet. Rex Gregory, alto sax. John Doheny, tenor sax. Jim Markway, bass. Jesse Mcbride, piano. Edward Anderson, trumpet. Latasha Bundy, trumpet. Kneeling in front; Geoff Clapp, drums. Wes Anderson IV, trombone.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Are You Ready?

Today's the day for the only shot at a rehearsal I'm likely to get for next Monday's recording session at Word of Mouth over in Algiers. It's going to be a CDs worth of compositions from my late friend, bassist-composer Jasper Clarke, who passed last March at the age of 48.

Jasper was probably my best friend on this earth, and there was a time when we were extremely tight. Pretty much all of my first few years as an active straight-ahead jazz player involved collaborations of various kinds with him; all sorts of demo recordings, jazz festival gigs, a five year run as the house band at a place called Murphy's pub in downtown Vancouver (now a fugly 'sportsbar' called Mahoney's), literally hundreds of jobbing gigs in various hotel ballrooms, conventions, private parties, political ballyhoos, store openings etc. When Jasper got married and started a family he moved up to Whistler B.C., a ski-resort town about 90 minutes north of Vancouver, and started a masonry company. As a result, by the late 90s he wasn't that active as a player, but whenever I had a gig in Whistler I knew I didn't need to take a bass player because my boy Jasper was already there. We had a three-day-a-week house gig at a hotel up there in the summer of 2000 and it was swingin from the front to the back.

When he died (of a brain tumor, leaving a wife and two teenaged children) my colleague here at Tulane, Jesse Mcbride, suggested we record some of his compositions, and his widow and family ponied up a bare-bones budget. I initially figured it would be a breezy little quartet or quintet session, but I'd forgotten Jasper's penchant for writing for multi-horn ensembles. He was a great fan of "Better Get Hit In Your Soul"-period Mingus and liked to write stuff with metric modulations and multi-horn counterlines and background figures. When Michiko sent me his music, some of it was written for up to ten pieces.

So, the last few weeks have been spent rustling up a bunch of horn players, a suprisingly hard thing to do, considering we're in New Orleans. The main problem is getting everybody in the same room on the same day; cats are in and out of town so much, on the road, and the Tulane guys on the date (me, Jesse, bassist Jim Markway, drummer Geoff Clapp, and multi-reed player Allen Dejan) all have busy teaching schedules. But it looks like it's going to happen, and I pulled the trigger on a studio date (Sept. 13th) last week. We've got one day to put 8 tunes in the can.

It won't all be Jasper's stuff. I've decided to end the record with a 'traditional' New-Orleans style jazz funeral, a dirge (Charles Mingus's elegy to Lester Young," Goodbye Porkpie Hat") and a 'second line' version of the hymn "I'll Fly Away." Because of the logistics of recording we'll do the track with the biggest band first, and that'll be "Fly Away." As Jesse says, when you start a session on a vibe like that, it can color everything you do subsequently.

I don't feel ready. I never do. Everytime I've ever walked into a recording studio I've felt like a reluctant actor pushed out on stage, wondering if he can remember his lines. But if anyone should do this, it's me. I'm going to tell the cats at the rehearsal today, we got to play the best we can. To do less would be disrespectful. They'll understand, because they're from New Orleans. This is Jasper's last party on earth. We have to kill the gig.

I keep thinking of some lines from Walt Whitman:

"I play not marches for accepted victors only,I play for conquered and slain people.

I beat and pound for the dead,I blow...my loudest and gayest for them."