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."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Real Cool Killers at the Blue Nile.

Last tuesday was the CD release on "Parades and Saints" at the Blue Nile Balcony Room on Frenchmen Street here in New Orleans. Trombonist Jeff Albert curates a thing called the Open Ears music series there every tuesday night. Geoff Clapp on drums, Rob Kohler on bass and yours truly on tenor sax congregated there around ten o'clock to lay the voodoo down.

Rob had just arrived in town from Florida that day, so we had zero rehearsal time. That was fine, since we didn't have any 'tunes' to rehearse, we just had to try to recreate the same kind of magic that produced the CD in the first place. I'm kind of into the Arnold Palmer school of thought when it comes to playing jazz; Palmer was notorious for walking up to difficult putts and foregoing the usual agonizing and measuring. He'd just step up to the ball and tap it with no preamble. "I like to miss em quick" was his explanaition, even though he sank the vast majority of his putts. I'm the same way; just step up and play something. So I stepped up, played something (I don't even remember what) and we were off.

Strictly speaking, we did play some tunes, or rather, tunes just sort of happened. Early in the first set I played a series of notes more or less identical to Duke Ellington's "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me,"  and Rob and Geoff heard it and were there instantly with the harmonic and rhythmic form of the song, which we then proceded to mercilessly deconstruct. At another point a burning Samba groove suddenly dumped us into the head of Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-ning," which actually appears on the CD (though not as a Samba). But most of the time, we'd just set something up and go with it. It is possible, in the moment, to create a sense of form and style with totally improvised material. Repeating certain leitmotifs helps. Constructing ABA or AABA song structures through unorthodox means (like say, having a bass-and-drums interlude constitute the "As" and a solo saxophone interlude play the part of the "B") works too.

Amazingly, we had a fairly large and enthusiastic crowd for most of the night, though it did wax and wane some. We played three hard, burning 50 minute sets and finished up about one thirty in the morning, soaked through with sweat. Then Rob got in his car and headed back to Los Angeles.

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