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, February 06, 2012

Super Bowl Night at the Maison Bourbon...

...made for a surprisingly quiet start to the evening. Since I was tragically born without a sports lobe and am indifferent to things like football games, I'm constantly getting caught off guard by major sporting events and their traffic-related problems.(I've got a gig this Friday out in Kenner, and am going to have to take care to avoid a parade that's rolling out there that night). In this case though, since the Saints weren't involved, game night seemed to translate into everyone staying home and watching it on TV. When I got to the gig Bourbon Street was mighty empty, and so was the club.

I've made reference in previous posts to Jamil Sharif's top drawer musicianship, he's simply a first rate trumpet player who's comfortable in any style. He's also very consistant in terms of the quality of his performances; audiences who come to see him at the Maison Bourbon are pretty much guaranteed a program of well-played traditional jazz and swing that never drops below a certain standard. Last night though, was one of his fire-eating nights, a display of agile musicianship and a beautiful, burnished tone on the trumpet. I think this was due, at least in part, to the fact that the club was nearly empty for the first set and he decided to call some tunes that were a bit off the beaten path.

First tune was Duke Ellington's "In A Mellow Tone." Most of the guys on Jamil's band would really rather be playing modern jazz, and the opportunity to stretch out a little bit on something besides "Hold That Tiger" or "Fidgety Feet" seemed to wake everyone up and inspired some wonderful solos all around, particularly from pianist Joe Shay, a monster player who usually gets to the gig early and warms up his fingers with a few of Bach's two part inventions. Jamil got into his Clifford Brown bag and stayed there pretty much all night. When we finished, I turned to him and said, "man, you sound beautiful." He smiled and said "thank you brother." I said, "and I really mean that, cause, you know, you already paid me" (at the beginning of the evening he'd handed me an envelope containing a check and 2011's 1099 form) He laughed.

He called all kinds of offbeat stuff you don't normally hear on Bourbon Street. Neil Hefti's "Cute." Jobim's "Wave." Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring." A customer requested "Caravan" and we played that. The joint filled up in the second set (the game had ended) and we went back to a more trad jazz vibe, but the fresh and creative groove remained. I'm not suggesting the gig is stale other times, because the music is always well played, but there is an aspect of this job that can feel like punching a clock. It is, after all, a "show" put on for an audience composed mostly of tourists, and Jamil is not at all above deploying show-biz gimmicks; cycle breathing and other kinds of trumpet gymnastics, high-note acrobatics, triple-tonguing, interpolating numerous national anthems ("Oh Canada" usually gets a big cheer) into performances of "the Saints." But this was a night when the collective musicianship in the band combined with a feeling that we all really wanted to play resulted in performances with a freshness to them that maybe might not be as fully present on other nights. Surprisingly, the audience responded to this, even on the 'modern' tunes.

Of course it's hard to sustain this sort of thing over five hours, and not everything was totally in the pocket. I blanked on the bridge to "There Is No Greater Love" and the piano player had to bail me out (embarrassing). And Jamil caught me off-base again with another trad jazz tune I 'sort of' know but had never played, a breakneck-tempo run through of "That's A Plenty.' But all in all, it was a great night.

Comments on "Super Bowl Night at the Maison Bourbon..."


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