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."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Jasper Clarke Project.

Long time readers of this blog will perhaps remember my 2010 "Jasper Clarke" recording project. For newbies I'll do a brief recap.

Jasper Clarke was a bassist/composer from Vancouver, Canada who died of a brain tumor in 2010, at the age of 49. Jasper and I met as students in 1991 in the Jazz and Commercial Music program at Vancouver Community College and very quickly developed a close personal and professional relationship.
We played on each others recitals, put together various projects, and eventually wound up co-curating a weekly jam session at a place called Murphy's Pub in Vancouver that lasted almost five years. When I put together my first quartet as a leader, Jasper was in it, along with the late, great drummer Al Wiertz and my then-girlfriend, pianist Linda Nessel.
My first gig as a leader at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in 1997 also included Jasper, as well as trumpeter Norm Quinn, pianist Ridley Vinson, and drummer Stan Taylor. These people remained my working quintet for a number of years, even after Jasper left Vancouver in 1999 to move to Whistler BC with his wife Michiko to raise their growing family. Jasper concentrated his efforts on his stone masonry business from that moment on, but he still played the occasional gig, including a summer-long hotel-lounge stint we did in 2000 with pianist Roy Sluyter.

When I played the Vancouver Festival in 2008 with my New Orleans band the Professors of Pleasure, Jasper couldn't make it. He was undergoing surgery for what turned out to be not one but two brain tumors. He came through like the champ he was, and there was a period when we all thought he was going to beat this thing, but he passed on March 22, 2010. I had occasion to speak to him on the phone a few days before, and said those things you need to say to people who mean a lot in your life while they're still around to hear it, starting with "I love you."

I was still teaching in the music department at Tulane then, and when my colleague and fellow Professor of Pleasure Jesse Mcbride suggested we put together a memorial recording of Jasper's music I though that was a great idea. Jasper had never managed to record any of his compositions in a commercially releasable form during his lifetime, and I envisioned a quartet recording with me as the only horn, something easy to manage and simple to produce. His family and his widow Michiko cobbled together a small budget, and Michiko mailed me a number of his compositions, along with loose parts and scores.

Of course I'd completely forgotten about Jasper's penchant for large ensembles and compositions featuring Mingus-esque meter shifts and quasi-big-band shout choruses. When the package of music arrived from Michiko, some of it was scored for up to ten pieces!
I eventually came up with a mix of nine musicians drawn from the ranks of veteran New Orleans players, along with some young up-and-comers. In the photo above they are, left to right: Allen L. Dejan Jr. tenor saxophone and clarinet, Rex Gregory alto saxophone, yours truly tenor saxophone, Jim Markway acoustic and electric bass, Jesse Mcbride piano, Edward Anderson trumpet, Latasha Bundy trumpet. Kneeling in front are Geoff Clapp drums, and Wes Anderson, trombone.

We did one long, epic session in one day, starting with a big band version of the hymn "I'll Fly Away" in a "second line" style. My idea was to structure the CD like a traditional jazz funeral, with a dirge (in this case, Charles Mingus's "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat") leading into a joyous second-line parade song after we'd "cut the body loose." As the day progressed, I gradually dismissed players as they were no longer needed, and we wound up with nine tracks, six of them Jasper Clarke originals in formats from octette to solo saxophone, as well as Jasper's arrangement of the obscure, under-recorded Mingus tune "Slippers."

Since then, the session has languished in the can. Selections from it have been played on CBC Radio's "Hot Air" show ,and Arnold Van Klavern's CFUV Radio show "Rhythm-a-ning." Gavin Walker played pretty much the whole album on his "Jazz Show" on CFMI. But that's about it.

In an effort to rectify this, I've created a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/blueofakind?ref=hl offering the CD as a free download. You are encouraged but by no means required to make a donation in Jasper's name to the B.C. Cancer Foundation. It's not about money, it's about getting Jasper's music out to a wider audience than he had in life.

And to that end, I'm thinking it might be necessary to press the session into a physical CD. Yes I know, that's "last century's format." But many of the target audience for Jasper's music are last century's people, who'd like to have something they can hold in their hand for their money. And other avenues of exposure, like "CD release party" club dates, both here in New Orleans and in Vancouver with musicians who knew and worked with Jasper in life, are more expeditable with a hard-copy CD.

I'm a total babe in the woods about this, but I'm thinking Kickstarter fundraising? The session is already in the can. It just needs a grand or two for mastering, pressing, and artwork. Suggestions from those wiser than me are of course welcome.

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