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Take Five With Terran Doehrer

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Terran Doehrer: Terran Doehrer started/founded the Balkan Rhythm Band(tm) in 1980 to accompany a dance ensemble he was in. The BRB released the 1983 award winning LP, Jazziest Balkan Dance Band Around (Flying Fish Records FF315). The first player Terran added to the band was harmonicists/pianist Howard Levy. Terran then brought in two singers (Pam Gellen and Flo Fooden) and another reed player (Don Jacobs). Howard suggested some players he knew (Pat Fleming, Sandra Korelc) and they suggested others (Steve Roberts, Bill Lanphier and then Marlene Rosenberg). After most of the original BRB players got too busy with other gigs to tour, Terran experimented with a "Balkan-rock-improv" sound (with a bunch of new players, notably John Carpenter and Sasha Brusin), but eventually turned the group into a more traditional styled band, Jutta & the Hi-Dukes(tm).

Instrument(s):

Kaval, darabuka, tupan, guitar, electric bass, vocals.

Teachers and/or influences?

Terran's influences are Esma Redjepova, Boban Markovic, Teodosii Spassov and he is pretty much self taught although he did get lessons from Marlene Rosenberg on electric bass.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I was a dancer back in 1979. Music drives dance.

Your sound and approach to music:

Groove is first and foremost in my heart. Melody is obviously also crucial but is best expressed when a focus is given to being "in the pocket." Improvisation is fun but not when it strays too far from the source tune's melody and intention. (Playing a zillion notes per second is impressive for about ten seconds, if that long.)

Your teaching approach:

Never "practice," always "play"—in other words, never let music be a drudge. Any sound is legitimate if you can control it and use it musically. Learn to read but also learn new tunes by ear alone. Have to have both to be well-rounded as a player.

Your dream band:

Brass-focused eclectic band. I would love to perform again with Esma Redjepovich and it would be fantastic to do a double-billing with Boban Markovic's group.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

Playing solo the first time was the scariest thing I ever did. (It turned out fine, though.) My best experience was playing with Esma Redjepova and Stevo Teodosievski in a little tiny bar, Stare Beograd.

Favorite venue:

Winnipeg Folk Festival is overall the best in my memory.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

The Jazziest Balkan Dance Band Around (Flying Fish Records FF315). It was the band's biggest release, had great playing, original compositions, and, well, it was my first professional recording.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Forest Flower, by Charles Lloyd

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

Helped bring Balkan music into the non-Balkan audience's mind and helped musicians see it as a base for improvisation. Perhaps most important—to show musicians you don't have to be Bulgarian to play in 33/8.

Did you know...

I started the Balkan Rhythm Band (tm) by placing an ad in the Chicago Reader newspaper's classifieds. Got a lot of weird calls, I must say! Howard was the first semi-rational responder.

Desert Island picks:

Boban Markovic, Millenium (Piranha).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Too intellectual. It has forgotten, as a style, that its roots are dance music. However fun bebop and its offshoots may be to play, listeners cannot connect to it as easily as with swing/big band styles. You shouldn't need to have a PhD to understand music.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Get back to dance rhythms and play for dancers.

What is in the near future?

The BRB may someday have a revival gig but nothing is in the works right now.

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