Doster (Doc) DeHaven

Doc was born in Madison, Wisconsin in 1931 and is still living in Madison today, although, sadly he is no longer playing trumpet.  As a musician in the Madison area, I have rarely – if ever – run into another musician who has not heard of him or worked with him.  Doc is truly a Wisconsin Legend.  His heyday was during the 60s and 70s when he led a band that had a steady gig at a downtown club called the Pirate Ship.  He held that gig for over 14 years – four nights a week!  There were a number of recordings made from that band both live at the Pirate Ship and in the studio.

I first became aware of Doc DeHaven through his publications. As a student at Shell Lake Jazz Camp I was in a combo that played three or four Dixie arrangements that Doc had published. All of the collective improvisation inherent in Dixie was written out and the counterpoint and lines were wonderful. Those tunes were a blast and stuck with me for many years. I actually teach at Shell Lake now and try to use one of Doc’s charts in each combo I work with.

I first met Doc when I moved to Madison in 1990.  He got me work in two local big bands (Madison Jazz Orchestra and Dick Jergens Orchestra) and we worked together or subbed for each other for many years.  It was always a very nerve-wracking situation to get a call to sub for Doc.  His style of music was a lyrical style of Dixie sometimes called Chicago Swing and my Freddie/Tom Harrell vocabulary simply did not work in those situations.  The other thing that made those situations difficult was that Doc had a huge following.  When I would show up in Doc’s stead, there were always questions and comments like, “so, where’s Doc?”, “Who’s this young guy playing all those notes?”  and my favorite, “You’re good, but no Doc DeHaven.”

Doc and I got to spend some time together on buses and hotels and we traded a lot of jazz information.  He was one of those guys that played like he was whistling; didn’t matter what key a tune was in and could play just about anything he knew in any key.  If he didn’t know a tune, he would after hearing it a couple times.  He talked to me about developing my ear, memorizing tunes and thinking melodically when I improvise.  I would talk to him about chord substitutions or pentatonics.  He was in his sixties when I met him but he was constantly open to new ideas and a real “practice-a-holic”.  He was often the “elder statesman” of the bands we played in but he was never regarded as anything less than “The Man” when it came to soloing.

About two years after Doc and I met, I met his daughter, jazz singer Kelly DeHaven.  We’ve been married 18 years now.  My first recording session as a jazz musician was playing an arrangement of mine of “Joy Spring” on one of Doc’s CDs called Jazzscapes

On June 2, 2012 the Madison Area Music Awards gave Doc a lifetime achievement award and honored him at a concert at the Overture Center.  He and his daughter Kelly accepted the award and a collage of some of his recordings was played.  I am including that collage here.

Doc Compilation

Listen to how deep his tone is; his rhythmic security; melodic craftsmanship and the pure beauty of his music.