(November 6, 1931-December 16, 2015)
He was called the “best musician Maine has ever seen,” and there are few who would take issue with the claim. Don Doane was born in Portland, took up the trombone when he was in grade school, and majored in music at Boston University. After a stint in the Army, he went off to New York City to become a professional jazz musician. And in the years ahead, he played with the bands of Woody Herman, Count Basie, Maynard Ferguson, and Duke Ellington. On the 1964 album “The New Sounds of Maynard Ferguson,” there’s a tune called “Maine Bone,” written by Mike Abene especially for Don.
Don Doane was on the world stage, and everybody loved his playing. But in the late 1960s, he got tired of life on the road, tired of missing his wife and family, and decided to come home to Maine, where he spent the rest of career teaching music and playing gigs.
Doane had lots of friends among the Seacoast jazz community and performed often over the years at The Press Room and other venues. In 2001, though, his world took a dramatic turn when he suffered a massive stroke, leaving him paralyzed on the left side. “You’ll never play the trombone again,” he was told. The doctors who so advised him, however, seemingly didn’t know about the valve trombone, which didn’t necessarily require two hands to play. And so the old dog learned a new trick, and soon he was playing regularly again at the Bridgeway in South Portland and, from time to time, at The Press Room in Portsmouth. By learning to play valve trombone, Don added more than a decade to his musical career.
Things changed a few years ago when Don was delivered another difficult reality: Barbara, his wife of 60 years, for health reasons of her own, was no longer able to look after him at home. And Don moved into the Maine Veterans Home. This time, he did hang up the trombone, music no longer part of his life. He was depressed.
Happily, that was a temporary situation, because along came Barbara Coty, a longtime volunteer at the Veterans Home, who was willing to do whatever it might take to get Don playing trombone again. Under his direction, she learned how to assemble and disassemble the horn and oil the valves and was more than happy to sit by his side as he did what he loved best: play the trombone.
Don Doane was 84 when he died on December 16. He will be remembered fondly and with great respect for his musicianship and for his passion for playing.