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Joe Temperley: A Portrait

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Depending on your taste, Temperley may be the best living baritone saxophonist in jazz today. He has a rich, robust tone, an authoritative melodic style and he swings heartily. His tone and playing innately command respect. On this album, he pays tribute to fellow baritone players Harry Carney (to whom he is often compared), Cecil Payne, Serge Chaloff and Gerry Mulligan, and he also throws in a few other performances just for kicks. The tracks are split among quartet cuts (with pianist John Bunch, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth), cuts with tenor saxophonist Andy Farber added and Temperley overdubbing soprano saxophone or bass clarinet, a rhythm-section cut sans horns, and an unaccompanied bass clarinet cut. Farber and David Berger penned the multi-horn arrangements.

“The Goof and I,” a tribute to Chaloff, conjures up the Woody Herman band of the ’40s, with Farber suggestive of Zoot Sims (elsewhere he recalls Harold Ashby) and Temperley bopping along like Chaloff and also Mulligan. “I Should Care,” a quartet track, elicits a warm, vibrato-laden, pre-bop-style performance from Temperley. Mulligan’s “Swing House” (based on the chord progression of “Sweet Georgia Brown”) features Temperley and Farber again, and then there’s an interlude as the rhythm section plays a light, fluid version of “Can’t We Be Friends.” Bunch, ever-tasteful and swinging in the manner of Nat “King” Cole, Count Basie and Hank Jones, is perfect here and throughout the album.

Liner-note writer Doug Ramsey points out that Temperley’s playing on “This Time the Dream’s on Me” recalls not only bebopper Payne, to whom it is a tribute, but also tenor man Bud Freeman. That reference goes back a ways, as do the tunes that salute Carney: “East St. Louis Toodle-oo,” “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing,” “Mainstem” and “A Single Petal of a Rose”-the last a solo bass clarinet performance. There’s a wonderful reminiscence about Carney in the liner notes: Temperley was working with the Humphrey Lyttelton band when the Duke Ellington band toured England in 1958. The Scottish saxophonist spent an afternoon hanging out with his hero and was an hour-and-a-half late to his gig that night. Lyttelton forgave him with the words, “That’s OK. That’s educational.”

What an uplifting album.