Monday 16 May 2016

Britain is no longer a country nor Scotland a nation and say "Farewell" to old saxophonist who played his way in the USA called Joe Temperley

Joe , who has died in New York aged 88, was a giant of the baritone saxophone and the first Scottish jazz musician to make it on the New York scene. Born and raised in Scotland he spent his first 38 years in Britain where he worked his way through the best British dance and jazz bands and his last 50 in the USA where he did the same serving in the Duke Ellington Orchestra and, later, its closest modern-day equivalent, Wynton Marsalis’s 'Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.'

What you possibly didn't know about Joe, that he :

* was born, Joseph, the son of a bus driver father in the coal mining town of Lochgelly, in Fife, Scotland in 1927, the  second youngest of the children, who left school at 14 when his mother secured him a job in a butcher’s shop by which time, he was playing cornet alongside his elder brother, Bob's trumpet, in the 'Cowdenbeath Brass Band.'

* later recalled : "My brother gave me a sax for my 14th birthday. I took a couple of lessons here and there and six months later I was playing in local dance bands, six piece, five piece bands in local dance halls. It was an alto that my brother paid £25 for in Edinburgh and then I got hold of a Buescher 400 and that was my alto" which, with some regret he traded for a tenor because it was a "beautiful saxophone" and also recalled : "I started playing the tenor because they already had and alto player in the band so they decided they needed a tenor player."

* formed a band called 'The Debonairs', in which he played tenor sax and when the band took part in a dance band competition organised by Melody Maker Magazine, his talent was spotted and he was invited to play with the winning band and at the age of 17, in 1944 and during the Second World War, left Lochgelly for Glasgow where he played at the 'Piccadilly Club' on Sauchiehall Street for 18 months.

* augmented his earnings by playing snooker : “The guys in Glasgow thought that I was just some country boy from Fife and they would be able to take a few bob off me, but they didn't know that I had been playing snooker at the Miners' Welfare for years. The days were quite profitable for me.”

* went for an audition for the nationally known 'Tommy Sampson’s Band' when it played at Green’s Playhouse and was signed up on the spot and not yet 20 years old, moved to London to take the tenor chair and recalled : "We never got paid in Tommy Sampson's Band because there was never any money. He paid hotel expenses, things like that."

* left Tommy Sampson and "went with this clarinet player called Harry Parry. He had a 'Radio Rhythm Club Sextet'. He was a pretty good clarinet player but a terrible drunk. I went from there to Jack Parnell and that was my introduction to people who played jazz. We played a concert with Billie Holiday with Jack Parnell at the Royal Albert Hall. She was wonderful " and it was 1954 and he was 27.

* had formed his approach to playing as "purely vocal" by the time he was 12 and later recalled  : "A liitle old lady in Lochgelly taught me how to sing using tonic sol-fa before the War and if you can sing it you can play it " and his conviction that just as singing notes taught him to get air out of his lungs so too : "If you can get that amount of air out of that note, there's no reason why you can't do it on the saxophone"

*  in addition, believed that : "When you play a ballad it's important that you sing the ballad. You're not playing the ballad you're singing the ballad. I know the words to a lot of ballads and a lot of the words are very important. It's just the feeling of it to transport that onto your saxophone."

* in 1958 at the age of 31, settled into what turned out to be eight year tenure with 'Humphrey Lyttelton’s Band', during which time : "Humph became like my brother, he became a really close friend : during which he switched to the baritone sax and later said : “That was the start of my professional career. The rest was incidental.”

* the following year enjoyed his first taste of New York, the epicentre of jazz, which left him wanting more : "We got back to the airport and I looked out of the plane. New York was all lit up. There were light everywhere and you could see the bridges and I said to Eddie Taylor, the drummer,"You know ,I've gotta come back here" and over the next few years, with Humph, met many top American musicians : Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderley and Anita O’Day.

* in December 1965, at the age of 38, moved to New York with his wife and son, and unable to work for six months until he was a member of the Musicians Union, took a Christmas job on 5th Avenue selling radios and "got promoted to stereo” and then was approached by Woody Herman to join his band.

* recalled that as the years unfolded : "I got friendly with everybody. I worked at the Apollo and Miles used to come and stand on the side. We used to see Little Stevie Wonder who was about 15 years old and The Jackson Five. I played with Dizzy's Band and Jimmie Lunceford, Fletcher Henderson. I worked with Ella, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee, Diana Ross, Aretha. I was with the Ellington Band, on and off, for quite a while. I played the show 'Sophisticated Ladies' for a couple of years and I also did a show called 'Brigadoon' shortly after in the 80's with the Lincoln Center Band. That was the start of it all. I've always had a beautiful relationship with Wynton Marsalis the whole time I've worked with the Lincoln Centre Band. I can't believe some of the things he plays. I sit there gasping at some of his solos. The standard is so high because everybody is so well well-schooled and so well-drilled, they just eat the music up."

* returned to his native Scotland where he served as a mentor for the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra and visited the 'Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival' in 2009 and played 'Single Petal of the Rose' at the 2012 Festival :

* had, on his passing, Wynton Marsalis say of him : “We would always have Joe play at or near the end of pieces because his sound carried the meaning of our music. For someone from another country and culture to exhibit the depth of belief that animated his sound was, and still is, truly miraculous. From the coal mines of Scotland, to clubs and concert halls all over the world, Joe's journey was epochal, and he did it with integrity, style, and piss and vinegar. We will miss him deeply and his spirit will forever live on in the sound of our orchestra."

* and Roger Spence, Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival Producer, said : " His wonderful sound on the baritone saxophone, and the way he married gruff New York attitude with Scottish romance, created a unique voice in the jazz world. And all the time he was gracing the concert halls and top jazz clubs around the world, he was keeping in touch with all the comings and goings in Lochgelly and Cowdenbeath."

* three years ago at the age of 85 Joe had said : "I feel aged but I'm not old, certainly not old and that's the thing : music keeps you alive and vital and curious and that's a great part of life. So just get on with it and love it."

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