July 21, 2024


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Joe Temperley and “The Jazz Apple” – He was from Scotland and the larger angle of the production is “a Scotsman in New York”: Videos, Photos

Seriously amazing two-part video series from 1990 includes priceless footage of Buck Clayton, Milt Hinton, Jimmy Heath, Ralph Moore, Mulgrew Miller, and many others.

Baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley (1929 – 2016) was a key member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; Wynton Marsalis would often give Temperley a ballad feature on tour. Temperley also played in many other big bands including those led by Woody Herman, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Clark Terry, and Charles Mingus; Mercer Ellington tapped him to replace Harry Carney in the posthumous Duke Ellington orchestra.

Simon Singleton recently uploaded the two-part 1990 Temperley documentary The Jazz Apple to YouTube; Andreas Schmidt sent it to me a few days ago.

Celebrating Joe Temperley - Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton  Marsalis – Wynton Marsalis Official Website

The series is not mentioned at the Joe Temperley Wikipedia page or in any of Temperley obits I’ve seen; most of my jazz friends didn’t seem to be aware of this video, either.

Temperley was from Scotland and the larger angle of the production is “a Scotsman in New York,” so it’s possible that The Jazz Apple was never broadcast in America. According to a YouTube comment, the uploader’s father worked on the production, so this copy is probably from dad’s private stash.

It’s a notable discovery! The program offers a wide swath of well-made footage of NYC in 1990, and even manages to tell quite a bit of jazz history in something like chronological order, from Buck Clayton and Milt Hinton to Mulgrew Miller and Ralph Moore.

Admittedly, at first glance it seems a bit odd to place the not-very-famous Scotsman/sideman Joe Temperley squarely in the role of “star of New York and guide to New York” but the end result is successful.

As a player, Temperley commands both swing and bop in a melodic and truthful manner. His tone is soulful and he never goes for a meaningless or flamboyant gesture.  If you dig jazz, you dig Joe Temperley blowing the baritone saxophone.

More importantly for the project at hand, he is obviously a friend of everybody else onscreen. Temperley would probably be the first person to say he wasn’t a pro interviewer, but that amateur approach works in the show’s favor, for the result is unusually relaxed. So often the genre of “jazz documentary” fails to capture the “casually working class” aspect of the true cats, but this is a rare occasion where it all seems to lay pretty right.

A quick index of the musical performances and commentary:

Part one: “Temperley’s Town”

Joe Temperley + Cecil Payne with John Bunch, Rufus Reid, and Connie Kay: “Billie’s Bounce.” Temperley takes a fine solo and trades with Payne. When Bunch blows, he demonstrates an unusual “pecking” technique at the keyboard.

Buck Clayton big band: Jon Letman, Paul Cohen, Joe Wilder (trumpets), Dan Barrett, Benny Powell (trombones), Frank Wess, Chuck Wilson, Doug Lawrence, Temperely (saxes), Marty Napoleon, Howard Alden, Lynn Seaton, Dennis Mackrel: “Angel In Blue” is a feature for Temperley’s ballad artistry. The tempo isn’t too slow, though, for there is a full ballroom of dancers moving to the beat.

Marty Napoleon (best known for a tenure with Louis Armstrong) gets a short feature; he sounds great, quite expressive and “vocal” at the keyboard. Howard Alden supplies the crucial Freddie Green element.

Temperley and Milt Hinton, duo in a blues. The Judge is in his chambers! They go through a few keys and there is tightly-shot footage of Hinton doing his trademark fast slapping. Why isn’t more jazz video made like this? It’s perfect. The conversation after is also quite remarkable.

Eddie Barefield and Temperley with Sammy Price, Arvell Shaw and Ronnie Cole, “Glasgow Cross.” A rambunctious rhythm changes with excellent work from the whole band. I’d read of Eddie Barefield from researches about Lester Young but can’t remember hearing him blow before. Although he was elderly by the time of filming he sure sounds good. We are watching a close friend and peer of Lester Young play somewhat in that style. Sammy Price is truly two-fisted, and Arvell Shaw takes a fierce and creative break.

Joe Temperley: 'No Greater Sound On Earth' : NPR

I already alluded to Temperley’s lack of “pro” interviewing skills ending up as a kind of strength: Surely a walk around Harlem with Sammy Price offering unfiltered commentary is absolutely unique.

Price’s trio returns to play the blues with the pianist also singing an urban lament. Price sounded good on rhythm changes but he’s a serious blues pianist. This kind of piano is usually easier to find in New Orleans or even Chicago than in New York.

(Both Eddie Barefield and Sammy Price would be dead within a year or two of filming The Jazz Apple.)

Ralph Moore quartet with Dave Kikoski, Peter Washington, and Billy Drummond, “Cecilia.” This is Kikoski’s complex tune, originally recorded on Moore’s excellent 623 C Street. In the timeline of the acoustic/straight-ahead rebirth, the young stars of 1990 fall somewhere between the first major wave with people like Wynton and Branford Marsalis and the second major wave with people like Roy Hargrove and Joshua Redman.

It’s been 33 years since this music was recorded but it presents itself as fully engaging and fresh. The band is excited to play. Really just awesome and totally burning. After a Moore interview segment the group digs into Moore’s waltz “Josephine.”  The Moore ensemble makes me want to go back and listen to a bunch of that 1990-era moment, it feels like I missed some things.

Humphrey Lyttelton is not a name with much currency in American jazz circles but he was a key figure for UK jazz. From Wikipedia: “Lyttelton…recorded a hit single, “Bad Penny Blues,” in 1956. As a broadcaster, he presented BBC Radio 2’s The Best of Jazz for forty years, and hosted the comedy panel game I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue on BBC Radio 4, becoming the UK’s oldest panel game host.”

First we follow Temperley to Scotland, where he goes to a golf course and talks to Lyttelton, his former employer. Rather unexpectedly, Buck Clayton appears as an Lyttelton associate, playing just wonderfully on historical video with Lyttelton and Temperley. Temperley sits down with Clayton for a revealing discussion: After quitting trumpet for health reasons, Clayton spent some years as a salesman before having a last act as a bandleader.

This takes us up to the final musical numbers of part one, back with Clayton’s big band playing for happy dancers. On “Beaujolais” Dan Barrett, Temperley, and Lynn Seaton blow supported by the dynamite Dennis Mackrel. Mackrel gets a bit more space on “Royal Flush,” as does Alden, who sounds quite bebop-ish on his guitar. Joe Wilder and Barrett are also right in there. However the highlight is Frank Wess’s masterful chorus. Both Clayton and Wess were key players for Count Basie and it is touching to see Wess playing so beautifully under the leadership of Clayton.

Part two, “Together With Temperley”

The first half ends with Basie, the second half starts with Ellington.

The Mellow Tones: Barrie Lee Hall, Britt Woodman, Harold Ashby, Richard Wyands, Earl May, Rocky White. “Perdido,” “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be,” “B.P. Blues,”  and “Mood Indigo.”

As mentioned above, Temperley replaced Harry Carney in the Mercer Ellington-led Duke Ellington band. A few years earlier, while Duke was still alive, Barrie Lee Hall replaced Cootie Williams and Harold Ashby took over the role of Paul Gonsalves. Both Hall and Ashby are very expressive players in the Ellington manner and they sound just great during this Ellington mini-set. The chance to see 16 bars of Richard Wyands when he was still at his peak is also very exciting, for Wyands was definitely underrated and under-documented.

Joe Temperley, R.I.P.

Genuine magic ensues when the Ellington horns of Hall, Woodman, and Temperley (on bass clarinet) play the chorale of “Mood Indigo.”  Woodman is high on the horn in a mute; eventually silky-voiced baritone Milt Grayson takes it home. Ashby and Woodman also converse with Temperley, telling stories about Ellington.

Jimmy Heath Quintet with Slide Hampton, Walter Davis Jr., Ray Drummond, Ben Riley: “‘Round Midnight” and “Hot House.” The quintet delivers bebop the way it was meant to be played. Heath is on soprano for the Monk. The piano solo on “Hot House” is a notably good example of Walter Davis Jr., someone who was not always served well on record. Ben Riley plays the truth in every beat.

At a table afterwards, Jimmy Heath sings a Tadd Dameron saxophone line to Temperley. Yes! If they had put me in charge, I would have made videos of all the jazz legends singing bebop…

“Tricotism” features the Temperley quartet of John Bunch, Rufus Reid, and Connie Kay. There’s far too little Connie Kay on video, how wonderful to look at him here. Reid is also very charismatic on camera and his solo on this Pettiford classic delivers the goods.

Rufus Reid stays to the forefront with a look at his teaching at William Paterson University.

That great Ralph Moore quartet returns for some of “Blues for John,” an obvious nod to Coltrane. Peter Washington and Billy Drummond: How many gigs have they done together in the intervening years? They already sound fabulous, as do the saxophonist and Kikoski.

Mulgrew Miller introduces himself with a solo rendition of his somewhat Jarrett-ish “Portrait of a Mountain.” When sitting with Temperley, Miller discusses Ellington and Oscar Peterson, and even demonstrates some gospel and soul piano. Eventually Temperely and Miller play “It’s Easy To Remember” together. It’s a powerful segment, an absolute must for Mulgrew Miller fans.

The documentary closes with Temperley’s quartet in a full performance of “In a Sentimental Mood” and a bit of the Ellingtonian Mellow Tones as a play-out.

Revered Baritone Saxophonist Joe Temperley Dies at 86

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