Revered Baritone Saxophonist Joe Temperley Dies at 86


Joe Temperley (1929–2016)

(Photo: (Photo: Frank Stewart/Jazz at Lincoln Center))

Joe Temperley, an influential jazz musician whose virtuosic skill on the baritone saxophone and bass clarinet boosted numerous big band recordings, died May 11 at the age of 86.

Temperley was born in Scotland and achieved his first acclaim in the United Kingdom as a member of Humphrey Lyttelton’s band. Upon his arrival in New York in 1965, Temperley performed and recorded as a section player with several of the era’s most notable large ensembles, including the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, Jazz Composer’s Orchestra and the big bands of Woody Herman and Buddy Rich.

In 1974, Temperley joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra, replacing the late American baritone saxophone great Harry Carney.

Temperley was a strong advocate of jazz education, and served on the faculty of The Juilliard’s School of Jazz Studies.

Temperley was perhaps most famous for holding the baritone saxophone chair in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. At the time of his passing, Temperley had been in the group for nearly 30 years.

“With Joe, there’s the sound, and the integrity in the sound, the originality of it,” said trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, in a statement released by the organization.

“When you hear his sound, you know him automatically, because it’s so full of warmth, soul and feeling. 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. … We will miss him deeply and his spirit will forever live on in the sound of our orchestra.”

Members of the international jazz community commemorated the iconic saxophonist online.

“Rest Easy, Mr. Joe Temperley. I only had the pleasure of working with you once, but your sound will be forever ingrained in my brain!!!” wrote drummer Johnathan Blake.

Vocalist Roberta Gambarini expressed a similar sense of sorrow and respect: “Completely saddened and brokenhearted to know of the passing of the great Joe Temperley. A Master and a truly wonderful human being who will be deeply missed. R.I.P.”

Jazz Scotland, a leading promoter of jazz in Temperley’s home country, called the baritone saxophonist “the giant of Scottish Jazz to date.”

“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,” read a message on Jazz Scotland’s Facebook page. “A big man with a big sense of humor.”

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