Joe Temperley, born in 1929 in Lochgelly, Scotland, was an acclaimed jazz saxophonist known for his resonant baritone and incomparable musicality. His distinctive sound and style, along with his vast contributions to the jazz community, left an enduring impact on the world of saxophone music.
Beginning his career in the UK, Temperley was a part of Humphrey Lyttelton’s band from 1958 to 1965. This early experience allowed him to establish his footing in the jazz community and refine his unique sound. In 1965, he made the pivotal decision to move to New York City, broadening his opportunities and marking the start of a new chapter in his career.
In the vibrant New York jazz scene, Temperley quickly made a name for himself. He played with various big bands, including the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, and went on to collaborate with renowned figures like Woody Herman and Buddy Rich. However, his most significant professional engagement began in 1990 when he became a founding member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, under the artistic direction of Wynton Marsalis.
At the JLCO, Temperley’s soulful, warm sound on the baritone saxophone was not just heard; it was felt. He was often featured in arrangements and compositions that highlighted his rich tone and expressive playing, notably in Marsalis’s “Big Train” and “All Rise.” His tenure with the orchestra, lasting over 25 years until his passing in 2016, solidified his status as one of the leading figures in modern jazz saxophone.
Besides being a consummate performer, Temperley was also passionate about education. He served as a faculty member at the Juilliard School, sharing his expertise and passion for jazz with aspiring musicians. His dedication to education demonstrated his commitment to the growth and evolution of jazz music, influencing a new generation of saxophonists.
Remembered for his affable personality, professionalism, and above all, his unrivaled musicianship, Joe Temperley remains a significant figure in jazz history. His contributions to the baritone saxophone and his passion for preserving the art form of jazz will continue to inspire saxophonists and music lovers for generations to come. His legacy stands as a testament to the expressive potential of the baritone saxophone in the realm of jazz.
Page last updated 7/7/2023.