Joe Temperley Quartet, The Byre Theatre, St Andrews, Friday February 3rd ****
The Fife Jazz Festival may only be five years old but the region has long featured on the jazz map – thanks, largely, to the fact that the leading baritone player in the world hails from Lochgelly. Joe Temperley, the New York-based saxophonist in question, is not an infrequent visitor to Scotland, but a gig in his original stomping ground on the opening night of the jazz festival was bound to be a special event – and it certainly lived up to expectations.
Now in his eighties, Temperley still plays with an energy and force that belies his age. He let rip on a couple of fast blues, but it was on the slow and mid-tempo tunes that he made the strongest impression with a tone which is both tender and authoritative. His bluesy, groovy take on Sweet and Lovely was a perfect example of this.
A string of compositions by Ellington (whom Temperley described as “my hero”) were the stand-outs of the evening; the saxophonist’s sensitive – and downright seductive – take on Sunset and the Mockingbird underlining his reverence for the Duke’s music.
That reverence was clearly shared by Dan Nimmer, the young pianist Temperley had brought with him from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. An elegant player with a crisp style and more than a touch of the Erroll Garners about him, he set up Temperley’s exquisite version of Billy Strayhorn’s Lotus Blossom with a sublime rendering of Ellington’s Reflections in D, which revealed his own credentials as an Ellington disciple.
JOE TEMPERLEY (baritone sax), with Dan Nimmer (piano), Brian Shiels (bass) & Tom Gordon (drums)
It’s You Or No-One
Sweet and Lovely
Body and Soul
I’ve Got the World on a String (without JT)
In a Sentimental Mood
I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart
Sunset and the Mockingbird
Reflections in D/Lotus Blossom
In a Mellow Tone
My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose
Take the A Train (encore)