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Read the latest edition of Hot House Magazine! View and download here in Acrobat: April 2015
Winning Spins By George Kanzler
Two keyboard players who range far beyond the conventional straight 4/4 rhythms and 32-bar pop and 12-bar blues forms of jazz have new albums covered in this Winning Spins. Both have experimented with avant-garde as well as borrowing from non-jazz styles like hip-hop, classical minimalism, Afro-Cuban, South Asian Indian and techno.
On these albums, both pianists are returning to earlier styles, formats and even influences. Vijay Iyer, after writing for large ensembles in collaboration with a novelist and with a filmmaker, gets back to his most basic jazz format: an acoustic piano trio with bass and drums. Omar Sosa, meanwhile, whose work has toyed with the borders of free jazz, looks back to the world musics that have inspired him, especially from his native Cuba and the Hispanic world.
Ilé, Omar Sosa Quarteto AfroCubano &… (Otá Records), is often as densely layered as the multi-percussion, voice and string/horn ensembles of Africa and Cuba: the ones where drums are hung with bells and rattles that resonate. Sosa plays both piano and Fender Rhodes, often on the same tracks, frequently also layering on EFX from various synths. Voices and reeds, like as not tandem or over-dubbed, appear on many tracks, as do multiple Afro-Cuban percussionists. Yet the music is, fundamentally, traditional, hewing to largely established Afro-Cuban forms and rhythms, although Sosa tosses in novel innovations like a heavy dose of flamenco with a singer and handclaps, a case for which can be made as an African/Moorish-influenced Spanish style.
While Sosa sacrifices the bravura flamboyance he has displayed on other recordings, his playing here perfectly fits and accommodates the often hypnotic, engrossingly engaging music purveyed, especially when he unveils a sensitive lyrical vein, as on the quartet of improvised “Momentos I-IV” featuring his acoustic piano with Yosvany Terry’s soprano sax, and percussionists. The album reveals the breadth of Sosa’s influences from Cuba, including more forms and rhythms than might be expected, and from his wide world listening.
Omar Sosa Quarteto AfroCubano is in concert at BRIC House Ballroom, Brooklyn, on April 30.
Joe Temperley: Bottom’s Up By George Kanzler
Jazz musicians are lucky today to experience playing in a big band in school and few actually get to perform in a professional jazz orchestra, most of which are rehearsal bands with weekly or monthly public appearances at best. However, it was different when Joe Temperley, who is celebrating his 25th year with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO), was in his teens and twenties.
The octogenarian native Scotsman came of age in Great Britain during and after World War II, playing tenor sax professionally in bands by the time he was 20, in 1949. After working in a number of British big and small bands over the next half decade―including a stint with American ex-pat trumpeter Dizzy Reece―he switched to baritone sax in 1955 to join Tommy Whittle’s band. But his big break came when he became a member of Humphrey Lyttleton’s popular big band on baritone and tenor sax, staying from 1958 to 1965, when he moved to and settled in New York.
Temperley first met Harry Carney, the great baritone saxophonist in Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, when the Duke toured Great Britain in October 1958. When Lyttleton’s band was touring America in 1959, Temperley’s first trip here, he was hosted by Carney in New York. The Ellingtonian took him (Carney always drove) to see the band in New Jersey at Lambertville Music Circus, the first “music tent” in the United States, on July 7 (I know the date well as I also attended that concert). “I’ll always associate Harry with that erector set road structure [the Pulaski Skyway] in New Jersey,” says Temperley, as it was his first American road trip.
Hardly conforming to the stereotype of the dour Scotsman―one his favorite adjectives is “wonderful”―Temperley not only sought out Carney, who became a close friend as well as one of his biggest heroes, but also called his other baritone hero, Cecil Payne, “out of the blue,” to coax him out of retirement to take Temperley’s place in Woody Herman’s Orchestra, where he played in 1966-67.
Although he fulfilled a dream by taking the baritone sax chair in the Ellington Orchestra in 1974, after the deaths of both Duke and Carney, Temperley says his favorite big band experience was with the late 1960s/early 1970s Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, the Monday night band at the Village Vanguard.
“I loved that gig; it was wonderful,” he says. “But I really wasn’t equipped to play the music at the time. The band was filled with my jazz idols, like Snooky Young (trumpet), Britt Woodman (trombone) and of course the co-leaders.” Temperley was called to sub for Pepper Adams when that baritone saxophonist had to go to Detroit to care for an ailing family member. “I stayed for three and half years,” he says, ruefully adding “but it was always understood that I was a sub.”
After working with the Ellington orchestra under Mercer Ellington in the mid-1970s, Temperley pursued an active freelance schedule including Broadway shows, regular tours of Great Britain, where he hosted a BBC-TV program, and frequent work on the jazz party and cruise circuit that showcased swing and trad jazz. “It was wonderful to be able to work with Kenny Davern (clarinet), Snooky, Ralph Sutton (piano) and Milt Hinton,” he says, having also performed in a duo with bassist Hinton on the BBC.
The only remaining original member of the JLCO besides leader Wynton Marsalis, Temperley is featured with the band on bass clarinet and soprano sax as well as holding down the sonic horn bottom on baritone sax. He particularly enjoys playing bass clarinet settings of Ellington piano pieces such as “Sunset and the Mockingbird” and “Single Petal of a Rose.”
An enthusiastic teacher at Julliard and Manhattan School of Music, Temperley has one caveat: “What I don’t like to hear is young people who bring their lessons to the bandstand, playing all the patterns and stuff they learned in school. You don’t do that in jazz; jazz is a story, and you have to have some kind of a story to play. They’ve taken the romance out of jazz,” he says. “I like romantic jazz: Ben Webster, Carney, Charlie Parker. And on soprano sax, Lucky Thompson and Zoot Sims were my favorites, they had a beautiful sound.”
Celebrating Joe Temperley: From Duke to the JLCO, featuring the premiere of a Wynton Marsalis three movement concerto dedicated to and featuring Temperley, is at JALC’s Rose Theater, April 16-18. It can be heard on the Internet at jazz.org/live