Remembering Scottish Jazz Musician, Joe Temperley

Click to hear the story of Joe Temperley's version of 'My Love is Like a Red Red Rose.

Click to hear the story of Joe Temperley's version of 'My Love is Like a Red Red Rose.

This Burns Night we're remembering Joe Temperley, hailed by many as Scotland's greatest ever jazz musician. Although he relocated to the US in 1965, Joe remained a patriotic Scot throughout his life, and often ended his concerts with his version of 'My Love is Like A Red Red Rose' (words by Burns).

Son of a Fife bus driver, he was born in Cowdenbeath and raised in Lochgelly, Joe began playing the cornet at 12, and moved on to the alto sax at 14. He went on to play various instruments, but is most associated with the baritone and soprano saxophones, and the bass clarinet.

Joe's first job was with Glasgow's Tommy Sampson Orchestra, and in 1957 Tommy took the then 18yr old Joe to London where he joined The Humphrey Lyttelton Band. It was with this band that Joe came into his own as a jazz soloist.   

He moved permanently to the USA in 1965 where he was a sought-after musician in New York. He went on to play and tour with a multitude of the biggest names including Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Joe Henderson, Duke Pearson and Clark Terry. In 1974 he replaced the legendary Harry Carney in the Duke Ellington Band, being asked to do so after playing at Carney's funeral.

Joe also played in several Broadway shows (such as 'Sophisticated Ladies') and film soundtracks (such as 'Cotton Club' and 'When Harry Met Sally'), and he taught in Manhattan School of Music and the Juilliard School.

Often travelling back to Scotland, he recorded with Scottish label Hep Records and was a co-founder and mentor of the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra program. He also remained a proud supporter of Cowdenbeath Football Club.

There is no greater sound on earth than Joe Temperley on a horn
— Wynton Marsalis

His final years were played out with the renowned Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, of which he was a founding member having been recruited by Wynton Marsalis in 1990. He sadly passed away in May of 2016, aged 86.

Thanks go to friend of Audio-philia and huge jazz fan Gordon Brown* for this post. A few of Gordon's favourites:

  • Joe Temperley, 'Easy to Remember' - Hep Records - CD2052
  • Junior Mace + Joe Temperley, 'Music of Thelonious Monk' - Chiaroscuro Records - CRD 370
  • 'A Shade of Jade' on Joe Henderson's 'Big Band' album - Verve Records - 533 451-2

Listen to Joe playing baritone saxophone on 'A Shade of Jade' on Joe Henderson 'Big Band' album:


*Not that Gordon Brown :-)