NEW YORK — Scottish-born baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley, a former member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra and a founding member of Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, has died at age 86.
Temperley died Wednesday in New York City after battling cancer, said JALC public relations director Zooey T. Jones.
“For someone from another country and culture to exhibit the depth of belief that animated his sound was, and still is, truly miraculous,” Marsalis said in a JALC statement announcing Temperley’s death.
“From the coal mines of Scotland, to clubs and concert halls all over the world. Joe’s journey was epochal, and he did it with integrity, style, piss and vinegar. We will miss him deeply and his spirit will forever live on in the sound of our orchestra,” Marsalis said.
Born in 1929 in the Scottish mining town of Lochgelly, in Fife, Temperley moved to London when he was not quite 20 after successfully auditioning to play tenor sax in Tommy Sampson’s popular band. He gained prominence in Britain after switching to baritone sax when he joined Humphrey Lyttelton’s band in 1958.
In 1965, he moved to New York where he became the first Scottish musician to make a big impact on the American jazz scene, performing and/or recording with Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Joe Henderson and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. He was invited to join the Ellington band in 1974 after he played at the funeral of the band’s long-time baritone saxophonist Harry Carney.
Temperley spent nearly a decade in the Ellington band, run by son Mercer Ellington. In 1988, Marsalis invited several Ellington alumni, including Temperley, to perform in an all-star big band for an Ellington tribute. That band evolved into the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
Temperley recorded several albums under his own name, including “Sunbeam and Thundercloud” with pianist Dave McKenna (1996) and “Double Duke” (1999).
As an educator, he taught at Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music and served as a mentor for the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra in Scotland.