About this Recording
86032-2 - TEMPERLEY, Joe: Double Duke


The band:

Joe Temperley - baritone & soprano saxophones & bass clarinet

Wycliffe Gordon - trombone

Eric Reed - piano

Rodney Whitaker - bass

Herlin Riley - drums


The rich, deep sound of Harry Carney's baritone saxophone was long recognised as one of the vital elements in Duke Ellington's orchestral fabric. More than a foundation, it permeated the whole ensemble beyond the reed section in a way never really rivalled. Its individuality was such that it inevitably prompted the question: Who could replace Carney? When he died in 1974, the answer was, in two words, Joe Temperley.

Temperley, who plays both soprano and baritone saxophones as well as bass clarinet here, had long demonstrated an affinity with reed instruments. Before transferring to the U.S.A. from Britain, he had also played alto and tenor saxophones professionally, but on occupying Carney's chair in the Ellington orchestra his reputation as "the baritone player" was irrevocably established.

In 1990, after actively freelancing in the New York area for some years, he joined the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra directed by Wynton Marsalis, whose admiration for Duke Ellington's music was akin to his own. This association accounts for the fact that all five musicians heard here have worked together under the Marsalis banner.

Creole Love Call, Black and Tan Fantasy, Raincheck and the number that gives the set its title, Double Duke, are indicative of the benign influence of Ellington's world, but so is Wycliffe Gordon's knowing extension of its plunger-muted legacy. He is today the most expert and convincing trombonist in a tradition maintained from Tricky Sam Nanton's advent in the 1920s to Booty Wood's farewell in 1972, and he brings to it a bright, inventive spirit all his own.

Most of the program was recorded in one take, a practice that customarily results in performance freshness, but which imposes a considerable responsibility on the rhythm section, one that in this case is admirably met by Eric Reed, Rodney Whitaker and Herlin Riley on piano, bass and drums respectively. Their quick thinking and closely sympathetic reaction to the lively improvisations of the two horns contribute very much to the music's enjoyable impact.

The programme begins with Raincheck, a Billy Strayhorn creation first heard in 1941 featuring Ben Webster and Juan Tizol. Taken at a brisk tempo, it provides a good introduction to Temperley, Gordon and Riley, all three in an energetic mood, the two horns playing effectively together and then competitively in solos.

Mood and tempo change completely for the melancholy Creole Love Call, where Temperley's bass clarinet and soprano counter Reed's solemn, church chords and Gordon's plaintive muted statements.

Tricotism was written by Oscar Pettiford, one of Jimmy Blanton's most illustrious successors with Ellington. It is a tricky vehicle for, in this case, a trio consisting of Temperley (on baritone), Whitaker and Riley. The leader's ability to get around adroitly on what used to be considered a cumbersome instrument is strikingly evident.

Black and Tan Fantasy is a tour de force in which the quintet displays its almost orchestral potential, thanks to the tonal variety of which the two horn players are capable. Taking advantage of the title to show how expressive plunger-muted trombone can be, Wycliffe Gordon has it crying, talking, swearing, arguing, barking and expostulating in a thoroughly fantastic manner. Temperley's bass clarinet and soprano

offer a kind of funereal counterpoint even more appropriate to the music’s basic content.

Double Duke is based on two Ellington compositions, one a hit, the other relatively unfamiliar, and here played at a vigorous up tempo that might imply subjects as seen by pursuers. The tempo is indeed a testing one for the baritone and trombone players, who must have welcomed the rest Riley’s solo affords them.

Try a Little Tenderness showcases Temperley’s baritone in a very different mood. It reveals his warm feeling for melody and the ability to express it lyrically – and, it may be said, tenderly.

Elsa features pianist Eric Reed to advantage. His soulfully evocative treatment of the pretty melody repays repeated hearing. The decorative and percussive qualities of his instrument are employed in a very personal fashion.

Fascinatin’ Rhythm, an old favourite, gets a happy interpretation from all concerned, with Temperley on soprano and Gordon blowing fast and open. Soprano is supposedly the hardest saxophone to master, but it does not sound so in this case. Temperley is completely in command with notably smooth control even in its high register. Rodney Whitaker, a dedicated rhythm man, also comes to the fore to emphasize the sturdy foundation he has laid down throughout.

Last, and most surprising, is Danny Boy, that hoary old lament beloved of Irish songsters. Wycliffe Gordon pulls out all stops here in a dramatic performance underlaid by a sense of genuine sadness, as in New Orleans funeral dirges. The combination of trombone and plunger mute again gives his music characteristics remarkably like those of the human voice.

In short, this is a disc that shows once more how often pleasing innovations are built on venerable foundations.

- Stanley Dance, author of “The World of Duke Ellington” (Da Capo Press, Inc.)

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