Review: Joe Temperley & Brian Kellock, Fife

Tony Troon hails the return of Lincoln Center baritone player Joe Temperley to his home town for a duo concert with pianist Brian Kellock

The baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley, now in his mid-80s, was given a hero’s welcome by a packed Lochgelly Centre in Fife on 7 March before he’d even played a note. Reason: this former mining town was the birthplace he’d left as a teenager to embark on a long and illustrious career culminating in NYC – and his most recent visit to Scotland had been with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Orchestra. But teamed with the dynamic Scottish pianist Brian Kellock, this was more than an exercise in nostalgia.

Clearly, the tight schedule of a tour taking him from the Borders to the Moray Firth would take a toll on Joe’s energy level (and he was also playing a borrowed baritone). It was little surprise that the programme was centred on ballads and with Joe’s CV covering great spells replacing Harry Carney in the Mercer Ellington-led outfit, there was a goodly proportion of Ellingtonia. Joe (pictured right) gave a rich interpretation of Creole Love Call on his other instrument of the tour, the bass clarinet, taking the tune at a tender tempo, with lavish decoration from the grand piano. With Joe playing In A Mellotone on baritone, Brian produced a boppish intro and a thunderous mid-section, although a conventional swing style was the nature of the gig.

Brian supplied plenty of impetus throughout, often employing walking bass figures and even some boogie-style left hand occasionally. As a tribute to his late brother (who bought him his first saxophone and thus set him on his career path) Joe gave an emotional reading of Kern’s The Folks Who Live On The Hill on the big clarinet. Temperley stayed close to the theme as he did also with Mood Indigo and Cottontail, leaving the stretching out to Kellock – who could be heard researching unconventional harmonies in Carter’s When Lights Are Low. Joe’s baritone sound was firm and true, his bass clarinet fruity and resonant: Brian gave sterling support and made the most of his opportunities for adventurous soloing. Joe ended, as we suspected he would, with an encore of something Scottish, a chorus of Burns’s My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose, exiting the stage to a warm send-off.

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