In the hands of a pedestrian player, the baritone saxophone can sound very stodgy. Not so with British born Joe Temperley, who shows that the "big" horn can be more than the foundation of the sax section. A veteran of such big-band aggregations as Humphrey Lyttelton's, Buddy Rich's, Woody Herman's, and Duke Ellington's, Temperley is joined here by a rather unexceptional rhythm section. Overcoming this routine support, he shows his wares on a play list of standard and not-so-often-heard material (plus an original by Temperley). On "Body and Soul," like so many other sax players (usually tenors), he emulates the great Coleman Hawkins' treatment of this classic by playing above the melody line throughout. Brian Lemon's piano, Dave Green's bass, and Martin Drew's brushes get a workout by helping to fill up the six minutes devoted to this piece. Ellington's "Raincheck" is a swinger -- Temperley's tone is much lighter than on the other cuts from this session. On most offerings, Temperley's baritone takes on a smoky, sultry timbre. His own "Nightingale" is a pleasant tune and is competently performed, but it suffers from comparison with the other classics on this session. The rarely performed "Sunset & Mocking Bird" by Ellington is a masterpiece of baritone playing, replete with fluttering tremolos. Temperley spent some time with the Duke Ellington Orchestra (replacing the irreplaceable Harry Carney), and it is evident on his interpretation of the three Ellington pieces on the album. He doesn't try and re-create the great Carney; rather, his tone and touch are more in line with the alto of Johnny Hodges. Temperley brings out the soprano sax for a bossa nova-tinged arrangement of Sidney Bechet's "Petite Fleur." But none of the cuts showcase Temperley's virtuosity like his a cappella rendition of "My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose," where the listener is rewarded with two minutes of endearing, lyrical baritone sax playing. If a collection needs some baritone saxophone albums, there are far worse choices than this one.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan