John Temmer - "The Power of Two"

(JFT Group)
John Temmerman

Review by Brad Walseth

John Temmerman is a tenor sax player from Chicago who recently shared with me his recording "The Power of Two" - which he recorded with his Jazz Obsession Quartet. The song selection immediately caught my attention: Half the songs are originals penned by Temmerman himself, while the other half is an eclectic mix of covers ranging from Miles Davis (All Blues) and the Lew Spence, Alan Bergman & Marilyn Keith standard "Nice and Easy" (made famous by Frank Sinatra) to "Costa Del Sol" (from the Final Fantasy video game series). I was especially excited to see two songs from the 70's: "Whispering Pines" written by trombonist Wayne Henderson and performed by his group The influential and criminally underrated 70's jazz funk group The Crusaders; and the song "T.C.B. in E" by L.A. Express bassist Max Bennett. The 70's are often regarded as a wasteland in jazz history, but both of these groups recorded some compelling work during that era.

Good taste in music having been determined, I now turned my attention to Temmerman's abilities as a bandleader, and I was pleasantly surprised by the makeup of his group. His Jazz Obsession Quartet consists of Steven Hashimoto on electric bass, Rusty Jones on drums, and Neal Alger on guitar. These are well known names to Chicago jazz fans, and their playing on the recording is, as to be expected, first rate. Temmerman's arrangements leave plenty of room for each player to show their stuff, and they do so with relish. Jones plays a tasteful supporting role throughout, but lets loose on numbers like "Slam Time." Hashimoto takes a few choice solos - his riffs on "Secondary Ignorance" are especially attractive. Meanwhile, Alger especially displays his wide-ranging talents - which have led to his being held in esteem as one of the top young guitarists in Chicago.

Tenor sax man, Temmerman displays some nice songwriting ability: His songs fit right in with the covers, but it is his playing style that is most unique. Playing smoothly and confidently in control, Temmerman mostly plays on the beat or slightly behind it - giving the music a relaxed feel. This approach is unusual and welcome in an era when most players try to speed ahead of the beat and cram as many notes into a phrase as they can. This isn't to say Temmerman doesn't have chops (his "Plan B" is a highlight and a good example of the heat he can generate), but he understands the beauty of space and of playing within the melody, as on Michael Lawrence's ballad "When the Lights Go Out." John's reworking of the hymn "One Bread, One Body" into the bluesy "Come to the Table" ends the CD on a triumphant note. It is good to hear local musicians displayed so successfully on this project. All and all, an enjoyable exercise with good song choices and playing that is a welcome addition to any jazz collection.

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