Born: April 25, 1955 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
The Johnny Griffin classic “Chicago Calling” can also be considered a reference to the suburbs of the Windy City. Skokie, IL native, John Temmerman, influences include tenor titans like Chicago’s Eddie Harris, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and mutlti-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk. His third recording Live in Evanston -- John’s Mixed Bag captures his band in live quartet and quintet performances from 2007 and 2008.
Temmerman, who pursues his music career on his terms, has a “day gig” as Controller for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This is not as uncommon as many jazz musicians are also degreed professionals, for example Pete “LaRocca” Sims, Eddie Henderson, and Von Freeman.
There is no evidence, however, of the stereotypical mindset of a “number cruncher” in his endeavors, but the balance of a methodical approach with the emotionalism inherent in any of the great players who inspire him. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois and earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago. “I’m fortunate in that I don’t have to pull out my horn unless I really, really want to do it,” he says. “It’s tough to pursue jazz as a primary source of income. Teaching can be lucrative if that’s what you want to do … Nothing wrong with having a day job. You need to figure out how you want to survive because performance is a tough way to go.”
Temmerman’s interest in jazz was piqued as a teenager; he plays tenor, soprano and alto saxophone and clarinet. After years spent earning an advanced degree, establishing a family with his wife Tina and their son Joe and developing his professional business career, he was drawn back into the music world in the early 1990’s, started a trio in 1995 and began performing live.
With his solid, no-nonsense straight ahead approach to music it’s no surprise that he’s inspired by the legends -- and a few unsung heroes as well. He cites the Miles Davis classic Kind of Blue as a major inspiration, but you can immediately hear the influence of the great Long Tall Dexter in his performances. “When I hear the Dexter Gordon album Go and the song ‘Three O’Clock In The Morning, that’s what a tenor saxophone is supposed to sound like. Dexter had a big tone and less is more approach”.
“Dexter is my main guy on tenor, says Temmerman, “But I've listened to many mainstream players: John Coltrane, Stanley Turrentine, Coleman Hawkins, Eddie Harris, Zoot Sims on both tenor and soprano, Wayne Shorter, Yusef Lateef, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and lots of others, including some lesser known players like Bootsie Barnes, Buck Hill and Tina Brooks. I've also enjoyed the versatility and power of crossover players, like King Curtis, Grover Washington, Tom Scott and Wilton Felder from the Crusaders.”
You’re as liable to see Temmerman playing soprano in Chapel on Wednesday morning with the Gospel Choir at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Lutheran Center as on the bandstand of a jazz club. “Playing with the Lutheran Center Gospel Choir is a joy. I enjoy interpreting hymns. ‘Just A Closer Walk With Thee’ (featured on Mixed Bag) is an example. For me, the purpose of music is to glorify God. God gave me a need to perform and teach music. I went along with that, even though I denied it for a while. “ He is firmly grounded in his family, his faith and unapologetically places both above music. “I have my wife, who suffers from FSH Dystrophy to care for and have to be closer to home than some musicians.”
Temmerman currently teaches more than 20 students in his home; he’s been known to assign some of the more avant garde recordings of Eric Dolphy as required listening. His sage advice to young musicians? “Find a way to do what you love. I have a non-music career and what that does is give me a means to perform music on my own terms. So, even if the career direction isn't music, don't stop playing. Don't stop creating.”
Chicago has a strong and legendary tenor tradition, from the “Little Giant” Johnny Griffin, Gene “Jug” Ammons, Von & Chico Freeman to Clifford Jordan and numerous unsung talents. Thanks to the airplay and recognition Temmerman has gained with each successive recording, his talent is no longer a well-kept secret of the Windy City.
...Temmerman is good at what he does, and The Power of Two [2001 CD] is an enjoyable demonstration of his versatility. ...All Music Guide
......John's talent on saxophone is filled with harmonic depth and incredible range, reminiscent of the imminent Dexter Gordon. His solos are rich and soulful. He penned half of the songs and the arrangements are all stellar. It would be a real treat to see this band perform live. Native Chicago music fans will no longer be a able to keep this little known secret from spreading. It deserves to be exposed. This is feel good music that grooves and will make you smile. Highly recommended. (about the 2001 CD)
...All About Jazz.com Mark Turner, All About Jazz.com
Willing to teach:
I teach M-Th and Sunday evenings and Saturday morning and afternoon out of my (Skokie, IL) home studio. I teach all saxophones and clarinets. Current rates are $26 per half hour. I am a recommended instructor for several local school districts and music stores.