Featured Musician - March 2012  

Jim Templeton
Jim Templeton

Name: Jim Templeton

Instrument: Piano

 Early Years/Education: Born and raised in Spokane, Washington. I started at the age of six taking piano lessons from a woman who lived six blocks away. We didn’t have a piano but talked a neighbor into letting us use his until we got our own. Took lessons through the eighth grade and stopped. Then, for maybe a year I took chord lessons (popular music) from the guy who played the organ at the ballpark. In high school, I didn’t play in the band or orchestra but accompanied the choir now and then. I did play music all through high school in my own bands, though. In our town they had Junior Achievement, and I got good training in stage presence, manners and how to present music. As a freshman in high school, I was in a 12-piece big band, which was a big success. We played for the Aunt Jamima Pancake Feed. I was also in a Dixieland band called the “Frantic Five,” even though there were six of us. In college I organized a quartet where I played piano and vibes for fraternity and sorority dances at Washington State University in Pullman. In the summers I led a trio deep in Glacier Park at the Many Glacier Hotel. I earned half my way through college playing music.

My folks wanted me to become an engineer, and so I spend a year and a half in engineering at WSU. After a horrific semester of honors calculus, I decided this was not for me; dropped engineering and switched to music, wondering if I was to become a concert player or teacher -- those were the two options. Always thought teaching would be my mainstay and performing would be on the side. I always knew I’d continue playing music. Graduated from WSU in piano and went to graduate school in Louisiana and got my Masters in Music at Louisiana State University.

Denmark: After graduating, I picked up a teaching job at a college in Pensacola, Florida. Around this time I had taken my first trip to Europe and got run down by a car; I was on a bike. The nurse at my bedside was from Denmark, asnd she later became my wife. We came back to the states, and after four years in Pensacola she longed for her country and went back to Denmark. I followed her later, asked for a leave of absence and didn’t get it, so I left my position. I spent a year in Denmark and got a teaching position in Odense. Five years later, I went to Aarhus, which was a larger town, and taught at the conservatory. While at the university, I was able to design my own courses, including Analysis of Improvisation and Evergreen Harmonies, and I taught classical and jazz piano, all the while having my own band on the side. I also got into composition in Odense and had a fusion band. I lived in Denmark from ‘72 to ‘88.

From 1980 onward, I’d return to the states in the summers. I then met Canadian sax player and Spokane teacher Gary Edighoffer and formed a fusion band called Cosmic Dust. I eventually returned to the states for good in ‘88 and got a job teaching at Spokane Falls Community College, and then at Whitworth College.

In 1998, I followed another dream to become a Rolfer. I went to massage school and got licensed, and after a few courses I discovered Craniosacral Therapy, which became a passion of mine. This has to do with the joints of the head; it’s for people who have headaches, hearing problems, etc. I had a practice in Spokane. I took follow-up courses in Copenhagen, which gave me a chance to visit my son, Janus Templeton, who is a jazz drummer there. I moved to Vancouver, Washington, in November of 2005 with my wife, thinking it would give me a greater opportunity to do my bodywork therapy. The opportunity to play music was also in the back of my mind. In the meanwhile my mother passed away, and with my inheritance I again decided to follow my heart and open Ivories Jazz Lounge in the Pearl.

Musical Influences: Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck, Errol Garner, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal (such a different approach to the music), George Shearing, Stan Getz, Andre Previn, Joe Zawinul and Weather Report, to name a few.

Most Satisfying Experience: If we leave this pursuit (creating Ivories Jazz Lounge) out of it, which is by far the most fulfilling, it would have to be working with certain individual musicians. To me the most fulfilling thing is the balance of a beautiful grand piano with a bass player that isn’t playing too loud, with a drummer that isn’t playing too loud. I’ve always been one who is interested in the timbre (the sound) I could deliver in addition to the notes. I also think of music in terms of a landscape. Like when an artist wants to create a beautiful picture using violet or chartreuse and a little dab of gray, and they have an idea of a scene. This is what I try to create in my compositions. This idea is inspired largely by Weather Report. I think they were path-breaking.

Favorite Recordings: Stan Getz, “Getz Meets Mulligan”; Dave Brubeck, “Brubeck In Europe”; Weather Report, “Black Market”; Bela Bartok, “Concerto For Orchestra”; Miles Davis, “Kind Of Blue”; Ahmad Jamal, “Live At The Pershing”; Andre Previn, “The Magic of Diahann Carroll” (especially the tune “Gingerbread Joy”); and the music of George Shearing, Bach, Debussy and Brahms.

Discography: “Journey” - from my fusion band Cosmic Dust, 1993, with Gary Edighoffer on wind instruments, Clipper Anderson on basses, Myles Kennedy on guitars, Scott Reusser on drums and Jim Templeton, keyboards. “Step Right Up!” - Cosmic Dust, 2008, with Chris Mosley, guitars, John Nastos, sax and flute, Dave Turner, bass, Charlie Doggett, drums and Jim Templeton, keyboards. These recording contain most of my original music I’ve been playing for twenty years.

Gigs: Thursday, March 1, 8:30 pm, vocalist Cheryl Hodge meets Jim Templeton; Friday, March 9, 8:30 pm, in a quartet with Pete Peterson, saxophone, Eric Gruber, bass, and Janus Templeton, drums; Fridays March 16, & 30, 5:30 pm, Jim Templeton at the Piano Bar; Thursday, March 22, 8:30 pm, vocalist Mitzi Zilka and the Jim Templeton Trio. All at Ivories Jazz Lounge, 1435 NW Flanders, Portland.

Jim’s son Janus, visiting from Denmark: Ivories Jazz Lounge, Saturday, March 10, 8:30 pm, with Danish pianist Nikolaj Hess and bassist Chuck Israels; Sunday, March 11, 4:30 pm, with Hess and Gruber, bass.

Future Plans: I hope to be playing here with my fusion band Cosmic Dust.

Other: One of the things I’m obsessed with is -- what makes music meaningful? Take the concept of “Something old, something new, something borrowed ...” For me, an interesting composition or improvisation takes a given idea, for example, Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” – in the opening phrase, “pa pa pa paaah,” what’s old is the rhythm – and adds something new to it, like repeating it at a higher pitch. You keep adding something new, otherwise you lose the listener’s interest. Then you borrow new elements to put at the tail end of something or at the beginning. The key is to use the old and the new. What fascinates me is the question, Why does it pull us in?

To me, the most meaningful musical experiences are those where I can go away able to hum or whistle part of what I just experienced, even a day – or year -- later. What is important is that music can provoke a reaction in the listener, maybe a smile, maybe tears, maybe a foot tapping, maybe humming afterwards, maybe a memory.


-- by Rita Rega