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Temenos Quartet

The story of the Temenos Quartet goes back decades, to individual meetings, newly struck friendships and on-and-off-again musical collaborations.

But the true connection—the essence of the quartet’s “Music for the New Timeline” —had to wait until 2014, when the right paths crossed at the right time for everybody.

“I’ve played in a lot of musical settings that have had a lot of freedom. But I feel that here more than ever. There’s a lack of ego. It’s artistic maturity. It’s a place each of us have gotten to individually and we’re all just ready more than ever to take off,” says Heidi Wilson. “We hand out flyers and people say ‘All of these musicians are together?”

Collectively, Wilson (also sax, voice) To-Ree-Nee Wolf (voice, acoustic guitar), AmoChip Dabney (electric bass, voice) and Will Clipman (drums & percussion) have well over a century of musical experience. But together, all seated around a café table for this interview, they’re buzzing like excited teenagers about this new project.

“There was a very deep subterranean infrastructure, so when we started at ground level, that part was very effortless. The roots were there,” Clipman says.

Last fall, Wilson, Wolf and Clipman came together with Cantrell Maryott for the Prior Thwaits Project, a live sound recording and video shoot in Picture Rocks Canyon. Maryott left Tucson, but the creative potential felt strong for the others. Clipman suggested inviting Dabney to join the group, the perfect fourth driver for this new engine.

The four musicians had teamed up individually with one or more of each other in various bands, ensembles and projects over the years, but had never all grouped together until then. Their first meeting as a quartet was Valentine’s Day this year: “We were conceived in love and cosmic grooviness,” Wolf says.

“We jammed a couple of times and it was evident right from the start that something extraordinary was happening,” Wolf says. “The creative energy was flowing between us in an easy and gracious manner.”

The band name comes from Wolf. As she describes it, Temenos is a word signifying a sacred space, a patch of land set aside, dedicated to the gods and goddesses, not to be disturbed by the outside world.

“I’ve always loved the word and I’ve been holding onto it for years. All of a sudden, this feels like Temenos,” she says. “We are who we are, we are living our lives and bringing our lives to the grove, which is fertile ground. We trust ourselves, trust that who we are is enough, more than enough.”

The physical embodiment of that Temenos for the band—where they can come together, discarding parts of themselves, letting their subconscious minds become integrated—is the Boom Boom Room, Clipman’s studio, which serves as the Temenos Quartet’s practice space.

“That’s where we originally poured our contributions on the table, extracting this and that, shaping it around a story To-Ree-Nee was telling,” Dabney says. “Now we have about 20 tunes, original compositions, and we’re continuing to craft. There’s no dearth of material. At the drop of a hat, 10 or 15 more pieces could be on the table.”

As Clipman says, “Our problem isn’t creating, it’s energy management. How do we channel this to get from point A to point B?”

The quartet hopes to start every show with an improvisation, gathering inspiration and energy from the performance space and the audience, Dabney says.

“It should always be fresh,” he says. “We come in, we feel the space and reiterate what we feel.”

The Temenos Quartet is naturally hard to categorize, Wolf says, which is a challenge she’s faced in her own work, jazz tinged with folk edges. As Clipman says, the Temenos Quartet transcends genre, hence the term “Music for the New Timeline.”

During the interview, Dabney coins an addendum: “It’s music for your body and your soul. Your body will move and your mind will groove.”

“Our chosen path is one of medicine. We see ourselves as part of the solution,” he adds.

Clipman agrees. “It’s all about making a difference. We want to entertain, we want to enlighten and we want to energize. The three E’s. It’s that for all of us, in all that we do.”

An album is in the works for the Temenos Quartet, as well as touring. But first comes the debut performance, chosen specifically for the Galactic Center, a new Warehouse District artistic venture from Solar Culture’s Steven Eye and his partner Kati Astraeir.

“We chose to come into that place of power and balance,” Wilson says, “to shift out of the mundane and into magic.”

The Temenos Quartet is “sculpting a set list so that the show has a beginning, a middle and an end, taking people on a journey with dynamic ebb and flow,” Clipman says.

“I’ve been performing music for over 30 years and played on close to 100 albums,” says Clipman, a seven-time Grammy nominee. “What’s unique about this is it allows me to bring my entire being to the music. I can bring my Will-ness to the music and that’s exciting and new for me.”

Dabney, who played with Clipman on two of those Grammy-nominated albums, says the group is so excited they’ve begun speaking in “Tenemonology.” For example, he’s “Amenos.”

“This is the only group I’ve been in where I feel like we use all our different artistic focus,” he says. “We’ll have storytelling, some sort of dramatic element. We can go into dance, theater, improvisation. We get to do all of that. It’s something fresh and I can draw on all of my experiences. It’s unlimited.”

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Eric Swedlund is a writer, photographer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. His music writing has appeared regularly in the Tucson Weekly, Phoenix New Times, East Bay Express, The Rumpus and Souciant Magazine.

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