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Recital Room, City Halls

Wednesday 21st November 2012

Pianist Dan Tepfer had already been in the Recital Room the night before, playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations and his own improvisations on them. His classical inclinations came through quite strongly in this trio set, in that he was very much a pianist who used both hands to play multiple simultaneous lines, rather than playing a horn-like melodic line in the right hand while the left played a chordal accompaniment. His playing showed a great variety of touches, from legato melodic phrases to percussive staccato figures, and he used the whole range of the keyboard, some times concentrating on rumbling bass figures and at others exploring the instrument’s upper register.

Most of the set consisted of originals, but it was his version of pieces by other composers which made the strongest impact. Some of them were refreshingly different, but his reworkings of Jacques Brel’s “Le Pays Plats” and Beyonce’s “Single Girls” didn’t seem at all out of place alongside more conventional jazz fare like Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy”. By comparison his own tunes didn’t always seem quite strong enough: his rhapsodic improvising style meant that, like his frequent musical partner Lee Konitz, he often got a long way indeed from the original material, and when that material wasn’t particularly memorable the result could seem too much like a display of piano technique disconnected from the original composition. He also had a tendency to start many of his own numbers with an ostinato figure in the bass which he repeated several times before starting to play anything with his right hand: if overused this could end up becoming a mere mannerism.

This isn’t intended to be a negative review, though. Overall I thought Tepfer’s performance – and those of drummer Ted Poor and bassist Joe Sanders – was excellent. He’s achieved one of the features of a top jazz musician, in that he’s developed a style which is recognisably his own. There’s the occasional hint of Keith Jarrett in the improvising, and a good bit of classical playing in his touch, but ultimately he sounds like no one else but Dan Tepfer.

The Herald’s Kate Molleson reviewed both this concert and the previous night’s Goldberg Variations / Variations performance.