Dan Tepfer: Oxygen & Duets with Lee
The full arrival of pianist Dan Tepfer has been signaled by his recent sideman work with the august alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. These two albums find him adopting a similar playing stance in different settings, both allowing ample space for his lightly classicist touch; he inhabits the rippling sensitivity zone of players such as Paul Bley, Bill Evans, Steve Kuhn and Keith Jarrett.
Tepfer leads his trio on Oxygen, its title track emblematic of the entire disc's approach. Angular and twisting, it grasps its groove cautiously, as Jorge Roeder and Richie Barshay's bass and drums briefly sit out while Tepfer wanders alone. All three are continually investigating the melody's forward path, until an emphatic climax is eventually reached, everything subsequently breaking down into dispersal. There's a low level of incidence as the three move into "Sweet Talk," with its brushing balladry. A few months ago, "Billie Jean" would have been a crass tune-choice, but now it's a crass tune-choice with an unexpected topicality. Anyway, Tepfer manages to perform a thorough dissection. Each tune (there are pieces penned by John Coltrane, Joe Henderson and Steve Lacy, besides Tepfer's majority of originals) is subject to a flowing motion, a gentle shifting of time's sands. Superficially, this is quite conventional piano trio music, but the participants usually push towards a slight tilt or gentle twist of the tune.
Tepfer's touch is highlighted even more on Duos With Lee, as he meets a fellow lover of spacious reflection. The session is dominated by its ten-part "Elande" sequence, each part of the suite keeping to around two minutes. The run is broken up between "6" and "7" by Tepfer's "Merka Tikva." These pieces are freely improvised, with the only frame being a gradual key-progression decided in advance. Even though spontaneity rules, these short creations revolve around lyrical melodies, instantaneously formed. The first "Elande" begins like it's already in progress, Konitz establishing a very verbal tone and phrasing as he elegantly sends out his lines. He bends and chews, sliding between the notes, as the stripling Tepfer dances around, nimbly echoing or underlining the veteran's bobbing path. On the bandstand, Tepfer is definitely capable of a lustier approach, but these two discs reveal a very compatible aspect that is his more studied and delicate side. They nestle together on the shelf with an intimate compatibility.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Oxygen; Sweet Talk; Billie Jean; Moment's Notice; Inner Urge; Not for Sissies; Equivalence; Every Day; Bone.
Personnel: Dan Tepfer: piano; Jorge Roeder: bass; Richie Barshay: drums.
Duets with Lee
Tracks: Elande No. 1(F#); Elande No. 2 (Bb); Elande No. 3 (A); Elande No. 4 (B); Elande No. 5 (D); Elande No. 6 (G#); Merka Tikva; Elande No. 7 (F); Eland No. 8 (G); Elande No. 9 (E); Elande No. 10 (Free for Paree); No Lee; Trees.
Personnel: Lee Konitz: alto saxophone; Dan Tepfer: piano.