Recorded live at the Maulstby Concert Series in Dallas, Texas, in February 2009, this album documents Dan Tepfer's work on large-scale total improvisation. This isn't free improvisation where notes are thrown haphazardly together; it's the creation of a coherent, 50-minute piece of music in real-time.
Tepfer structures the improvisation around the twelve keys of the diatonic scale, alternating major and minor, although the constraint is taken with freedom, in accordance with a fundamental artistic choice: always let fantasy speak when it wants to speak.
Twelve Free Improvisations in Twelve Keys is a riveting meeting of structure and freedom, and a blazing display of endurance in concentration from one of today's most promising young pianists and composers.
Dan Tepfer is a New York-based pianist and composer and one of the most formidable jazz musicians on the international stage — hailed as “brilliant” by The Boston Globe, “remarkable” by The Washington Post, a “rugged and emphatic” player by the New York Times, “a new knight of the keys” by BSC News (France). “Tepfer eschews jarring dissonances, gratuitous clusters or poundings,” raves Down Beat magazine. “He has the ability to disappear into the music as he’s making it.”
By age 28, Dan has developed a rare improvisational gift and a complex yet deeply melodic approach to music. He has performed the world over in contexts ranging from solo piano to full orchestra, exploring a wide variety of idioms but always in the service of a personal aesthetic, a unified artistic identity. He has chronicled his talents on the solo disc Twelve Improvisations in Twelve Keys (2009) as well as the trio sessions Before the Storm (2005), Oxygen (2007) and his forthcoming 2010 Sunnyside release with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Ted Poor.
Dan has also had the extraordinary privilege of a sustained, ongoing duo partnership with alto saxophonist and jazz luminary Lee Konitz. The two documented their rapport on the acclaimed 2009 Sunnyside CD Duos With Lee (“a benchmark of human potential” – JazzInsideNY). They have appeared together live at the Village Vanguard and many other leading jazz venues. Whether they’re freely improvising, exploring Dan’s original compositions or applying their interpretive prowess to the Great American Songbook, the Tepfer-Konitz duo achieves stirring results and embodies the notion of jazz as an artistic exchange across the generations. In addition, Dan has had the honor of performing with Steve Lacy, Bob Brookmeyer, Charles McPherson, Joe Lovano, Ralph Towner, Paul Motian and other innovators.
Born to American parents in Paris, France in 1982, Dan began classical piano studies at age six at the Paris Conservatoire Paul Dukas. He took a somewhat circuitous route to a jazz career, earning a bachelors degree in astrophysics from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. But beginning even as a toddler, Dan explored improvisation on his own. He played extensively on the jazz scene in college and enjoyed a brief stint as an opera conductor. After graduating in 2005 from Boston’s New England Conservatory, where he completed his masters under the guidance of Danilo Perez, Dan moved to New York and quickly became an in-demand player and composer.
Dan’s numerous awards include first prize and audience prize at the 2006 Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition, first prize at the 2006 East Coast Jazz Festival Competition, and first prize at the 2007 competition of the American Pianists Association.
Dan was also named a Cultural Envoy of the U.S. State Department, with recent travels to Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Czech Republic. He has lectured and led master classes at the Royal Academy of Music (London), the Seoul Institute of the Arts (South Korea), the Chopin Conservatory (Warsaw) and many more. He was recently commissioned by the Prague Castle Guard Orchestra to compose a concerto for wind symphony and improvising piano. Titled The View from Orohena, the work premiered in Prague on May 4, 2010.
Another current project is “Goldberg Variations/Variations,” in which Dan performs each of Bach’s original variations as it was intended, and then gives his own improvisatory take on each. While other musicians have either played the Goldbergs as written or transformed them completely, Dan does both, staying strongly connected to the initial work but also exploring contemporary musical ideas.
In addition to working with his new trio, Dan continues to focus on full solo piano concerts of freely improvised music. As France’s Jazz Magazine has noted, he is “gifted with a heightened sense for form and an extraordinary confidence in his angles of attack.” His playing, whatever the context, is a model of fluidity and steady, effortless motion, immersed in jazz history but creating new history in turn.