Pianist/Composer Dan Tepfer Releases Trio Album "Five Pedals Deep" on Sunnyside Records - October 26, 2010


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Beyond the eclectic influence of such vanguard groups as indie rockers Dirty Projectors and electronica maven Aphex Twin, Tepfer drew much of his inspiration for the album from Thelonious Monk.
Album features Dan Tepfer (piano), Thomas Morgan (bass) and Ted Poor (drums)

@ Jazz Standard
October 26, 2010
(7:30 & 9:30pm)

In his forthcoming trio release, Five Pedals Deep on Sunnyside Records, wildly inventive pianist Dan Tepfer plumbs the depths of conventional harmony, engaging pop modalities, minimalism, and jazz tradition with the audacity and irreverence of a deep-sea explorer. The 28-year-old, Brooklyn-based pianist has forged a richly layered collection of lyrical, immediately accessible compositions that upon repeated listenings reveal a nuanced scaffolding of atmospheric soundscapes beneath the surface.

Beyond the eclectic influence of such vanguard groups as indie rockers Dirty Projectors and electronica maven Aphex Twin, Tepfer drew much of his inspiration for the album from Thelonious Monk. “When you listen to Monk's music, you can put it on for anybody, it doesn't matter if they're into jazz, and they love it," says Tepfer. “The reason for that is that it's got really strong melodies, there's a real coherence to the sound, it grooves, and there's a strong feeling of fun that comes through in the music. I think in many ways I'm trying to do a contemporary version of that."

The album title originates from a bibulous evening Tepfer spent with a cousin. “We were at a party, and we'd drunk five bottles of wine, and she said something like, 'You get pretty happy when you're five bottles deep.' What I heard was 'five pedals deep,' and I thought that was a beautiful way of expressing the feeling I often get when I'm playing, a feeling of being drunk on music," says Tepfer. “A pedal is a long bass note that ties different harmonies together, and it's one of my favorite musical devices."

Tepfer features the deft interplay of two eminent musical contemporaries, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Ted Poor, a departure from his longtime collaboration with bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Richie Barshay, his touring trio for the past six years.

“It's like when you've been married for a long time," says Tepfer. “You just know someone so well that even if you are completely improvising, you can still hear in your head how he's going to react. With Thomas and Ted, there was none of that. I had no idea."

The “sound of surprise" is evident throughout, the players never relying on reflexive facility as they navigate the varied terrains of Tepfer's original compositions, mostly written over the past two years. This ranges from the minimalist ostinato of “All I Heard Was Nothing," to the dense drum 'n bass-inspired rhythms of “Peal Repeal," to the languorously dissonant beauty of “The Distance," with four minute-long interludes serving as connective tissue. Tepfer's visceral tie to the music cuts through in the wistfully nostalgic “Le Plat Pays," Belgian troubadour Jacques Brel's stirring homage to his homeland.

“Growing up in Paris, my first girlfriend was a huge Jacques Brel fan," Tepfer says. “I just remember learning the lyrics and being so captivated by that tune in particular. There's so much meaning contained in this appearance of simplicity."

In his solo rendition of “Body and Soul," Tepfer includes a subtle nod to mentor Lee Konitz, conspicuous by his absence, although Konitz's influence is deeply felt. “Nobody plays 'Body and Soul' like Lee does," Tepfer says. In 2009, he released a duo album with Konitz called Duos with Lee. “One thing that's really come up for me in the last four years now, playing with Lee pretty regularly, is the integrity of melody. I feel sinful if a phrase doesn't get resolved."

Born to American parents, Tepfer spent his first 18 years in Paris, beginning classical piano studies at the Paris Conservatoire Paul Dukas at the age of six. He had improvisation in his blood, though, inherited from his grandfather, West Coast jazz pianist Chuck Ruff. With a fecund intellect that extends far beyond music theory, Tepfer went on to earn a bachelor's degree in astrophysics from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, writing his undergraduate thesis on “Numerical Simulations of Galactic Superwinds."

While in Scotland, he also played in the Edinburgh Jazz Festival and the International Fringe Festival, even conducting a production of Gian Carlo Menotti's The Telphone. He later earned a master's degree from the New England Conservatory in Boston, and has performed alongside legendary jazz musicians Steve Lacy, Paul Motian, Ralph Towner, and Billy Hart, among others.

Though at this point his passion for cosmology has taken a back seat to his musical career, it continues to inform his worldview. “I think the tone of my music reflects who I am, and who I am is somebody who is fascinated by the huge scale of the universe," Tepfer says. “I love seeing myself on the earth from really far away, and I'm sure that comes out in the music somehow."

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