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#JazzPortraits: Dan Tepfer, Franco-American pianist with boundless creativity

  • 03.10.2018

Innovative, sensitive and adventurous; only a few of the adjectives used to describe the pianist and composer Dan Tepfer who the BNP Paribas Foundation has chosen to support as of this autumn of 2018. This greatly creative musician is involved in many different projects, and delights the public both as group leader and group member. Discover the first profile piece of our Jazz series.

Software programmes, visual art and improvised jazz...an unusual project called ‘Natural Machines’

Dan Tepfer is one of the visionary artists who are forging their way down a route which involves both the arts and sciences. It was this approach that led him, as part of his new solo project of 2017, ‘Natural Machines’, to seek a dialogue between technology, visual arts and musical improvisation. Keen to offer to the public a truly novel experience, he reacquainted himself with his studies in astrophysics. Using the technological capacity of his Yamaha Disklavier, he created software programmes that enabled the piano to respond in real time to his improvised notes, thereby establishing a tangible dialogue with his piano, ‘which played itself’. While the melody was provided by the piano, artistic representations of the musical structure being played were simultaneously projected onto a screen. He thereby brought together the emotion of an improvised performance with the rationality of mathematical algorithms. For all that, Dan Tepfer did not produce merely a technological demonstration; the computer here was used only to enhance the creativity of the pianist. Indeed, a touching and passionate sensitivity flowed from this real-time co-improvisation.

one of the visionary artists who are forging their way down a route which involves both the arts and sciences.

Bach, variations and improvisation: Tepfer transcends boundaries between jazz and classical music

Introduced to classical music at a very young age, he uses its foundations as a basis when developing his innovative projects. Passionate about music history, and finding the music of Bach particularly appealing, he strives to build a bridge between the differing genres and distinct centuries.  In his Goldberg Variations/Variations project, he took on the risky venture of improvising on top of the composer’s variations. Dan Tepfer displayed here a breathtaking creative freedom, creating with this album a dialogue between eras and a transcendence of the boundaries between jazz and classical. 

“ One of the most fascinating thing about him (Bach) is that his music is a real combination of the algorithm mechanism spiritual… there’s obviously this profond emotionality about his music but it’s all structured about rules ”

Dan Tepfer

Source : France 24

Composer, band leader or band member: Dan Tepfer’s limitless creativity

In 2017 he released a triple album which explored the concept of freedom within the limits imposed by music. Between repetitions and compositions, the pianist plays with rhythm and sometimes leaves room for silence. He conceives new types of poetry when he is interpreting the great classical pieces, and creates the element of surprise in his improvisations. 

A virtuoso, Dan Tepfer has played alongside some of the greatest jazz artists on the planet, such as saxophonist Lee Konitz (with whom he recently released the album Decade, Verve Records, 2018). His talents as a musician and as an improviser do not go unnoticed. Celebrated by jazz lovers in all four corners of the world, he has been the recipient of numerous prizes; the prize awarded by the American Pianists Association, the 2006  Montreux Jazz Festival piano solo prize, or first prize in the East Coast Jazz Festival competition of the same year.

Between repetitions and compositions, the pianist plays with rhythm and sometimes leaves room for silence.

In 2018, the BNP Paribas Foundation chose to sustainably assist and support the projects of the talented pianist Dan Tepfer.  

Next month find out about another virtuoso pianist, Paul Lay in the next portrait.

photo header © Josh Goleman

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