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Dan Tepfer: “One of the Guys We Talk About”

At 30, the classically informed, conceptually inspired pianist is delivering on great promise

Dan Tepfer

During Winter Jazzfest in January, at Zinc Bar in Greenwich Village, Lee Konitz improvised with the Harlem String Quartet. Violins wove a nettlesome drone, smoothed out by viola and cello, while the alto saxophone legend emitted short-but-full phrases in his trademark cool tone. For the moment, however, the man responsible for most of the sounds was unheard.

Dan Tepfer, the 30-year-old pianist who shared billing with Konitz, was actually creating the music that the strings were performing: improvising on a MIDI keyboard that silently sent the notation he played to screens for the quartet, music they read and played back in real time. The effect was something like Cyrano de Bergerac writing Christian’s letters to Roxanne: Even playing off the sound of the Harlem String Quartet, Konitz was ultimately improvising with Tepfer.

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