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Joanna Wallfisch with Dan Tepfer: The Origin of Adjustable Things

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She’s a British vocalist with a rich musical pedigree: a cellist mother, a violinist father, a brother who’s an opera singer, another a film composer and her still-vibrant 88-year-old grandmother, who survived the Nazi death camps as a member of the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz. He’s an internationally renowned keyboardist, born in Paris to American parents, his mother an opera singer, his grandfather a jazz pianist. True to his lineage, he excels in both the classical and jazz camps, as celebrated for his Goldberg Variations/Variations as for his work as one of Lee Konitz’s go-to pianists. So it’s hardly surprising that when Joanna Wallfisch and Dan Tepfer join forces, the results are sublime.

Wallfisch’s classical leanings tend to define her readings, a quasi-baroque quality permeating several tracks. But Tepfer, fully exercising his dexterity as he alternates between piano, Wurlitzer and Mellotron, proves an ideal playmate, gently encouraging her exploration of folk and jazz shadings.

Two-thirds of the dozen tracks were written by Wallfisch. From the sprightly “This Is How You Make Me Feel,” with Tepfer merrily dancing and twirling, and the swirling, haywire carousel of “Brighton Beach” to the edge-of-madness “Satin Grey” and densely layered “Time Doesn’t Play Fair,” all are superbly atmospheric. The duo’s four covers are equally enticing, extending from a dove-soft treatment of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren” and a soul-stirring rendering of Radiohead’s “Creep” to a numinous “Wild Is the Wind” and trembling “Never Let Me Go.” Heady work, Adjustable Things deserves close, repeated listening.

Originally Published