February 25, 2018, 4 pm
Dan Tepfer - Eric Harland
What does one do with a degree in astrophysics from the University of Edinburgh? Become a world-renowned jazz pianist, that’s what.* Rather than do what I usually do here, give his background and a bit of what I think of his music, let me quote Mr. Tepfer himself at some length, because it does the job effectively and with a certain grace. It shows the roots of his eclecticism, his ability to play music, not just jazz.
“I’ve been making music for as long as I can remember — it’s always been my primary mode of expression. I grew up studying classical piano and obsessively improvising jazz at home. For most of my creative life, I’ve navigated the divide between these two worlds, though at this point my deepest roots lie in jazz and improvisation. I’ve been lucky to get to make music with some of the very best musicians in the jazz community, from Lee Konitz to Pharoah Sanders via Mark Turner and Paul Motian.
The truth, however, is that style has never felt all that important to me. I grew up bilingual, raised in France by an American family, which may explain why I’ve always been much more attached to content than to form, more concerned with what’s being said than the language in which it’s being expressed. As a result, I’ve grown increasingly drawn to exploring different means of expression for my music in order to further isolate the message from the medium. A sports analogy: if you always play tennis against the same person, you only get better at playing against that person. If you always play with different people, you get better at tennis. What I’m trying to do is clarify my message, independently of style. To get right at the music itself.”
Eric Harland is similarly versatile, “poly-backgrounded” as it were. He is, for example, an ordained Baptist minister and just opened a recording studio in New York. He has appeared, even at his young age, on over 200 recordings. He now is emerging as a leader on his own with a 2010 and 2014 CDs. Mr. Harland’s playing transcends "just drumming." He is ever inventive, ever melodic, and always swinging.
I heard these two gentlemen at Mezzrow in New York last February and was completely knocked out. They began with Solar, one of my favorite tunes which I only recognized from EH’s stick work. Tepfer’s teasing beginning eluded me. Next came Caravan. My notes say “10 bazillion [that’s a technical term in chemistry] stars for Harland’s opening.” On Caravan, each played the other’s instrument, Harland with sticks inside the piano, and Tepfer at Harland’s kit a little later. Then, to close, a lovely Nearness of You. A great evening that we will bring to you February 25th. Don’t miss it!
Duos with Lee, 2009, Sunnyside
Five Pedals Deep 2010, Sunnyside
Bach: Goldberg Variations, 2017, Sunnyside
Eleven Cages, 2017, Sunnyside
Voyager, 2010, Space Time
Vipassana, 2014, GSI
* He still gives talks on astrophysics: get yourself to Maui on February 8th and you can hear him speak at the UH Institute for Astronomy Advanced Technology Research Center.