At once familiar and new, the music of the Dan Tepfer Trio has unusual but inviting grooves, based largely around Tepfer's way with a piano. With Richie Barshay on drums and Jorge Roeder on double bass, the combo can't help but sound at first like any jazz trio you've heard at your local watering hole. But the melody lines go places you don't expect them to. Minor chords and discordant riffs abound. Nothing here even approximates a cover tune.
The feel of the music is introspective and at times classical, with Tepfer often seeming to be brooding, lost in thought. At other times the tempo picks up with an urban, gritty feel. One can easily imagine many of these tracks as film scores accompanying anxious, unsettled characters.
Happily, the trio never goes quite so far around the bend that the sound stops being music. It is indeed music, and if at times it is disturbing it can also be soothing. It is always interesting.
The investment in getting used to this strange material does pay off. It is refreshingly original and is often so complex and sophisticated that it seems to demand your attention. While the trio may or may not be the self-claimed "new generation of jazz," Tepfer is certainly among those who are not overly respectful of jazz traditions. He is clearly willing to play with familiar formulas and take new approaches, even as he incorporates strokes from the masters.
Tepfer himself is age 22, and claims both American and French roots. He graduated with honors in astrophysics in 2003 from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. While there he took first prize for classical piano performance in the Edinburgh Festival Competition and was semifinalist of the International Martial Solal Jazz Piano Competition in Paris (and Tepfer does echo Solal at times). He now studies at the New England Conservatory. Both Roeder and Barshay have international backgrounds and impressive resumes as well.
Together they have created a true jazz album, but it is cutting-edge jazz that pricks the mind and the ears. Don't expect an hour of background cocktail music here, or for that matter much that can be easily identified and labeled. This is the product of many streams of thought coming from various places, producing an enjoyable but novel sound.