Recent Listening: Two Superb Pianists


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Sam Leak, Dan Tepfer, Adrift (Jellymould)

Pianists from opposite sides of the Atlantic met in a New York studio to collaborate in an engrossing performance of Sam Leak compositions as a suite called “Adrift.” Leak’s partner in recording the eight sections, or movements, was Dan Tepfer, a pianist whose reputation has grown in great part because of his recordings with alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, and Tepfer’s adaptation and variations on J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.” Of the Bach project The Wall Street Journal reviewer wrote that Tepfer built “a bridge across centuries and genres.”

In “Adrift,” the two meld, spar, build on one another’s improvisatory notions and, in general, explore a deep and satisfying range of two-piano possibilities. In some aspects, they recall jazz keyboard collaborations like those of Dick Wellstood and Dick Hyman, Jaki Byard and Earl Hines, Bengt Hallberg and Jan Lundgren—but Leak’s and Tepfer’s playing often suggests that they are drawing equally upon familiarity with contemporary classical music. Though it may be difficult to cite specific pieces or composers as influences, the 20th Century modern classical feeling is part of the milieu. This is a deeply satisfying encounter of two gifted pianists.

There is something else to recommend it: unlike in too many albums since the beginning of the long-playing era, Leak and Tepfer did not feel compelled to overfill the recording; it totals slightly less than a half-hour, making repeated hearings all the more attractive. In a Jellymould promotional clip, they recalled how the project came about.

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This story appears courtesy of Rifftides by Doug Ramsey.
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