The night after his impressive take on Bach's Goldberg Variations, American pianist Dan Tepfer was back in City Halls' Recital Room, this time in trio formation with bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Ted Poor.
Low lighting, cabaret-style tables and punters sipping pints of beer signalled the straightest-up "jazz gig" of Glasgow's ongoing Piano series – and in many ways what we got here was classic trio fare, less audacious than Tepfer's solo show but always searching and inventive. The band was amplified with care but the speaker sound still lost some of the range of colours that Tepfer explored in his acoustic solo playing.
Most of the music in this single set was Tepfer's own: expansive, often minor-key, its melodies laced with the same slick angularity that marked his Goldberg improvisations. He's an inquisitive mind (he studied astrophysics at Edinburgh University before switching to jazz full time) and a couple of cover tunes – Beyonce's Single Ladies was a particular gem – showed off real skill as an arranger. Upbeat numbers were often built around motoric left-hand piano ostinatos that provided a lot of energy but risked locking Tepfer into rhythmic rigidity. The trio was at its most dynamic when he played most freely, using the keyboard for percussive punctuation or impressionistic chorales while Sanders and Poor provided a loose, lilting, interlocking rhythm section.
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Most striking of all were the slow numbers: Gratitude, a beautiful ballad Tepfer wrote for bassist Gary Peacock; Gershwin's I Loves You Porgy; and a haunting version of Jacques Brel's Le Plat Pays. Here the trio sound blended warmly and Tepfer's artful use of dissonance to add impressionistic haze came through.