Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ben Wendel & Dan Tepfer @ Rubin Museum 3/14/13

An atypical night for Harlem in the Himalayas, which when they have it, is usually on a Fri night, not a Wed.  We hypothesized it was because the duo is on tour and they wanted to fit them in.  Harlem in the Himalayas is a joint venture with the Harlem Jazz Museum and the Rubin Museum due to the Harlem museum not having an actual space and the Rubin having a great space with great acoustics.  The Rubin performance space is extra cool because the acoustics are so good that the performers play truly acoustic - no mics or amps or any kind of electricity whatsoever.

The music was good.  It's a CD release tour and it was fun to hear about the making of the CD.  They basically played music from the CD.  About half the pieces on the CD are duos, including some Monk and standards and perhaps other stuff.  They also described some of the constructed pieces on the CD.  Ben plays a lot of instruments including all of the saxophones, bassoon, piano and guitar,  apparently they mixed in different instruments into some tracks.  They told us about one track that has 2 bassoons.  Dan mainly played the tenor on the gig.  He did play bassoon for one (or 2?) At the show.

They also had an idea to have some improvised vignettes in between tracks on the CD.  But, they were never happy with the results.  That is, until they switched instruments, with Ben on piano and Dan on alto sax.  That's what they did for their improvised piece inspired by a work at the Rubin Museum.  It was fun, although I admit I enjoyed Ben's piano more than Dan's sax.  I really love Dan on piano and admire his willingness to improvise on the sax on the tour.  While I presume the other venues aren't asking them to improvise with a piece of art in mind, they are doing an improvised piece at each stop.

I liked the lively Monk piece they did toward the end and the last piece the most.  The whole show was enjoyable and fun.
NYC musicians Dan Tepfer and Ben Wendel will be playing the Rubin Museum for the release of their first duo album together, Small Constructions, out March 12th on Sunnyside Records.
Pianist/composer Tepfer, a frequent collaborator of jazz great Lee Konitz's, has been described by The New York Times as "a player of exceptional poise who is drawn to the deeper currents of melody".
The LA Times has praised saxophonist / bassoonist Wendel, a founding member of the Grammy-nominated band Kneebody, as "a composer with a restless ear".
On Small Constructions, Wendel and Tepfer range from kaleidoscopic Monk and a remodeled standard to classical variations and melody-rich originals, creating a set of songs that expresses their mutual love of jazz, classical, pop and more. "A summit meeting of two steadily rising talents.” —LA Times &

About the Artists

Known for his rare improvisational gift and a complex yet melodic approach to music-making, the prize-winning pianist Dan Tepfer has been hailed as "a player of exceptional poise" by The New York Times, while Downbeat extolled his "ability to disappear into the music as he's making it."
A New York-based pianist and composer and one of the most formidable jazz musicians on the international stage, Dan has enjoyed a sustained, ongoing duo partnership with alto saxophonist and jazz luminary Lee Konitz. They have appeared together live at the Village Vanguard and many other leading jazz venues.
Born to American parents in Paris in 1982, Dan began classical piano studies at age six at the Paris Conservatoire Paul Dukas. He took a somewhat circuitous route to a jazz career, earning a degree in astrophysics from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. But beginning even as a toddler, Dan explored improvisation on his own. He played extensively on the jazz scene in college and enjoyed a brief stint as an opera conductor. After graduating in 2005 from Boston’s New England Conservatory and completing his masters under the guidance of Danilo Perez, Dan moved to New York and quickly became an in-demand player and composer.
Dan’s numerous awards include first prize and audience prize at the 2006 Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition, first prize at the 2006 East Coast Jazz Festival Competition, and first prize at the 2007 competition of the American Pianists Association. In November 2011, Dan released a solo album on Sunnyside/Naïve entitled Goldberg Variations/Variations. In addition to working with his trio, Dan continues to focus on full solo piano concerts of freely improvised music. As France’s Jazz Magazine has noted, he is “gifted with a heightened sense for form and an extraordinary confidence...”

Ben Wendel is among the saxophonists that fellow New York musicians also want to hear. More importantly, Ben is a saxophone player that the audience wants to hear. Born in Vancouver and raised in Los Angeles, Ben was educated at the Eastman School of Music. Ben has enjoyed a varied career as a performer, composer and producer. Recent highlights include multiple domestic and international tours with such artists as Cuban drumming legend Ignacio Berroa, Thelonius Monk Piano Competition Winner Tigran Hamasyan, Electronica artist Daedelus and Hip Hop artist Snoop Dogg. Ben is a founding member of the genre-bending group Kneebody. In addition to playing saxophone, Ben also doubles on the bassoon and piano. As a composer he has scored multiple films, received an ASCAP Jazz Composer Award, was a winner in the 2007 International Songwriting Competition and also received the Chamber Music America New Works Grant.
Ben is a recording artist with Sunnyside Records, with plans for his second release in Spring 2012. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Jazz Studies at USC and currently teaches through The New School in NYC. Ben recently had the honor of conducting a re-creation of “Bird With Strings” at Jazz At The Lincoln Center with guests Charles McPherson and Wes “Warm Daddy” Anderson.

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