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Susquehanna Life

Jazz at Bucknell Opens September 17, 2014

Sep 19, 2014 02:25PM ● By Erica Shames
The Jazz at Bucknell series opens with two concerts by pianist Dan Tepfer.
The first, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 17, begins at 7:30 p.m. in Bucknell Hall. The program includes a solo performance of Tepfer's Goldberg Variations/Variations, an interpretation of Bach's legendary work.
The second, scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 18, begins at 7:30 p.m. in Bucknell Hall. The program will be a collaborative performance of Tepfer's iPhone project with Bucknell faculty members, including Profs. Emily Martin (soprano), Colleen Hartung (clarinet), Bill Kenny (horn), Barry Long (trumpet), and Lisa Caravan (cello).
Both events, which are free and open to the public, are presented as part of the ongoing Jazz at Bucknell series.
"We're delighted to welcome back the brilliant young pianist Dan Tepfer for a two-day residency to open this year's Jazz@Bucknell series," said Barry Long, music professor at Bucknell and series coordinator. "His virtuosic reinterpretations of Bach and creative use of collaborative technology are a perfect match for our students and community."
Born in Paris to American parents, "tremendously gifted" (LA Times) pianist-composer Dan Tepfer has translated his bi-cultural identity into an exploration of music that ignores stylistic bounds. His 2011 Goldberg Variations / Variations, which pairs his performance of Bach's work with improvised variations of his own, has received broad praise as a "riveting, inspired, fresh musical exploration" (New York Times).
He has worked with the leading lights in jazz, including extensively with saxophone luminary Lee Konitz, while releasing seven albums as a leader. As a composer, he is a recipient of the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for works including Concerto for Piano and Winds, premiered in the Prague Castle with himself on piano, and Solo Blues for Violin and Piano, premiered at Carnegie Hall.
Tepfer's awards include first prize and audience prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition, first prize at the East Coast Jazz Festival Competition, and the Cole Porter Fellowship from the American Pianists Association. His recent soundtrack for the independent feature Movement and Location was voted Best Original Score at the 2014 Brooklyn Film Festival.
iPhone app
Bringing together his undergraduate studies in astrophysics with his passion for music, Tepfer is working on integrating computer-driven algorithms into his improvisational approach. A controller keyboard on top of his piano feeds the notes he plays into his laptop. "From there, a piece of software I wrote organizes them and sends them individually, via WiFi, to iPhones sitting on stands in front of the musicians in the group.
"This opens up a whole new avenue for improvised music. For the first time, I can coordinate harmonies between musicians in the moment. In an educational context, this can be a fantastic way of bringing students on stage to share the creative moment. Playing the notes displayed on the iPhone isn't difficult. But knowing how to play them — deciding on a rhythm, a dynamic, a phrasing, and harmonizing deeply with the other musicians on stage — this is the very essence of musicianship. It's a situation that poses, in the most direct way, the question: what does it mean to play together? To turn the abstraction of notes into meaningful music? 
"It can come as a surprise that something as cold and dry as a smartphone could help in exploring such human questions, questions that deal with human empathy. But they can, because they open up a new, fast vector of communication between us. The rest is up to the good old-fashioned magic of the moment," Tepfer said.
The Jazz at Bucknell series presents international modern masters and young visionaries, showcasing the entire tradition of jazz, from standards to the avant-garde, with an eye on artists who continue the innovative tradition of the music with their personal approaches to sound, style and composition.
The fall concert series includes: Ambrose Akinmusire's Quintet on Oct. 1; the Jonathan Ragonese and Steve Rudolph Duo on Oct. 2; the Donny McCaslin Quartet on Nov. 5; and a performance of Duke Ellington's Nutcracker by the Zeropoint Big Band on Dec. 8.  
The spring concert schedule includes Mary Halvorson's Thumbscrew Trio on Feb. 4; the Nadje Noordhuis Quintet on Feb. 25; and Linda Oh's Quartet on April 8.

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