The Checkout: Dan Tepfer, Escape Artist

May 24, 2017

Dan Tepfer is a unique combination of things — a jazz pianist, a scientist with a degree in astrophysics, a computer programmer, even an occasional book reviewer for The New York Times. You'd never think a man of his talent and determination would also be prone to being locked up — figuratively, or, as he reveals in this Checkout podcast, literally.


Tepfer reflects on the meaning behind his new trio album, Eleven Cages, featuring Thomas Morgan (bass), and Nate Wood (drums). He became infatuated with idea of cages years ago, and how they can metaphorically be applied in a jazz setting to achieve optimal results.

When constraints are made to a musical form in an improvised setting, for instance — a determined rhythmic pattern or melodic progression — something quite liberating can happen. To Tepfer's elation, the magic occurs when he wiggles outside of the composition's form. And yes, the pianist tells us about the oddly fruitful time he spent two nights in a New York City jail.

Also, read this brilliant article written by Dan Tepfer for WBGO.  The pianist and astrophysicist "Walks Us Through the Music of the Cosmos."

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