Dan Tepfer, an acclaimed jazz pianist who was recently praised for his "brilliant career" in the New York Times, has been studying J.S. Bach's classic work, the Goldberg Variations, for a number of years, mainly, as he puts it, "for fun". In the past six months, however, starting with a solo tour through the Czech Republic and France, he has been performing them in public, and -- as befits a musician whose career has been built mainly within the contemporary jazz world -- incorporating improvisation into the mix.
The project is unique because, while other musicians have either played the Goldbergs as they were written or transformed them completely, Tepfer does both, playing each variation as it was intended, and only then giving his own, improvisatory take on each. In past performances, Tepfer has succeeded in staying strongly connected to the initial work, while simultaneously allowing himself to move away and explore contemporary musical ideas, all through Bach's prism. We get a free-flowing, personal view of Bach, but we also get Bach's word, to come back to after the storm.