|Dan Tepfer, Joanna Wallfisch|
Review: Joanna Wallfisch and Dan Tepfer
(22 Mansfield Street, London. 26th May 2014. Review by Andy Boeckstaens)
English vocalist Joanna Wallfisch is part of a family with distinguished musical roots that go back generations. She is the only daughter of cellist Raphael and violinist Elizabeth (Libby) Wallfisch, and her cellist grandmother, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch – now 88 - avoided the gas chambers only because she was a member of the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz. All three were present at this performance.
32 year old pianist Dan Tepfer’s classical background is only slightly less entrenched: his mother was an opera singer and his father a jazz pianist. The Paris-born New Yorker has collaborated frequently with the great saxophonist Lee Konitz, and his acclaimed 62-track album Goldberg Variations/Variations contains Bach’s aria and variations, and his own improvisations on them.
Beneath a sparkling chandelier and surrounded by works of art in an opulent salon off Portland Place, the pair started bravely with the semi-acronymic Back Attya (the American’s interesting re-jig of All The Things You Are). It immediately revealed Wallfisch's beautifully clear voice, Tepfer's supreme pianism, and the empathy between them.
You could hear traffic splashing the wet road outside as Wallfisch uttered “It’s raining in the city”, the opening line to her poetic Satin Grey. Tepfer’s wordless Diverge – described as “a bit of a tongue twister” – was more fun, and he fashioned a folky drone by tapping, plucking and stroking the piano strings throughout This Is How You Make Me Feel. It reminded me of Joni Mitchell, and spookily it was followed by a tender reading of the legendary Canadian’s Both Sides Now.
In a solo section, Wallfisch used loop technology to create, with her voice, a rhythmic backing and harmonies to Time Doesn’t Play Fair. At the piano – assisted by Tepfer, who obligingly held the microphone - she continued the melancholy mood with (Coney Island’s) Brighton Beach, where “Your anger, your envy, your doubt, your thirst for knowledge dissolves”.
The slow, dirty blues that one might have hoped for never came, but there were several highlights. Tepfer, unaccompanied, really laid into his improvisation on the last of five Goldberg Variations. During Jimmy Rowles’ The Peacocks, his face almost touched the keyboard as he rapturously swayed back and forth, and Wallfisch – singing Norma Winstone’s words – brilliantly negotiated the song's notoriously difficult bridge. At the end of the 75-minute set, real passion was unleashed at last. Tepfer flew through a magnificent, rhythmic solo, and Wallfisch’s cool melted in a flowing take on Chick Corea’s lovely You’re Everything.
Tepfer and Wallfisch delivered a stylish and enjoyable show, and they should be applauded, particularly, for presenting largely original material. They recorded several of these songs in New York a week ago, and the results – expected to appear on CD later this year – are eagerly awaited.
(The concert was hosted by Robert and Elisabeth Boas. It was in aid of the Nicholas Boas Charitable Trust which supports young musicians at the start of their careers.)