Some virtuosos plunge into glib, empty virtuosity. That's not true of Mehldau — there's musical "content" in every phrase. And he never loses control. But sometimes I wish he'd take a breath — and give us one, too. His next Sanders show (on March 12, courtesy of World Music/CRASHarts, worldmusic.org) is billed as "Brad Mehldau and Friends" and will offer the Boston premiere of a "new work for two pianos, six winds, and percussion" as well as pieces by other composers. Along with a murderers' row of saxophonists (Chris Cheek, Chris Potter, Joshua Redman, Greg Tardy, Sam Sadigursky, and Joris Roelofs), the night includes singer Becca Stevens. I'll be there.
Tepfer, at 29, is a generation younger than Mehldau, and also drummer George Schuller, whose trio will include him at the Vernissage Restaurant in Brookline tonight (March 3; vernissagerestaurant.com). At the Regattabar, Tepfer was just edgy enough to make Konitz happy as they transformed standard pop-song chord changes together, and he was brave enough to accompany the saxophonist with agitated running lines as well as rhythm chords. Five Pedals Deep (with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Ted Poor) shows him in a more Mehldau mode — not beholden to jazz swing, pursuing out-of-tempo ballads, and with that particular rhapsodic streak that splits the difference between the German Romantics and Radiohead. I'm thinking in particular of his "All She Heard Was Nothing," with its insistent, tolling bass figure and the yearning rise and fall of those agitated melody lines. There are also restless modulations, but his textures aren't as thick as Mehldau's, and on his standard-sounding "I Was Wonderin'," he plays some fleet little runs that are so delicate and beautifully articulated, you'd imagine you could snap them off in your teeth like ribbon candy. Tepfer returns to the Regattabar (regattabarjazz.com) March 16 with bassist Joe Martin drummer Colin Stranahan.
FRED HERSCH, who comes to Jordan Hall March 8 (necmusic.edu) to play a free duo concert with pianist Jason Moran, could be the father of Mehldau and Tepfer — generationally and musically. In fact, he was one of Mehldau's teachers. Hersch has battled precarious health for years because of AIDS; in 2008, he fell into a two-month coma. The new Alone at the Vanguard (Palmetto) was recorded at that New York club during a week-long gig late last year. Here's all the technique and imagination of those who have followed him, and the wide-reaching rhapsodies. But however much else is going on — clustered modulations, extended counterpoint, stacked harmonies — his textures remain transparent. And, even in his own "Pastorale," which is dedicated to Schumann, he maintains his link with the jazz past, with American Songbook tradition (he has a long association with singers). There's also a wit and playfulness that's as affecting as his lyricism, as when his "Down Home" (dedicated to Bill Frisell) splits its folklike theme into diverging strands of melody that come back together. What's more, his rhythms on that tune go back past bebop to stride.