It doesn't seem possible that pianist Dave Hepler will have completed 20 years of playing jazz at the Midtown Grill. What started out as the Dave Hepler Trio with Harold Cardwell on drums and Matt Thompson on bass in the '90s wound up with Hepler developing his own introspective solo style. Along the way he self-produced five CDs, including the first jazz Christmas CD released by a local artist.
Dave Hepler plays Fridays and Saturdays at Midtown Grill.
His latest effort is Song For My Father, released this fall, a tribute to the memory of his trumpet-playing father, Jim Hepler. Ironically, Hepler started out as a trumpet major at Indiana University before switching to piano. For the past decade, Hepler has been very active in bringing jazz to kids through the Young Audiences program and now performs in schools with actor/storyteller Will Gould.
Hepler has a placid nature about him when talking about playing jazz and his composing abilities; he reveals some musical facets he wants to improve on in this interview.
NUVO: You have a unique sound on your original tunes. Is it from music theory you were taught?
Hepler: I am mostly self-taught: I have never had a piano lesson. Over the years I haven't analyzed the harmony that much. I have let the music evolve from improvisation. Now I am starting to study a little bit more what it is I'm actually doing.
NUVO: How do you see the local jazz scene today compared to when you started in the '80s?
Hepler: It seems to me in some way there are more places to play. Yet it always seems to me, if you look for it you can find it. You can always find jazz around town. I think technology has helped those that want to produce CDs and have more opportunities to have their voices heard. Musically that seems like a positive thing if you have the passion and opportunities to do it.
NUVO: Who are the jazz pianists you listen to locally and nationally?
Hepler: I listen to and have been influenced by all of them; around here there are so many great ones. Claude Sifferlen definitely influenced me - and Steve Allee. I got to meet McCoy Tyner. He definitely made an impression. Going back farther, Bill Evans influenced me.
All of those influences can be heard every Friday and Saturday at the Midtown Grill, 815 E. Westfield Blvd., from 6 to 9 p.m.
One of Indy's brightest young jazz artists is saxophone prodigy Sophie Faught. Faught has been astounding local jazz aficionados since the age of 13 with her knowledge of jazz standards and her skillfully improvised solos that demonstrate a maturity well beyond her tender years.
She has been a standout music student at Franklin Central High School and, because of her exceptional talent, has been tutored for six years at the University of Indianapolis by Harry Miedema, director of jazz studies and a respected saxophonist. Monday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m., the University of Indianapolis Faculty Artist Series will honor Sophie Faught in the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall of the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center with "Sophie's Farewell Concert." She is a graduating senior at Franklin Central High School and will be attending Indiana University on a full scholarship next fall.
Supporting Sophie Faught's tenor saxophone will be Harry Miedema, tenor saxophone; Claude Sifferlen, piano; Joe Deal, bass; and Byron Kern, drums. I have followed Sophie Faught's amazing young career and watched her wow the crowd on a Saturday morning last year at the Indy Jazz Fest with her quintet of teen-agers. Faught is a gifted and rare jazz talent whose career star can only go up.