Following the release of prolific LPs in each of the past two years, the Los Angeles-based pianist and jazz hip-hop producer Kiefer is back with his third drop, a smooth yet experimental six-track EP titled Bridges on the stalwart Stones Throw Records. Kiefer has more than earned his stripes in Los Angeles’ happening beat scene; he’s a constant in Mndsgn’s live trio and has production credits with Anderson .Paak and Kaytranada. In just a few days he’ll be hitting the road to perform Bridges and more with a robust jazz ensemble.
Among contemporary musicians who boldly blend jazz and hip-hop, Kiefer distinguishes himself with his virtuosity on the piano. He was taught to play at a very young age by his father, and would later study under renowned jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell at UCLA’s Jazz Studies program. He works with melodic jazz chords and offers insane riffs, moving up, down and across scales and styles to create colorful and diverse tonal palettes. Bridges finds Kiefer using new instruments including analog synthesizers alongside his signature piano, and taking a more thoughtful and intricate approach to songwriting.
On his debut Kickinit Alone and then 2018’s Happysad, Kiefer kept close at hand beat tape motifs like repeating phrases and piano loops (although he played the loops were played by Kiefer himself and not sampled himself). With Bridges, an entendre alluding to the musical bridge, he expands the scope of his composition and arrangement and takes greater risks. Listen closely as analog synthesizers delicately garnish “Orange Crayon”, or take the lead in “Cute”. True to its name, “Sunny” is a musical representation of a fantastical stroll in the sunshine. Kiefer lets his fingers loose on this one and serves up dizzying piano phrasing, though in key moments it’s the notes not played that may evoke the greatest response.
Next week Kiefer is hitting East Coast cities including New York and Philadelphia then heading abroad for his first headlining European tour. He’ll be backed by jazz musicians including Jonah Levine (trombone, keys), Sam Gendel (alto saxophone), Andy McCauley (bass), and Will Logan (drums). For a small taste of his live show, check out this live recording of tunes from Happysad.
Kiefer hit on such an attractive and indeed addictive jazz-hop sound with his first two releases that it would have been all too easy to stay in that lane and continue crushing. It’s all the more admirable, then, that he sought out new musical ground on Bridges. Despite the slight switch up in style, the warm, welcoming vibe of his music is unchanged. He hopes it can provoke smiles and positive emotion from his audience. “It’s comforting to see someone who is truly dedicated to making beautiful stuff,” he says, “I want people to see someone genuinely pour their heart into something.”
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