Dave Flippo: Newly Emergent Thoughtful Old Hand in Jazz – “Tao Tunes” Album Announced

Dave Flippo, FLIPPOMUSIC Tao Tunes
Releases November 27, 2011
Available as CD or by download at CD Baby

Dave Flippo,Piano,vocals
Dan Hesler, Sax,flute
Donn De Santo, Bass
Heath Chappell, Drums

Larry Gray, Cello,
Neal Alger, Guitar
Hamid Drake, Percussion
Mike Levin, Clarinets,flute
Katherine Hughes,Violin

“Chicago’s FLIPPOMUSIC has presented the unique, original jazz of Dave Flippo since 1992, when it introduced Chicago to its “global jazz” world fusion with two CD’s on Southport Records: Tendrils of Light and Ganesh. Since then, Flippo’s development as a singer has spawned two additional CD’s of vocal compositions, The Heart is Strong and, presently, Tao Tunes.

Tao Tunes returns to Flippo’s world-theme with the setting of ancient Chinese texts, the Tao Te Ching in a range of styles that reflects his musical travels and experience. Full of timeless observations and wisdom as well as energy and humor, the CD contains 10 different styles, including a number of Latin and jazz grooves, funk, ambient, and rock and also contains a number of extensive arrangements. The ensemble has played throughout the Chicago area at the Taste of Chicago, Southshore Jazz Festival, Chicago Symphony “East Meets West Festival”,and artist series at every area College.

For thirty years, The Tao Te Ching has been a central force in the life of Dave Flippo since he first discovered the texts in his early 20’s in college. Its message has helped form his view of
life, his relationship with people and his approach to music. Flippo notes, ‘As I’ve studied cultures the world over, I keep finding the blending of the shaman and music. Music is used by many to
teach, to sooth and even heal, and that is very much a part of how I’ve approached this project, this time in a much more direct way than before. ‘

Flippo’s earlier global jazz compositions attempted to “glue together” the peoples of the world and celebrate their endless variations on a theme. This project, Tao Tunes is Flippo’s
journey to his own spiritual core – the Tao – and the joy and reverence with which he approaches these texts is apparent in the craft and personal attention found in each musical setting.”

Dave Flippo

The quartet

About this wonderful new album, Dave writes,

Tao Tunes was created because of a life-long connection I’ve had with the Tao Te Ching ever since I discovered them in my early college years in the 70’s. The text is one of the foundations for my personal spiritual approach to life and I felt the need to explore them more deeply by adapting the text to lyrics and the setting and arranging them.

My approach in adapting the various public domain translations to lyrics was to keep as close to the original words as possible, but allow for elaborations on the message with modern words, extra lines and even stanzas of new material when required by the form. I attempted to draw material from other chapters in the Tao with the understanding that I try to bring out the “essence” behind the words of each chapter I set. Also, rather than create a set of meditative, trancelike pieces, I decided to try to cover the breath of energy and moods that life possesses – dark – light; somber – joyous; serious – playful; simple – complex. The music also moves between tunes with sparse arrangement to pieces with extensive, almost through-composed arrangements.
The pieces that are not highly scored are closer to the traditional modern jazz sound. Useful is a light, fun beguine groove with a bubbling ostinado on electric piano while and Feeling is a driving samba built on three, then four measure phrases. Worthy, Returning and Truth are lush jazz ballads written with the most traditional modern jazz vocabulary on the album. Truth begins and ends with a cello cadenza by Larry Gray and who is also featured in the solo area. Stop, Paradox and Trouble are three swing tunes performed by the quartet, each with their own quirky introductions, interludes and ending. Paradox was written with two compositional ideas in place – moving harmonically by thirds on only dominant chords and building the melody out of altered extensions.

Within is a lightly scored funk ballad with completely original lyrics. This is the one instance I decided to make the message of the text into its own story. The idea of communion between a teacher and student is reflected in the back and forth interplay between the saxophone and piano. The text for Hopeless seemed to demand a forceful setting, and so it became the only hard rock piece on the album. However the music is still built over altered, chromatic chords more typical of jazz.

As for the more highly arranged pieces, Water adds light clarinet and flute lines to depict the endless, gentle flow of water in the background both in the “head” and during some of the solos. Distraction adds rolled gong and a field of metal wind chimes in the bridge to create an “other-worldly” effect to portray the expansive mind-set of the sage. Questions is a slow, 6/4 tango whose text asks a series of questions that the reader must answer for themselves. It is scored with a string and flute obbligato that soars and intermingles with the melody.

The two remaining selections – Fearless and Sick – are almost through-composed in their arrangements. Fearless again features Larry Gray on cello accompanied by saxophone trio and flute duo, portraying the force with which the subject lives their life (“he who knows how to live…”) Sick harkens back to my earlier “globaljazz” compositions and draws up the drone and non-western scales in the Indian and Middle Eastern styles. The piece is about the process of healing oneself and has a ritualistic structure. Once the song is presented a single bell heralds a wandering unison line that, each time, settles on a new drone pitch. Each drone area contains a solo which dissolves into a contrapuntal section – first in two voices, three voices and finally, after the song is represented, in four voices. The unison lines seems to represent a group of souls traveling together with a single purpose while the counterpoint could represent each of these souls expressing themselves individually while in harmony with the others.
Dave Flippo, 10-2011″

Visit the FlippoMusic web site. Listen to samples of the pieces. I am not a musician or a critic, I have no musical training whatsoever. But, I listened and I listened, over and again. I loved what I heard. This is a great album.