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Pianist/Composer Dave Flippo's 'Dedications – Jazz From Planet Flippo'—a World Of Eclectism And Invention


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An enjoying and captivating work.
—Hrayr Attarian, All About Jazz
When Dr. Dave Flippo told his bandmates that he wanted to write music for each of them for his new album, he asked what elements they wanted him to include. He found their answers surprising and challenging — like writing a waltz in four or a song about a giraffe. But Flippo, a Chicago-based jazz pianist, composer, vocalist, bandleader, and educator, was certainly up for the challenge. On “Dedications – Jazz From Planet Flippo," he includes eight original tunes and three by well-known pop artists re-imagined in the jazz idiom. Each tune is dedicated to a member of the band and to friends, family, and other artists whom he admires.

Dedications is Flippo’s sixth CD as a leader. It follows Life on Mars (2016), Tao Tunes (2011), When the Heart is Strong, the Voice Rings True (2004), Ganesh (2001) and Tendrils of Light (1994). Each of his recordings reflects Flippo’s interest in continually widening his musical palette by incorporating different styles of music and music from other cultures. The Chicago Tribune says, “Of all the Chicago jazz ensembles searching for new sounds, one of the more alluring has to be Flippomusic, the rare band of musical adventurers who prefer to seduce the ear rather than accost it." “If Six Were Nine,” a track from Life on Mars, was chosen by the 2016 Jazz Connects Jukebox Jury Award as part of the Jazz Connects Conference sponsored by JazzTimes Magazine.

Flippo is a native of Pittsburgh, PA. He began playing piano by ear at the age of four and learned to read music before he could read words. Unlike most other kids, he grew up more interested in jazz and classical music than in rock ‘n’ roll. He pursued his interest in music by earning a Doctorate in Music Composition/Piano at the University of Michigan and a master’s degree at the Eastman School of Music. After completing his doctorate, he was living in Ann Arbor and contemplating what his next move should be. Flippo says, “After I got my doctorate, I wanted to challenge myself. Ann Arbor was a nice town, but it’s small without many opportunities for me to seriously apply my education. My choices were to go to either New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. Coming from Pittsburgh, I was already a mid-Westerner, and I thought I’d be more at home in Chicago. It wound up working great for me, and I’ve been there ever since.”

When Flippo got to Chicago, he began working odd jobs to support himself while building a performing and teaching career. He also became a serious student of jazz and began studying jazz theory and piano with Chicago jazz teacher Alan Swain.

Between 1988-1990, Flippo began performing and composing for the Ethos Chamber Orchestra, which specialized in “third stream" compositions that combine classical music and jazz. In 1992, he put together his first jazz band, Flippomusic. Flippo’s original compositions on their first two recordings, Tendrils of Light and Ganesh, fused World music grooves with jazz.

Although there were some personnel changes in the ensemble over the years, the one thing that has remained consistent is Flippo’s wide ranging musical interests. He began singing on When the Heart is Strong, a duo album with bassist Donn De Santo. He also sang on a truly unique album, Tao Tunes, which comprises all original tunes in a variety of styles which sets eighteen chapters of the ancient Chinese text, the Tao Te Ching.

Flippo now calls his ensemble Jazz From Planet Flippo. It is made up of some of the top Chicago-based jazz musicians who have now been with Flippo for 10-15 years. The band includes bassist Donn De Santo, saxophonist and flutist Dan Hesler, drummer Heath Chappell, Percussionist Aras Biskis, who performed with the group when it was a quintet, appears as guest performer on two tracks.

The wide range of styles on Dedications displays Flippo’s prowess as a composer and arranger. He opens the album with Stevie Wonder’s “Too High” from his album 1973 recording Innervisions. Flippo gives the tune a twist by extending the song’s famous opening lick by stretching out the rhythm and reharmonizing the song with jazz chords and adding a chromatic bass line.

He also tackles Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” by combining a New Orleans groove with a swinging bridge. “Karma Police” is a song by the group Radiohead. A student of Flippo’s had asked him to write an arrangement for him. Flippo likes the song’s quirky chords and rearranged it for this recording.

Flippo’s original compositions include “Finch House,” which was inspired by the songs of the finches who come to feed at the several bird feeders in his yard. The song is in 7/8 time with a mellow feel. “Giraffe Track,” about a giraffe loping across the savanna, is dedicated to Dan Hesler. Flippo wrote “Third Eye Open” with a development section, which is often used in classical music. Dedicated to Donn De Santo, it is a long form that utilizes a three-chord progression that strives to form a full harmonic circle. Flippo dedicates “Freewheelin’” to his son Gabriel. It comprises a cycle of minor 7 chords in a circle of fourths.

Aras Biskis asked Flippo to write a Greek jig for him, two styles that no one has ever combined. The result is “Syrtotic,” written in 14 with a complicated 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2, 1-2 rhythm. Flippo dedicates “Four-Four Waltz” to his jazz mentor Alan Swain. “Spring Joy” is a happy tune with a springtime feeling that Flippo dedicates to his wife, Melissa. Drummer Heath Chappell requested a song in which he could explore different meters that could be out of time with the rest of the band. The result is “Methamorphosis.”

With its eclectic styles, odd meters, and accessible melodies, Dedications – Jazz From Planet Flippo is a showcase for Flippo’s broad interests, erudition and inventiveness. It is an eminently fun album that features a tightly knit, top-notch band all in tune with Flippo’s expansive imagination.

Dedications was released on June 4, 2021 and is available everywhere.

Online: Flippomusic.com Facebook.com/flippomusic Twitter: @flippomusicman YouTube: http://bit.ly/FlippoChannel

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