From the opening burst of explosive sound of its title track, Ganesh is as startlingly brash and original as its cover art suggests. Its musical boundaries span the globe with the sounds and styles and rhythmic influences, reaching from Africa to Arabia, to Ireland and India, and back here to the Chicago jazz scene. Although musician/composer David Flippo, the musical guru of Flippomusic, is based in Skokie and has been teaching and performing in the Chicago area for a number of years, his training in music history, ethnomusicology and Indian musical theory and practice (including a doctorate from the University of Michigan) has led his considerable composing, arranging and keyboard skills down a decidedly global path.
Although Flippomusic's sound defies easy categorization, it frequently calls to mind the musical landscapes of Weather Report. But whereas that band fused elements of world music into a more homogeneous blend, Flippo seems to zero in on diverse styles and disciplines, and then turn them into something uniquely his own.
Flippomusic, as a performing group, is diverse as well, including Lithuanian precussionist Aris Biskis, who plays the "stack-o-cymbals and beads," Heath Chappell, also on percussion, Dan Hesler, saxophone and flute, and Donn DeSanto on electric and acoustic bass. And for on this CD, these regular members are joined by tabla player Yatindra Viad on two tracks, and Julliard-trained flutist, Lyon Leifer, who plays "bansuri," an Eastern Indian bamboo flute on the tune "Battle of Shiva and Ganesh." As a member of the St. Louis Symphony, Leifer received a Fulbright government grant which led him to New Dehli, and then to Bombay, and an opportunity for study with the renowned Indian bansuri player and craftsman Devendra Murdeshwar.
But, all diversity aside, this CD is a joy to listen to from beginning to end. The title track, "Ganesh," is based on an Indian raga and employs a fascinating melodic line that seems to turn on itself, shifting its rhythmic accents in mirror-like fashion, featuring fine solos from Dave and saxophonist Dan Hesler. Then, from the land of incense and elephants, Flippo takes us deep into the arid regions of the Mideast with "Camel Trot," incorporating non-traditional counterpoint and harmony with traditional Arabic scales. "Cool Ali," sounds a bit like Weather Report with Hesler's tenor sax cushioned in cool keyboard textures. Every tune is a stand-out and, as we, the listeners, journey through these tracks, the superb contributions of DeSanto, Chappell and Biskis become more evident, sweeping us up and away with seamless crescendos—taking us to dizzying heights and down again.
Dispersed among the arranged ensemble tracks, produced by Flippo, Hesler and DeSanto, are several more recent solo piano performances, produced by Flippo and Bradley Parker-Sparrow. The inclusion of these more meditative interludes, all compositions by Flippo, add yet another intriguing dimension to this richly satisfying program.—Dennis Sieja
Available on the Southport label, widely distributed in Chicago stores or via their website www.chicagosound.com .