Life On Mars
The Dave Flippo Trio
Dave Flippo – Piano and keyboard
Donn De Santo – Electric and acoustic bass
Heath Chappell – Drums
Pianist Dave Flippo’s release Life on Mars is not as esoteric as the title sounds. He and his trio elegantly interpret classic rock tunes with a couple of standards thrown into the mix, and endow them with a delightful sense of swing.
The overall laid-back mood the band creates bellies constantly engaging variations in their approach to the material. The Curtis Lewis/Nat Adderley-penned “Old Country” opens with lilting effervescence and hints of Latin. Flippo’s facile, charming solo filled with graceful arpeggios nods at Western classical influences. Bassist Donn De Santo embellishes the melody with lyricism before the three musicians exchange clever and inventive phrases. Haunting group performance with con-arco bass makes for a memorable conclusion.
In intriguing contrast stand such tracks as the award-winning “If Six Were Nine.” The Jimi Hendrix piece features electric instrumentation and a funky ambience. Flippo’s acerbic keyboard notes swagger with soul while De Santo lays down muscular bass lines. Another example is Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue,” where Flippo and De Santo converse in an eloquent dialogue with plenty of deep simmer over drummer Heath Chappell’s thunderous gallop.
Flippo’s arrangements do not simply “jazzify” the originals, but tastefully infuse them with new sensibilities. On Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning,” the ensemble plays the theme with suave subtly. Flippo improvises with crystalline tones, showcasing the composition’s complex beauty. Meanwhile Stevie Wonder’s “Visions” is given a crepuscular mood with darkly hued rhythms. Flippo again gracefully exposes its sublime and emotive core.
Life on Mars may not be terribly innovative or groundbreaking, but thanks to the high-caliber artistry of the individual musicians and their superb camaraderie, it is pleasantly alluring. This enjoyable and captivating work puts a fresh spin on these much-loved songs without detracting from their inherent appeal.