David Tipton

Residue 2009 CD $15.

Dave Tipton - solo Grand Stick®

David Tipton's debut Stick CD, Residue, is a fresh take on what's becoming an established form: the solo Stickist tapping out original pieces live in the studio, without overdubs or a lot of effects processing, just the clean sound of the instrument with a touch of added ambience. My first attempt at this form was back in 1987, a cassette called Whispers. Since then we've heard unaccompanied solo releases from Bob Culbertson, Leo Gosselin, Michael Kollwitz, Larry Tuttle, Jeff Pearce, Hettory and several others. The Stick's great range and the Free Hands method's counterpoint capabilities make this an "obvious" concept for a record, much like a solo piano session. The trick is in the writing, the arranging, and the performing...in other words, it takes a lot of work to pull it off. David pulls it off beautifully.

David's songs are true originals, with subtle borrowings from traditional jazz, folk, new acoustic, and new age. His performing and arranging styles remind me of many Stick players. I hear melodic approaches like Tom Griesgraber's in these very straightforward and "hummable," tunes. Contraupuntal twists and "surprise chords" remind me of Larry Tuttle's Through the Gates. The precise interweaving of accompaniment parts and melody lines, a hallmark of Bob Culbertson's playing, is taken by David to a high level as a full-blown arrangement technique, with the relationship between the two hands very carefully mapped out and tightly integrated, and wonderfully impossible to "decipher" as well.

As much as this is a "Stick record" there are really strong echoes of solo guitarists. These dreamy, languid arpeggios and bright folky melodies sound as if Alex di Grassi and Leo Kottke had decided to take up the instrument. On this level and sonically, "Residue" is possibly the most guitar-like of all the solo Stick releases to date. David uses guitar techniques like strumming effectively (and not just to create an effect). Sometimes he plays the notes so "straight" that it could be a new keyboard instrument he has under his fingers. At other times the bending and vibrato are so pronounced you can't help thinking of slide guitar or Dobro.

Emmett likes to think of this kind of Stick playing as "having a piano in your hands, something you can take anywhere". And David uses the simplest of means to bring us his music, just his active ACTV-2 Block pickup plugged straight into a computer audio interface. The production is wonderfully balanced, with a strong, unified sound, reminiscent of an acoustic guitar (or two), but less edgy, and with all the extra range the Grand Stick allows.

The pace is relaxed, and relaxing, but never ponderous. With 14 tracks to get through, David doesn't hold onto things too long, and before you know it 52 minutes have passed. Residue will linger nicely on, or you can just hit play again like I did.

Track Listing (all songs by David Tipton)
1. Whisper to Me
2. Nightfall
3. Sleepdancing
4. Big As The Sky
5. Lilypad
6. Precipitation
7. Residue
8. Dance with Me
9. Lakeside Farewell
10. On the Way Home
11. Pinwheel
12. An Open Sky
13. Cairns
14. Catalyst
SAMPLE MP3s ©David Tipton

"Open Sky"