Hard to believe that The Rippingtons have been around for 20 years. Russ Freeman and his band of merry men have treated their fans to a classy mix of stylish sounds for two decades. Too lite to be considered fusion, a little too poppy to fall into the classic jazz category, but forever labeled as the creators of the "smooth jazz" genre, The Rippingtons found their way onto modern jazz radio on a regular basis and boasted plenty of strong selling albums and concert tours around the world. Originally at home on GRP Records, The Rippingtons now find themselves on Peak Records, and with a discography of over 15 albums to their credit, Freeman has assembled Rippingtons members past and present, as well as some special guests, for a great collection of music that will instantly appeal to fans old and new. As an added bonus the band has included a retrospective DVD as well.
Dave Koz. Brian McKnight. Patti Austin. Jeffrey Osbourne. Kirk Whalum. Brandon Fields. Tony Morales. Eric Marienthal. Steve Reid. Jimmy Johnson. Many of these names will be familar to fans of modern jazz, and they are just some of the roster of talent that Freeman has assembled here for this anniversary edition. "Eternity" is a gorgoeus number, filled with Freeman's sumptuous acoustic guitar lines and the soaring sax of Brandon Fields, while "City of Angels" contains plenty of fiery interplay between guitar, keyboards, and sax. Latin jazz fans will love the smooth sounds of "Costa del Sol", while "Bingo Jingo" features a funky horn section and Freeman's tasty Wes Montgomery styled guitar solos. "Six Four" is a real tour-de-force, and the closest the band comes to true fusion, with intricate rhythms, melodic keyboard melodies, and sizzling electric guitar passages. The familiar sound of Dave Koz and his talking sax mixes with Freeman's lush acoustic picking on "A Kiss Under the Moonlight", and the band mixes funk with some symphonic rock & jazz on the raucous closer "A 20th Anniversary Bonus". The latter actually brings many of the musicians together as they revisit themes from past Rippingtons songs. It's a fun listen, especially if you are a long time listener of the band.
The DVD is a real treat, interspersed with interview and live snippets, all the while giving an informative history of the band. Check out the hilarious segment from a Canadian Broadcasting show where the question of how to categorize the music of the band becomes a major topic. What becomes quickly apparent after watching the DVD is just how many popular players on the modern jazz scene have been a part of The Rippingtons over the years, and how Russ Freeman really has a penchant for writing catchy songs as well as play a mean & tasty guitar. Here's to another 20 years of music from this long-standing and classy band.
1. City of Angels
3. Costa del Sol
4. Bingo Jingo
6. Six Four
10. A Kiss Under the Moonlight
11. A 20th Anniversary Bonus