It's been quite a while since we've heard any new solo material from guitarist and Rippington's leader Russ Freeman-17 years, in fact (not including a holiday release and a couple of collaboration albums). Freeman is a fine player on both electric and acoustic guitar, but while his compositional and production and contributions to the Rippington's sound are dominant, his guitar is for the most part, just another musical voice in the ensemble. Freeman says fans had long urged him to showcase his guitar playing more, and the result is Drive (Peak), an album that places the instrument squarely in the spotlight.
Freeman has always had a gift for creating catchy melodies, and there is no shortage of them on this winning album. Freeman gets thinking started with the sprightly "Guitarland" shifting mood on "Soul Dance," a pensive composition that features Chris Botti on brooding muted trumpet. He pays homage to the late Grover Washington Jr. on his cover of the saxophonist's soulful classic "East River Drive," and he concludes his pleasurable Drive with the lovely, Brazilian-flavored "Bellagio."