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The Rippingtons: Wild Card

Rippingtons albums generally reflect some sort of theme and this time is no exception as the veteran contemporary-jazz band travels to South Beach for the delightfully high-spirited, Latin-tinged Wild Card. Guitarist and group leader Russ Freeman typically writes most of the Rippingtons’ music, but he collaborated with several composers on this outing. The band’s faithful need not worry, however-Freeman’s trademark catchy melodies are still amply represented. “El Vacilon,” a standout track Freeman cowrote with songwriter Yaredt Leon features a fiery vocal performance by Cuban singing star Albita and background vocals by members of the multicultural outfit Ozomatli.

Another highlight is the seductive, dramatic “Gypsy Eyes,” also cowritten with Leon. Eric Marienthal shows up as the featured saxophonist and indeed, horns are prominently featured on the album. Marienthal and Jerry Hey’s horn section lead the rousing title track and, in a departure from the album’s theme, Marienthal skillfully complements R&B singer Chante Moore’s lead vocal on the chestnut “Till You Come Back to Me.” Cuban singer Willy Chirino sings lead on the upbeat “Mulata de Mi Amor,” and the album also features a lively instrumental version of the tune.

Originally Published