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The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman: Cote D’Azur

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The Rippingtons’ Russ Freeman has always led a peripatetic existence, growing up in Nashville and living in L.A., Colorado and Florida, among other locales. His wanderlust is reflected in much of his group’s music (Life in the Tropics, Morocco, etc.). On Cote D’Azur, French, Latin, Gypsy and Euro rhythms mix and mesh to make what will surely stand as one of the freshest contemporary-jazz CDs of the year. In the group’s 25th year, the Rippingtons continue to be at the top of their game.

Saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa returns to the band for the second straight CD, joining bassist Rico Belled, drummer Dave Karasony and keys man Bill Heller. The familiar Ripps sound is immediate on the title track, on which Freeman’s nylon- and steel-string guitars mix it up with Kashiwa’s cheerful sax lines. Keeping up with the times, though, songs like “Le Calypso” and “Passage to Marseilles” throw out right-now pop and R&B touches while also playing with peppy organ sounds and guitar surprises. On the latter, Freeman throws out country-, surf- and fuzz-guitar licks. “Bandol” sways with Gypsy rhythms, “Postcard From Cannes” transports us to the French Riviera and “Mesmerized” closes this cohesive project with one of the band’s best ballads.

Originally Published