While most people that travel in my cultural inner circle know I approach all things smooth jazz with an initial skepticism, The Rippingtons are a different animal entirely. In a sub genre of jazz that is actually format driven and with some of their contemporaries falling by the wayside, The Rippingtons are a model of consistency with each subsequent release. Guitarist Russ Freeman to this day doesn't get the attention he probably should as one of the better composers along side being a premier contemporary guitarist. Built To Last hits the streets on August 28th and as their most ambitious and diverse release to date with fans both old and new having a great deal to look forward to. The last release, Cote D' Azure had a wonderful world music vibe showing that after all these years Freeman and The Rippingtons are far from a one trick pony!
Built To Last finds the band celebrating their 25th anniversary by literally going big or going home! This aptly titled release is a strong indication that music much like life in general is indeed a battle of wills with the survival of the fittest winning out. Built To Last runs the sonic spectrum of cinematic epics with full orchestra to some high octane progressive jazz-rock guaranteed to set your hair on fire. The title track "Built To Last" opens with a beautiful full orchestra performing the opening theme which is simply a gorgeous score looking for a fine feature film. The band restates the theme but Freeman pushes the tune to the next level by blowing the dust of the Ibanez 335 which he has not played on record in over 20 years. Freeman grips it and rips it and we are off to the races. The first single "Cougars And Gigolos" is a textured acoustic number with a killer south of the border all most blues infusion that is harmonically adventurous and the band simply slays this tune. Another unique twist of flavor is the reharmonized big band arrangement of the classic "Route 66" that leads into an acoustic breakdown led by a vibrant piano solo. "In The Shadow Of Giants" shows Freeman's controlled sonic fury coupled with a more refined neo-classical approach for a flash fried funkalicious tribute to the six string gods that inspired his musical journey from the beginning. There is an ambient quality to this particular tune and a few others that lingers and again the layers of texture and ability to change dynamics on the fly are why this release is literally flawless. Russ Freeman actually is going back to basics, back to his roots from when he studied film scoring at UCLA.
While celebrating their 25th anniversary there is a sad note that goes along with this release. During the early stages of composing this release Russ Freeman's sister Pamela was diagnosed with breast cancer making this a uniquely personal project. Pamela Freeman's courage was inspiring to her brother and he subsequently dedicated this release to her. This inspiration may well be the driving force behind The Rippington's most compelling recording in their illustrious career. Built To Last is music with muscle. Freeman and the band bring their A game from a deep rich sonic color palette and deliver a stunning work in the contemporary jazz genre.
An amazing effort, Russ Freeman has now raised the bar in contemporary jazz and this release is a must for any jazz fan!
A no-brainer. 5 Huge Stars.
Tracks: Built To Last; American Panorama; Fool's Gold; Hotel Deville; Cougars And Gigolos; Route 66; In The Shadow Of Giants; Black Oak; We Made A New World; Monument Monolith; Firefly; Built To Last ( classical reprise); Fool's Gold (orchestral); Black Oak (orchestral); Hotel Deville (orchestral); Built To Last (orchestral).
The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman:
Photos courtesy of www.rippingtons.com / The infamous Jazz Cat also courtesy of www.rippingtons.com and drawn by artist Bill Mayer!