Contemporary Jazz

VOICES Notes and news on Contemporary Jazz releases

Next Stop: France

03 MAR 11 JONATHAN WIDRAN

Musically and geographically, fans of The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman (the group's founder, guitarist, composer and producer) are always wondering where the band is going to take them next. On their latest Peak Records release, it's all aboard for a blissful, energized and rhythmic romp through the French Riviera, or in French, Côte D'Azur.

It's a well deserved musical vacation after the popular contemporary jazz group received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album for their previous release Modern Art. Longtime fans know that Freeman always enjoyed naming songs and albums after exotic tropical places ("Aruba," "Kenya," "Morocco," Weekend In Monaco, Sahara, et al), but the new collection is more than simple random snapshots inspired by engaging visits to "Saint Maxime," "Provence," "Rue Paradis" and Cannes ("Postcard from Cannes").

The collection is a lively, daring and passionate exploration of a world that fascinates Freeman -- and which, the multi-talented musician says, has more ties to American culture than he ever imagined. The minute Freeman's wife and frequent collaborator Yaredt Leon introduced him to her father's homeland of France, he was obsessed. He had been a huge fan of Europe in general and particularly Italy, but fully immersed himself in the French experience and discovered that, contrary to what some had told him, the French were the warmest, friendliest and funniest people he had ever met.

Considering that the Ripps discography runs the 25-year length of (and in many ways, helped forge) the contemporary jazz era, it says something about his passion for this region when he declares that it's the best album he's ever written.