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The Rippingtons

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The Rippingtons, founded in 1986 by Grammy-nominated guitarist Russ Freeman, celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2006.

The band has enjoyed tremendous success from the beginning, with their groundbreaking debut album, Moonlighting, which Jazziz Magazine voted to be the Number One Most Influential Contemporary Jazz Album of all time.

The Rippingtons have had several Number One Billboard-charting albums, and also won several Oasis Awards, including Group of the Year in both 2001 and 2002, as well as Achievement in video, 1999.

Early personnel included David Benoit, Kenny G, Brandon fields and Gregg Karukas. Special guest stars have included Arturo Sandoval, Abita, Willy chirino, Dave Grusin, Joe Sample, Dave Koz, bob James, Ozomatli, Kirk Whalum. Chante Moore and David Benoit . . . and the list goes on.

Present band linup includes Russ Freeman, Jeff Kashiwa, bill Heller, Dave Karasony and newest member Rico Belled. This respected group has gained a worldwide fan base. Following their Number One 20th Anniversary CD, Modern Art (2009) once again demonstrates why Russ Freeman is one of the true musical innovators in the contemporary jazz genre. Featuring a familiar “cast of characters”, Modern Art once again showcases a unique musical style that was created many years ago and still sounds as fresh and new today as it did when they started. Soaring horns, melodic keyboards and driving percussion are all anchored by the intricate guitar styling of Freeman.

Fans that have followed Russ Freeman and The Rippingtons for any stretch of time over the past quarter century know the versatile award-winning and Grammy-nominated guitarist//composer and producer has long had a penchant for naming songs and albums after exotic places (“Aruba,” “Kenya,” “Morocco,” Weekend in Monaco, Sahara, et al). But The Ripps’ latest recording Cote D’Azur (2011) - inspired by Freeman’s passion for the French people and the storied region of the French Riviera - is more than simply the latest stamp on Freeman’s well traveled passport. Beyond simple wanderlust or a gathering of “musical postcards” from the Southern region of France, it taps into a spirit that’s deeper and more transcendent than any other group project to date.

All of the songs on Cote D’Azur tell stories of Freeman’s extensive travels in France with his wife Yaredt Leon, a hit songwriter in her own right who contributed tracks to the Ripps Latin-themed Wild Card (2005) and Modern Art (2009). Cote D’Azur is bookended with songs they wrote together, the high energy title track and the beautiful “Mesmerized.” Yaredt has been Freeman’s consummate travel partner these past years. For a time, he couldn’t get enough of Italy, but the minute Leon (whose mixed heritage is Colombian-French) introduced him to her father’s homeland of France, Freeman was hooked. After so many excursions to the country - and train trips from Paris to Cote D’Azur (the French Riviera) - that he loses count, Freeman felt music stirring inside him that was exotic, deeper and more heartfelt than any he had ever written and produced before - quite a bold statement considering that their music has played such a defining role in contemporary jazz since the release of Moonlighting in 1986. He also feels that both musically and technically, Cote D’Azur takes an incredible leap forward.

Cote D’Azur is a daring, full-scale exploration of world that fascinates Freeman and, as he has discovered, has more ties to American culture than he ever imagined. So much so that on tour throughout the U.S. in the summer of 2010, The Rippingtons gave their thousands of loyal fans an extraordinary gift. Months before the official release of the album, the band complemented their run of classic hits with an unprecedented sweep of six songs from the new collection. Freeman knew he was taking a gigantic leap of faith - yet he was so excited about his new musical explorations that he (and bandmates Jeff Kashiwa, Rico Belled, Bill Heller and Dave Karasony) couldn’t wait to share them.

“Making music and touring is more fun than ever now, states Freeman, “and it’s only recently that I realize how lucky we are to be doing that. I still love getting out there, meeting the fans, hearing their stories, and then taking time off and traveling with Yaredt to places I had only dreamed of before.” Russ Freeman and The Rippingtons take their lucky fans on a trip of a lifetime to Cote D’Azur. Traveling with them is their trademark jazz cat, by artist Bill Mayer, who again graces the CD cover art. Next time out, who knows? Freeman’s musical passport still has a lot of open space to be stamped. And, the journey continues!

Built to Last (2012) is The Rippingtons’ biggest, most ambitious album ever. Rippington’s leader Russ Freeman has challenged himself and his band mates to make an imaginative, hook-filled collection, fronted by the new single, “Cougars and Gigolos.” The mix of music is enticing and sure to please fans and newcomers alike, and includes four bonus alternative versions with full orchestra, adding a further, neo-classical dimension to this career landmark. From orchestrated, widescreen epics, to lyrical, smooth ballads, and high energy, progressive jazz-rock - for once, the title says it all. The Rippingtons and their music are Built to Last forever.

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