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Côte d'Azur (feat. Russ Freeman)

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Album Review

The Rippingtons have a long history of coming up with album titles and song titles that were inspired by foreign locations; their album titles have included Weekend in Monaco, Kilimanjaro, and Life in the Tropics, and their song titles have included "Morocco," "St. Tropez," "Seven Nights in Rome," "One Summer Night in Brazil," and "Under a Spanish Moon." Unfortunately, they also have a long history of making sure that the music itself isn't as interesting as the titles, which is to be expected when artists go out of their way to give smooth jazz/NAC radio stations the sort of innocuous background music they think program directors will accept. But Côte D'Azur, it turns out, has more going for it than many of the Rippingtons' other albums. In French, the name Côte D'Azur refers to what is called the French Riviera in English — and according to Rippingtons leader Russ Freeman, the material on this early-2011 release was inspired by his many visits to the South of France. Côte D'Azur may not be especially French-sounding to American Francophiles who equate France with chanson and French pop, but it's important to remember that France, like the United States and Great Britain, is quite multicultural. France, for example, has many people of Arabic descent; so it makes perfect sense for "Passage to Marseilles" to have a strong Middle Eastern/North African energy. France has its share of Caribbean immigrants as well, and the Caribbean flavor on "Le Calypso" is equally appropriate. Thankfully, Freeman allows a certain amount of edginess to assert itself on this 40-minute CD; those who associate the Rippingtons with mind-numbing elevator music will be pleasantly surprised by how much edgier they sound on "Passage to Marseilles" and "Le Calypso" as well as on the funky "Riviera Jam" and the flamenco-flavored "Bandol." That's the good news; the bad news is that Côte D'Azur has its share of elevator fluff as well, which is regrettable because on the best parts of the disc, Freeman sounds like he longs to liberate himself from the shackles of smooth jazz/NAC radio. But again, Côte D'Azur has its moments — and it's good to see Freeman allowing more edginess to emerge at least some of the time.

Customer Reviews

GOOD ALBUM, but...

...I think someone needs to remind them they are a JAZZ band. Guys, either go back to your roots or quit with the false advertising -- stop putting the Jazz Cat on your covers and replace him with a -- I don't know -- a bunny rabbit or something.

love the sound

I have been a Rippingtons fan for 10 years and their sound never ceases to amaze. I can't say I have a favorite cause I love all of their music, but this new album Cote d'Azur is totally awesome. Thanks again for your great sounds, Keep on Rippin'!!!

Not the Same

I think the beginning of this review is quite unfair to Freeman and his band. Kilimanjaro, Weekend in Monaco, Moonlighting, and Curves Ahead were quite funky, edgy albums that truly engaged a good listener. This album is a snoozer just like the last 3 (although I did enjoy Modern Art as a track). "Passage to Marseilles" is the closest track to the Rippingtons' old sound, but is just too restrained still. Russ...we know you have what it takes to make a truly engaging album - stop giving in to this contemporary smooth jazz crowd! It's not you, and your true fans know it!


Formed: 1987 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the most popular groups in what is loosely termed "contemporary jazz," the Rippingtons were formed (and have been led ever since) by guitarist/keyboardist Russ Freeman (no relation to the veteran West Coast bop pianist of the same name). Freeman (born February 11, 1960, in Nashville) studied at Cal Arts and UCLA, and recorded Nocturnal Playground as a leader in 1985 for the Brainchild label, a one-man project. In 1987, he was approached to record for the Japanese Alfa label and came up with...
Full Bio
Côte d'Azur (feat. Russ Freeman), The Rippingtons
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