Shannon West recently interviewed Rippingtons main man Russ Freeman at the SmoothViews site. Check out Freeman’s thoughts on composing, painting, balancing new songs with the classics when touring, what may be his favorite saxophone performance on a Rippingtons recording, and more. Shannon also reviewed the new Rippingtons recording Modern Art, saying “these are tight, short, melodic songs that give the musicians a lot of room to breathe and take some fascinating twists and turns along the way.”
I posted samples of two tracks from Modern Art last month. Check out that Try It Out Tuesdays post!
Acid jazz was the hip new style taking the States by storm in the 90s. While much of it was created by producers and deejays from abroad, two west coast musicians decided to tackle the genre themselves by fusing jazz melodies with hip hop stylings on the release Solar System (1996). The musicians responsible for that funky outing are none other than guitarist Chris Standring and his longtime co-collaborator and keyboardist Rodney Lee. Today Standring is well known for his retro-soul compositions on releases such as Hip Sway (2000) and Groovalicious (2003). On Love & Paragraphs, we find Standring exploring chill and ambient sounds while maintaining the soulful mood that his fans have come to expect. The album’s opener “Qwertyuiop” is a funky bass-driven groove featuring a smooth blend of Standring’s Fender Strat along with Everette Harp’s tenor. The title track is a snappy midtempo piece with a hook that you’ll likely find yourself humming after a few listens. I also enjoyed the more ambient pieces on the release such as “Liquid Soul” and “Have Your Cake And Eat It” which is co-written by Lee and features an interesting talk box solo by Standring. If you like your contemporary jazz with a retro-soul vibe, do yourself a favor and take a listen to Love & Paragraphs. You’ll be glad you did.
It’s been over four years since David Sanborn released a solo recording. That was Inside, a CD that stretched across different styles and sounds. It felt like Sanborn was restless. He’s easily distanced himself from the pop-jazz style that he was known for with his 1990s releases Another Hand and the superfunk of upfront and hearsay. Which direction was Sanborn going to go in now?
Almost half a decade later, the answer is timeagain, a jazz record that establishes a different sound for the saxophonist. Instead of Marcus Miller, the CD is produced by Stewart Levine. The CD sounds like it was recorded live in the studio with no overdubs. As usual, Sanborn has the best musicians surrounding him. His band for timeagain consists of Christian McBride, Russell Malone, Steve Gadd, Gil Goldstein, Don Alias, and Mike Mainieri. Ricky Peterson adds keyboards for three of the album’s cuts as well as one of the CD’s only tracks that seems to have any programming – the cover of “Tequila”. Sanborn himself contributes the piano work for four tracks. This band sets a mood for the record that frequently reminds of you of a smoky jazz club late at night.
Sanborn covers seven songs including Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar” and Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely”. The recording starts on an energetic note with Ben Tucker’s “Comin’ Home Baby” then goes into a more somber mode with tracks like the haunting and complex “Cristo Redentor” and Joni Mitchell’s “Man From Mars. The last three tracks were written by Sanborn (except “Spider B.” which was co-written with Ricky Peterson). His “Little Flower” is so damn beautiful that I would have had it played at my wedding. With the strings and perfect vibe touches by Mainieri, the song is an instant Sanborn classic.
As for Sanborn himself, he’s never sounded stronger or better in his playing. His desire to continue to try different things is rewarding for the listener. Sanborn’s sound is evident no matter what the atmosphere around him is. Summarizing his feelings on this release, he says, “I grew up listening to music with an open mind and drawing on different elements, which is what I’m continuing to do on this record. Whether I’m playing Joni Mitchell or Stanley Turrentine, timeagain reflects the attitude I’ve always had: if it’s good, it’s good.”
Man, Kenny Garrett really smokes on that alto sax. He can burn like few other saxophonists. If that wasn’t known before, you’ll know it after hearing his latest release, Standard of Language.
Standard of Language picks up right where his previous release, the excellent Happy People, left off. In fact, five of CD’s nine tracks were recorded during the Happy People session. The other four were recorded with the same band three months later. This tight band is Vernell Brown on piano, Charnett Moffett on bass, and Chris Dave on drums and they effortlessly keep the blazing tempo going.
Aside from being able to blow, Garrett has a fantastic sense of melody. Especially sweet is the uplifting “Native Tongue”. Though it wasn’t recorded on the Happy People sessions, this certainly would have fit with that title of that release. The song gives you a feeling of joy. You’ll remember each of the compositions on Standard of Language, which are all originals by Garrett except for a cover of “What Is This Thing Called Love?”. Tracks like “Native Tongue,” “Doc Tone’s Short Speech” (dedicated to the late Kenny Kirkland), and “Gendai” (a Japanese term meaning present tense) cement Garrett as one of the best melodic composers in modern jazz today.
Make no mistake: Standard of Language is a fiery and exciting CD demonstrating excellent compositions and playing. It’s a hard-hitting piece of work that will find favor with anyone who appreciates kick-ass jazz.