How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
As the title suggests, the latest from Russ Freeman does indeed have a tropical, Caribbean feel throughout most of the program. "Caribbean Breeze" is a sunsual classical guitar duet with Peter White. "Rhythm of Your Life," one of the hotter tunes on the program, features the Gloria Estefan-influenced vocal of Daisy Lourdes Villa. A horn trio of studio pros Jerry Hey and Gary Grant on trumpets and Bill Reichenbach on trombone spices up this tune as well as the hard-driving "Avenida Del Mar" and "South Beach Mambo," which cashes in on the current Santana revival. Most of the other tunes are typical smooth jazz fare - light, hooky melodies, programmed background tracks (to varying extents), and a sappy vocal ("I Found Heaven" in this case). No saxophonist is listed a member of the Rippingtons this time around, but what would a smooth jazz release be without one? Eric Marienthal, Dave Koz, and Paul Taylor put in guest appearances to satisfy this requirement. Ramon Flores adds a couple rich, melodic Latin-flavored trumpet solos.
This CD does have its moments (mainly the ones listed above) where it offers something beyond typical smooth jazz and something we haven't heard from Freeman & company before. But overall, this CD will appeal mostly to the smooth jazz masses. If you're looking for more innovative contemporary jazz as proffered by the Rippingtons at their peak, go listen to Tourist in Paradise again. (Peak PKD-8500)
Track Listing: Club Paradiso; Caribbean Breeze; Cruisin' Down Ocean Drive; Be Cool; Rhythm of Your Life; Love Child; Avenida Del Mar; I Found Heaven; South Beach Mambo; Life in the Tropics; Island Aphrodisiac. (50:21)
Personnel: Band: Russ Freeman - guitar, bass, keyboards; Kim Stone - bass; Dave Kochanski - keyboards; Ramon Yslas - percussion; Dave Hooper - drums. Guests: Eric Marienthal, Dave Koz, Paul Taylor - sax; Peter White - classical guitar; Bill Heller, Bob James - keyboards; Jerry Hey, Gary Grant, Ramon Flores - trumpet; Bill Reichenbach - trombone; Daisy Lourdes Villa, Howard Hewett, Gary Brown, Michael Angelo, Andi Howard, Ramon Yslas, Dave Hooper, Laurie Hooper, Russ Freeman - vocals.