The Rippingtons – Topaz
by Raymond Redmond
After the Rippington’s last release Black Diamond I began to believe that there was some life still some life left in this smooth jazz legend. After turning out a string of releases that went from Good to OK to Ok to sort-of-Ok, Black Diamond showed some of the creative spark that made the Rippingtons a staple on smooth jazz stations all over the world.
With their newest Windham Hill release, Topaz, the Rippingtons have gone back to OK. The title song, Topaz, is classic Russ Freeman. Heavy on the guitar and very rhythmic, this and Snakedance will certainly get a lot of new-age airplay. The best tune on the CD is Spirits in the Canyon, due largely to the fine alto work of guest saxophonist Paul Taylor.
The remainder of the CD will surely appeal to Rippingtons fans, but falls a little short of groundbreaking. Over the years the Rippingtons has included some of the best performers in the smooth-jazz world, including David Benoit, Gregg Karukas, Dave Koz, Kenny G and others. This variety of ensembles has created a lot of good combinations, but sometime this lack of consistency results in releases that are merely a cast of good musicians playing with Russ Freeman.