A quick Google search of the term Modern Art clues in contemporary jazz fans everywhere just why it’s the perfect title for The Rippingtons’ latest release on Peak Records, and reflective of band founder Russ Freeman’s creative mindset as he leads the pioneering band in blazing new trails at the start of their incredible third decade: “It is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been cast aside in a spirit of experimentation, associated with new ways of seeing and fresh ideas about the functions of art.”
The Rippingtons spent the summer of 2006 and much of the past two years celebrating that past and toasting the future with what Freeman jokingly calls “the longest and greatest 20th Anniversary tour in history.” They embarked on the extended journey upon the release of The Rippingtons 20th Anniversary, the remarkable 2006 CD/DVD package featuring a retrospective DVD, new music and a medley of their most popular airplay hits since the release of their debut album Moonlighting in 1986. While the demand for more shows means that Ripps enthusiasts have had to wait longer than usual (two and a half years) for the band’s follow-up, the extra time and ongoing slate of live concerts allowed Freeman and his explosive new lineup (including powerful new bassist Rico Belled and special guest, returning saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa) the extraordinary opportunity to work out the new material on Modern Art and let the songs evolve in front of the audiences’ eyes.
“Writing is always a very organic process for me,” says Freeman, who wrote most of the collection’s tracks in early 2008, “and spending so much of the spring, summer and fall on the road meant that I had more time to live with the songs and let them develop naturally. The time between writing and recording is usually much shorter, but this time the band had a lot of time to work with the tunes and help them evolve in some amazing ways. It was also the first time ever I recorded all of my acoustic and electric guitar parts first, which allowed us to interact in the studio the way we do onstage. This new approach allowed them to respond more spontaneously to my playing at a higher intuitive level than they ever could on any previous album—and we’re talking 18 albums since the late 80’s!”
“I think the music of The Rippingtons has struck a universal chord that is hard to fully explain,” states Freeman. “That connection has given us many loyal fans over the years and has been wonderful for me and the musicians I’ve worked with along the way. I value being part of everyone’s collective musical experiences more than I ever did—and am very excited about continuing to share my passions with those who share theirs.”
As The Rippingtons move beyond their 20th Anniversary and into a—to draw from one of their classic album titles—Brave New World, it’s a good time to stop for a moment, contemplate the past as we look forward to the future, and admire their latest work of Modern Art.