The Rippingtons are perhaps smooth jazz’s most prolific outfit. Even they can’t quite remember how many albums they’ve recorded – but that doesn’t really matter, because their legions of fans don’t do counting; they simply lap up each new release with enthusiasm, while those who’ve never quite understood the attraction of the polite sounds that Russ Freeman and his people cook up are still left cold. This new ten tracker – Freeman’s homage to his sojourns in the South of France – will, I’m confident, provoke the same polarization. Though, maybe, “provoke” isn’t quite the right word because it’s hard to imagine Rippington music “provoking” anything.
That said it is easy to understand why this album will appeal to Rippington die-hards. By nature, I guess, they don’t want to be challenged and ‘Cote D’Azur’ simply offers them an extension of their comfort zone. It ticks all the familiar boxes. There’s the breezy opening title tune, a few very gentle acoustic guitar workouts (best is the Latin-tinged ‘Bandol’), a little foot tapper (‘Passage To Marseilles’), a call to meditation (‘Mesmerized’) and a couple on which Jeff Kashiwa’s saxophone almost gets things going (try ‘Le Calypso’ to hear what I mean). It’s all slickly produced and packaged and will keep the band’s fans happy till the next release … which I guess good old Russ is working on right now.