All of the songs on Cote D’Azur tell stories of Freeman’s extensive travels in France with his wife Yaredt Leon, a hit songwriter in her own right who contributed tracks to the Ripps Latin-themed Wild Card (2005) and Modern Art (2009). Cote D’Azur is bookended with songs they wrote together, the high energy title track and the beautiful “Mesmerized.” Yaredt has been Freeman’s consummate travel partner these past years. For a time, he couldn’t get enough of Italy, but the minute Leon (whose mixed heritage is Colombian-French) introduced him to her father’s homeland of France, Freeman was hooked.
After so many excursions to the country--and train trips from Paris to Cote D’Azur (the French Riviera)--that he loses count, Freeman felt music stirring inside him that was exotic, deeper and more heartfelt than any he had ever written and produced before —quite a bold statement considering that their music has played such a defining role in contemporary jazz since the release of Moonlighting in 1986. He also feels that both musically and technically, Cote D’Azur takes an incredible leap forward.
“This is the best album I’ve ever written,” he says, “and unlike on any other Rippingtons recording, the music is a pristine crystallization of the way I first heard it in my head. I think the incredible cultural connection between France and America hit me one night in Nice when I was watching a show on the history of St. Tropez. Brigitte Bardot was so well known as a model and film actress, but in the 60s she also did hundreds of music videos of French remakes of songs that were big hits in America. Remakes of everything from Elvis to the Beatles were huge. Johnny Hallyday is a French music superstar who patterned himself after Elvis. All of this taught me how close our cultures really are. They also were big into American surf music in the early
60s, and that inspired the new song ‘Le Calypso.’ All of this, combined with Yaredt’s French heritage, really made me fall in love with the country.”
Cote D’Azur is a daring, full-scale exploration of world that fascinates Freeman and, as he has discovered, has more ties to American culture than he ever imagined. So much so that on tour throughout the U.S. in the summer of 2010, The Rippingtons gave their thousands of loyal fans an extraordinary gift. Months before the official release of the album, the band complemented their run of classic hits with an unprecedented sweep of six songs from the new collection.
Freeman knew he was taking a gigantic leap of faith—yet he was so excited about his new musical explorations that he (and bandmates Jeff Kashiwa, Rico Belled, Bill Heller and Dave Karasony) couldn’t wait to share them.
“Making music and touring is more fun than ever now, states Freeman, “and it’s only recently that I realize how lucky we are to be doing that. I still love getting out there, meeting the fans, hearing their stories, and then taking time off and traveling with Yaredt to places I had only dreamed of before.”
On their latest Peak Records album, Russ Freeman and The Rippingtons take their lucky fans on a trip of a lifetime to Cote D’Azur. Traveling with them is their trademark jazz cat, by artist Bill Mayer, who again graces the CD cover art. Next time out, who knows? Freeman’s musical passport still has a lot of open space to be stamped. And, the journey continues!
1. Cote D’Azur
2. Le Calypso
4. Sainte Maxime
5. Postcard From Cannes
6. Passage To Marseilles
8. Riviera Jam
9. Rue Paradis