Pink and Blue Notes had a wonderful 2016. It was filled with lots of music. Between live shows, traveling across the country, and incredible interviews, 2016 was wonderful. I was yet again amazed by the many talented artists and groups I covered this year. My music memories of 2016 include Fourplay, Stanley Clarke, Chaka Khan, Keiko Matsui, Jonathan Butler, and so many more. I appreciate the promoters, managers, and publicists who make what I do a pleasure. I look forward to an even more music in 2017.
THE RIPPINGTONS FEATURING RUSS FREEMAN
PEAK RECORDS/ENTERTAINMENT ONE
“When I started the Rippingtons, I never imagined it would last more than the release of one album, let alone thirty years!” recalls Russ Freeman, leader and founder of the pioneering, GRAMMY® nominated group The Rippingtons, who are celebrating their 30th anniversary year with the release of True Stories, the band’s 22nd recording to be released June 24, 2016.
True Stories, recorded over an intensive three-month span, is a refreshing elixir that will delight devout fans of The Rippingtons and attract new ones. Joined by original Rippington, alto and soprano saxophonist Brandon Fields, drummer Dave Karasony, bassist and rhodes player Rico Belled and special guest Jeffrey Osborne, Freeman orchestrates ten compelling originals. The album opens with the hypnotic and scintillating “Wild Tales,” the CD’s first single, which Freeman calls an “experiment in randomness.” Fusing elements of jazz with traces of EDM and world influences, The Rippingtons foreshadow the journey ahead and promise it to be nothing short of exhilarating.Many of the classic Rippingtons hit repertoire prominently feature rich saxophone melodies and this time out Freeman showcases his unparalleled guitar wizardry.
On True Stories his choice of axe is a Patrick Cummings gold custom Brian Moore 30th Anniversary Russ Freeman model guitar. He plays it on all the album tracks with the exception of “Wonderland,” which features a Rosewood Fender Telecaster. The epic number transports listeners through several breathtaking, suspenseful movements that are crystallized by Freeman’s beautiful and intuitive playing. He cites this song as his favorite on the CD and you can hear the love he pours into each unforgettable moment. Amazingly, the song was recorded in one take. “I’m a big believer in first takes and stream of consciousness,” explains Freeman. “There’s something in the DNA of a first take that I find fascinating. The raw ideas are always hidden in there.” The swooning and uplifting “Sundance,” follows featuring the lyrical saxophone Brandon Fields and blues-filled and rockin’ and guitar lines of Freeman. “Sundance reminds me of the hard work of songwriting. Sometimes you have to make yourself grind it out and you get lucky. This song is perfect for the live band,” shares Freeman who will be taking True Stories on the road this Summer.
An avid traveler and lover of culture, Freeman takes us on a journey to Spain as he pays homage to the Spanish tradition of Andalusia, the southern region where Islamic and indigenous music flourish. The majestic and arresting “Flamenco Beach,” is a composition that Freeman says played in his head until he finally sat down to write it. The ebullient rocking and rhythmically charged “King’s Road,” features Freeman with Fields’ alto and Belled’s warm bass sharing the melody in unison, while drummer Dave Karasony solos over the thematic changes. Freeman shares, “This is the first time the Ripps have featured an extended drum solo on an album. I felt the time had come. I was surprised at the approach Dave took, using a combination of hi-hat finesses and double bass drum mayhem.”Another highpoint on True Stories comes in the form of the devotional “My Promise,” an enchanting song, featuring GRAMMY-winning singer Jeffrey Osborne. Freeman co-wrote the gem with his talented wife Yaredt, who has contributed several songs to The Rippingtons songbook. Reuniting Jeffrey with the band came as a recommendation from Freeman’s long time manager Andi Howard, conjuring up some of the magic they created with their unforgettable collaboration on the Thom Bell/Paul Hurtt classic “I’ll Be Around,” which was a hit for the Spinners as well as Freeman when it appeared on his 1994 album Sahara. Freeman composed the funk-drenched composition “Reach Higher,” at the piano and highlights his buttery synths and gritty guitar licks alongside Belled’s driving bass lines, Fields’ soulful sax melodies and the high-octane drumming of Karasony. Freeman confides, “I’m a guitar player by trade, but I spend most of my time playing keyboards!”
“Dreamcatcher” is ethereal and wistful and “Golden Child,” is a blues fueled number with stop-time rhythms that will have you dancing before you know it.In typical fashion, The Rippington’s leave us with something to remember with the album’s unforgettable title track. It is a divine, dramatic, impressionistic and contemplative track that highlights Brandon Fields’ sublime soprano and a wonderful piano solo from Freeman. “I’m so pleased to have Brandon back with The Ripps,” says the guitarist. “Our collaboration precedes the band going back to my first solo album. Our communication is effortless and I am amazed at how he is able to always interpret my melody writing.”
Devoted fans of the The Rippingtons are well acquainted with the band’s beloved, spunky and funky mascot, the Jazz Cat, who has graced all 22 album covers. “I love the outlandish graphics which were intentionally calibrated. I was specific about wanting octopus tentacles for the Jazz Cat and gave designer Bill Mayer the backdrop of 40s era comic books, preferably set to the landscape of Mars,” laughs Freeman. Now who said jazz has no sense of humor?!
“Musical inspiration is a triage of sonics, melody, and visual reference,” states Russ Freeman. His approach to composition is similar to that of a mixed-medium painter, in which he engages all the senses and employs disparate techniques. Hurling unique instrumentation, wide-ranging dynamics and contrasting textures upon his auditory canvas, he pushes the boundaries sonically, harmonically, rhythmically and emotionally. Freeman, who got his big break early on as a composer, understands how important the right elements are to create the perfect musical climate. In fact, Freeman and the Rippingtons have been known to work with The American Association of Music Therapy to conduct clinics in therapeutic settings, using their music as a therapeutic tool.
The Nashville born, LA based guitarist began studying classical guitar at age eleven and picked up the guitar four years later. Such iconic players as Larry Carlton, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Paco de Lucia and James Taylor, among others, have influenced Freeman’s own distinctive style through the years.“I have always attributed the band’s success to our loyal fans,”says the humble maverick. A testament to Freeman’s Midas touch and the reverence his peers have for him is the who list of stars who have been featured with The Rippingtons through the years. Some of those artists include vocalists Patti Austin, Jeffrey Osborne and The Whispers, pianists Bob James, Joe Sample and David Benoit and saxophonists Kenny G, Jeff Kashiwa, Paul Taylor and Kirk Whalum, to name a few. Freeman’s dynamic and adventurous compositions have long been a centerpiece of The Rippingtons’ signature sound. “Once I learned to free myself from self imposed constraints, I found new ways to express ideas musically,” explains Freeman. The Rippingtons’ irresistible auditory confection has catapulted their albums to the top of the charts time and time again. In fact, virtually all of their recordings have hit Top 5 on the Contemporary jazz charts and several have landed #1 albums including Welcome To the St. James Club, Curves Ahead, Tourist in Paradise, Sahara and Black Diamond.
“I try to always respect the limited time we have, and treat each day as the last,” shares the visionary and virtuosic guitarist, keyboardist, composer and producer. This mindset, spiritual grounding and deep understanding of how to operate in gratitude, has allowed the multi-instrumentalist to explore the realms of possibility, making him a pioneer in the music game. Russ Freeman has made a name for himself defying the odds and redefining himself every step of the way and he’s not done yet.
True Stories is a testament to the unwavering artistry of Russ Freeman and The Rippingtons and confirmation that there are still many more tales to be told. “I’m trying to reach for a place I have not been. I’m looking for inspiration. I never look back. ”It is this forward momentum that propels the notes on True Stories and keeps the listeners yearning for the next chapter.
Culbertson readying to take “Funk!” to the stage
“Been Around The World” to precede new album and extensive concert tour
Los Angeles, Calif. (25 May 2016): Message to funk received from the Mothership: hit-maker Brian Culbertson is in the studio conspiring with his cosmic group of musical soul brothers on his second funk collection, “Funk!,” which will be released September 16 on his BCM Entertainment label. Less than a week after his seventeenth album streets, the award-winning multi-instrumentalist will launch a coast-to-coast concert tour on a scale unlike any trek ever mounted by the vivacious showman who will be flanked by the same band showcased on the album. To help set the stage for the 11-song set plus three playful interlude sketches, all produced by Culbertson, radio stations will be serviced “Been Around The World” in early July.
Those who have caught a Culbertson show over the last year might have had a premonition that the R&B-jazzman was about to again morph into an emissary of funk, a mission that began with his 2008 recording “Bringing Back The Funk,” which he co-produced with the late Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire and featured legendary funksters Bootsy Collins and Larry Graham. His set list at recent gigs included a pair of funk classics, “Got To Give It Up” and “Play That Funky Music,” which made it onto the new album. The Chicago-bred musician who plays piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, clavinet, Hammond B3 organ, synths, trombone, bass, drums, percussion and sings on the entire record wrote or co-wrote nine new songs for “Funk!” that showcases his live band – Marqueal Jordan (vocals & sax), Tyrone Chase (guitars), Eddie Miller (keyboards, organ & vocals), Rodney Jones, Jr. (bass, guitar & vocals), Chris Miskel (drums) and Michael Stever (trumpeter & horn arrangements) – along with Chance Howard, a nasty R&B keyboardist, bassist and vocalist who has toured and recorded with fellow Minnesota native Prince. Noted trumpeter Patches Stewart will replace Stever for the Funk! Tour.
Next month, Howard will join Culbertson on stage to premiere a few choice cuts from “Funk!,” including the first single, at Culbertson’s fifth anniversary Napa Valley Jazz Getaway, a wine and jazz lifestyle experience in the heart of California Wine Country taking place June 8-12.
“The concept for ‘Funk!’ was to make an old-school, throwback funkadelic record in the style of P-Funk meets Prince and to tour with the same band that appears on the album – my band plus Chance (Howard). We finished tracking and are mixing this week. The show we will be taking out on the road is unlike anything anyone has ever seen from me before. It’s on an entirely different level. Yes, we’re taking it there! I’m also very excited about capturing the magic by shooting a Blu-ray to be taped on tour this fall,” said Culbertson, who as an imaginative and trend-setting artist, producer and songwriter has architected 28 Billboard No. 1 singles along with a library of chart-topping albums.
Once again, Culbertson has opened the doors to the recording studio by posting a series of video blogs from the “Funk!” sessions on his website (http://www.brianculbertson.com/funk) as well as engaging his followers through Facebook Live. And like his most recent studio release, he’s offering fans the opportunity to get involved with the process by launching an Indiegogo campaign (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/brian-culbertson-s-funk–2#/) that provides a menu of unique options, including VIP concert tickets, tickets for the Blu-ray filming, autographed CD, limited edition vinyl album, a private personalized video message, sheet music and a bobble head Funk! doll
Tickets go on sale for the Funk! Tour for fan club members beginning June 1 and to the general public starting June 3. For more information, please visit www.BrianCulbertson.com.
The songs that comprise “Funk!” are:
“Been Around The World”
“Take It Up”
“Let’s Take A Ride”
“We Got What You Want”
“Damn, I’m Hungry” (interlude)
“Got To Give It Up”
“Play That Funky Music”
“Spend A Little Time”
“To Be Continued…” (interlude)
The Funk! Tour itinerary is listed below (additional dates will be added):
September 22-25 Seattle, WA Jazz Alley (two shows Sept. 23 & 24)
September 26 Portland, OR The Aladdin
September 27 Bend, OR Tower Theater
October 5 Fresno, CA Tower Theater
October 6 Santa Barbara, CA Lobero Theater
*October 7 Newport Beach, CA Hyatt Newporter
*October 8 Temecula, CA Thornton Winery
October 9 Scottsdale, AZ Livewire
October 11-12 Denver, CO Soiled Dove (two shows per night)
October 13 Salt Lake City, UT The State Room
October 14-15 Las Vegas, NV Aliante Casino
*October 16 Catalina Island, CA Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival
October 20 Indianapolis, IN Murat Theater
October 21 Cincinnati, OH Ludlow Garage
October 23 New Albany, OH Schottenstein Theatre
October 25 Pittsburgh, PA MCG Jazz (two shows)
October 26-27 New York, NY B.B. King’s
October 28 Cranston, RI Park Theatre
October 29 New Haven, CT John Lyman Center
October 30 Boston, MA Scullers Jazz Club (two shows)
November 4 Collingswood, NJ Scottish Rite Auditorium
*November 5 Mount Pocono, PA Mt. Airy Casino Resort
November 11 Minneapolis, MN Dakota (two shows)
November 13 Detroit, MI Royal Oak Music Theatre
Nov. 28-Dec. 2 London, England Pizza Express
*denotes tickets are already on sale
“Moments” in the key of positive: guitarist Rob Tardik reflects on his fifth album of vibrant jazz, exotic Latin rhythms, funky R&B grooves and spirited pop-rock tunes, coming November 13
TORONTO (19 October 2015): Equipped with an optimistic outlook and an attitude of gratitude, award-winning guitarist Rob Tardik was contemplating the pivotal moments in his life when he sat down to compose the material for “Moments,” his fifth album that will be released November 13 by Guitardik Music. The Toronto-based artist whose mission is to use music to spread positive energy will launch the collection of jazz, Latin, R&B, funk, rock and pop originals that he wrote and produced with Steve Oliver, Nate Harasim and Gabriel Mark Hasselbach with a concert performance that same evening at Spaghettini in Seal Beach, Calif. The first single from “Moments” already garnering radio spins is the flamenco-infused “Sip and Salsa,” a high-energy dancer powered by frenzied fretwork recognizing the enjoyable moments in life.
“Reflecting on the key moments that define us, you’ve got to be in the moment in order to catch those moments of unexpected happiness. Life moves so fast and its hectic thus we get caught up and lost in it. These days, so many people are distracted by modern technology that we miss what’s happening right in front of us,” said Tardik. “I want my music to uplift people’s spirits. There’s a lot of negativity out there on a daily basis; my intention is only to bring positivity to people’s lives.”
Tardik opens “Moments” with “Sip and Salsa,” a fun recollection about learning to salsa dance with his fiancée. Using his electric guitar lyrically, “Rite Of Passage” celebrates the monumental moments that serve as measuring sticks to growth and achievement. “Moments In Time” ponders the meaning behind the key moments in life with a ballad soulfully crooned by Aiden Castillo highlighted by some nylon guitar gymnastics from Tardik. Passion is represented on the sultry “Eros,” which riffs on love, sex and intimacy. Tardik’s electric guitar symbolically lets loose on the good-time “Hang Time.” Sometimes things come together in surprising ways with unexpected twists. That often seems to happen to Tardik when he’s writing songs, which is what “Serendipity” is about, a track featuring saxophonist Will Donato and Tardik noodling gleefully on an electric jazz guitar. “Stop!,” spotlighting Canadian saxman Walle Larsson, commands taking action to breathe, appreciate and enjoy the fast-fleeting moments with a funk-tastic party jam illumined by fiery nylon guitar and a vocal hook emoted by Tardik. A gentle beauty, “Reflections” slows the tempo for a pensive moment to recall good times, hopefully with peace, tranquility and a smile. Utilizing Latin nuances and bursting with joy, “A New Life” revisits the “intense, overwhelming emotion” Tardik experienced when becoming a father, which is mirrored by the invigorating song’s grand chorus. The locomotive rhythm on “Voyageur” represents Tardik’s extensive travels as a musician. The album closer takes listeners on a wide-eyed, wonder-filled nylon guitar journey of melody, technique, precision and joyous appreciation.
Tardik’s singles frequently travel into the Billboard top 10 and he’s topped the Music Choice chart. In 2010, he was honored as the Canadian Smooth Jazz Guitarist of the Year. His 2011 disc, “Balance, Energy, Laughter, Love (B.E.L.L.),” scored the trifecta at Café Jazz Radio as the No. 1 album, No. 1 single (“East meets Wes”) and No.1 Canadian Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year. A gifted guitarist capable of playing with the best of them without showboating, Tardik shares his knowledge, experience and skill with students at the Metal Works Institute, Centennial College and the Merriam School of Music in Toronto. He’s a dynamic entertainer on stage, engaging audiences with his infectious songbook, crafty technical abilities, and the charm and charisma of a star whose brightest days are on the horizon.
“Moments” contains the following songs:
“Sip and Salsa”
“Rite Of Passage” (featuring Will Donato)
“Moments In Time”
“Stop!” (featuring Walle Larsson)
“A New Life”
“Moments In Time (instrumental version)
“Rite Of Passage” (radio edit)
For more information, please visit www.RobTardik.com.
As festival season and summer come to an end for 2015, I am taking in the best of the last. I always look forward to Labor Day weekend in High Point, NC where I attend the John Coltrane Blues and Jazz Festival. It is held at the beautiful Oak Hollow Park by the lake. Great music, legendary artists, and a spectacular sunset comprise the essence of this festival. This year, the festival was a two-day event. Opening day was an extra special treat for attendees; the Coltrane Youth Orchestra opened the festival, followed by The Bold Soul Revival, featuring singers Lauryn Mitchell, Annika Chambers, and Annie Mack. Then, the first of three legendary masters graced the stage: Earl Klugh. He was followed by Marcus Miller, and ending the night was David Sanborn. It wouldn’t have been a show if Miller hadn’t joined Sanborn on stage for a couple of songs. At the end of day one, my musical palette had been satisfied. The final day was opened by the Coltrane All-Stars, followed by Poncho Sanchez. Rounding out the final evening was Snarky Puppy, joined by Eric Gales and headliner, Lalah Hathaway. Another successful year for The John Coltrane Blues and Jazz Festival, benefiting music and local youth.
“I’ve never known a musician who regretted being one. Whatever deceptions life may have in store for you, music itself is not going to let you down.”
Wishing everyone a healthy prosperous New Year.