Now that the Yellowjackets have moved off in a more militant jazz direction, the fusion band playing the most engaging pop-jazz music is the Rippingtons. This group, which is essentially keyboard player-guitarist Russ Freeman and a collection of cohorts, entrenches its pole position on its third release, the smooth-as-corn-silk Tourist in Paradise.
Freeman, a 29-year-old Galveston native, creates layered arrangements without losing melodic momentum or resonance. One spice in this album is its variety: It runs from the frisky Latino-Carib savor of "Aruba!" to a burnished, surprisingly effective instrumental version of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together." "Jupiter's Child," showcasing sax player Brandon Fields, is the type of poignant jazz ballad you might hear on a record by Arthur Blythe or Stanley Turrentine. Sweet, soft and a bit sad, "One Summer Night in Brazil" features music as evocative as its title.
Behind Freeman's caressing guitar and synthesizer washes, you hear the surf roll in and feel warm breezes laving your skin. There are a number of other moods on Tourist in Paradise, and the music on all of them is lively and inviting. (GRP)