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Fans that have followed Russ Freeman and The Rippingtons for any stretch of time over the past quarter century know the versatile award winning and Grammy® nominated guitarist//composer and producer has long had a penchant for naming songs and albums after exotic places ("Aruba," "Kenya," "Morocco," Weekend in Monaco, Sahara, et al). But The Ripps' latest recording Cote D'Azur--inspired by Freeman's passion for the French people and the storied region of the French Riviera--is more than simply the latest stamp on Freeman's well traveled passport. Beyond simple wanderlust or a gathering of "musical postcards" from the Southern region of France, it taps into a spirit that's deeper and more transcendent than any other group project to date.

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.

"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." 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!

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