The Rippingtons jazz collective features a dynamic group of sidemen and solo stars, each a consummate musician in his own right. Each member, past and present, has also performed in music realms outside of jazz, making Rippingtons collaborations multifaceted explorations of diverse styles and rhythms.
Guitarist Russ Freeman began learning to play at age ten and followed in his guitarist father’s footsteps, performing in studio sessions by age 16. After moving to Southern California in 1978 he took advantage of the nearby schools, attending Cal Arts and the University of California, Los Angeles. His solo debut album, Nocturnal Playground, was released in 1985. In 1986 Freeman founded the Rippingtons in order to make an album for the Japanese Alfa label. Freeman collected a capable and impressive group of jazzmen for that project, specifically pianist David Benoit and saxophonists Brandon Fields, Kenny G., and Dave Koz. Scott Breadman ultimately filled in on percussion and has been affiliated with the Rippingtons every since. The Rippingtons debut album, Moonlighting, appeared in the United States on the GRP label that year.
Freeman, who is also a music producer, has taken charge of all of the Rippingtons recordings. After recording and producing a second solo album, Holiday, in 1995, he and colleague Andi Howard founded the Peak Record label with GRP in 1996. Freeman boasts other behind-the-scenes credits, including work on Carl Anderson’s Pieces of a Heart, Nelson Rangell’s In Every Moment, the Benoit Freeman Project, and works by Kenny Loggins, Phil Perry, and Vesta Williams. T-Square, Mark Williamson, Dotsero, and Phil Perry are also among those who have entrusted their work to the producer. Freeman, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, with his wife, Rona, was recognized with the Most Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University School of Nashville in 1996. He has earned several music awards, including, in 2001, both Lifetime Achievement and Producer of the Year honors at the Oasis Awards.
Among the many prominent Rippingtons horn players, Brandon Fields was born in 1958 in Indiana and grew up in Orange County, California. A charter member of the Rippingtons since the group’s Moonlighting debut, this alto saxophonist is an associate of George Benson and has recorded with his own sidemen for various labels. He is an R&B crossover artist and is associated most prominently with hard bop jazz.
Also heard on the Rippingtons’ Moonlighting debut, soprano saxophonist Kenneth Gorelick is recognized universally as Kenny G. He was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1959, and has strong roots in the pop music scene, where he fed the music charts continually during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1997 Kenny G. spent nearly one year at number one on the contemporary jazz album chart with The Moment, and only the Rippingtons, with their Peak debut release Black Diamond, were able to dislodge the saxophonist as the chart-topper.
Fields and G. were joined on Moonlighting by saxophonist Dave Koz of San Fernando Valley, California. Koz, who hit the Billboard chart with a self-titled debut album in 1990, purveys an upbeat musical style that has been described as light jazz and fusion.
Eric Marienthal, a recent addition to the Rippingtons, plays alto, tenor, and soprano horns as well as flute. He writes instructional manuals and has several titles in publication from Warner Bros., including Comprehensive Jazz Studies and Exercises and Ultimate Jazz Play-along. Additionally he published a collection of his own compositions and arrangements, called The Music of Eric Marienthal: Solo Transcriptions. Marienthal has issued instructional videos as well: Play Sax from Day One, Modern Sax, and Tricks of the Trade, also from Warner Bros.
Marienthal attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music and achieved the school’s highest musical proficiency rating in 1979. He joined Chick Corea’s Electric Band in 1986 and was heard on that group’s Grammy Awardwinning Light Years in 1988 and Eye of the Beholder in 1990. Additionally Marienthal toured with Al Hirt for seven months and worked on the Disney staff. In addition to other studio work, his personal honors include Journalistic Artist-in-Residence at Saxophone Journal Magazine in 1992 and Berklee’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1995. He was voted top alto saxophonist in Jazziz magazine readers’ poll in 1997. Like
Members include David Benoit, piano; Scott Breadman, percussion; Brandon Fields, alto saxophone; Russ Freeman (born on February 11, 1960, in Nashville, TN), guitar; Kenny G. (born Kenneth Gorelick in 1959 in Seattle, WA), saxophone; Bill Heller, keyboards; Dave Hooper, drums; Dave Karasony (born in California); Dave Kochanski, keyboards; Dave Koz, saxophone; Eric Marienthal (born on December 19, 1957, in Sacramento, CA), saxophone, flute; Kim Stone, bass; Paul Taylor, saxophone; Ray Yslas, percussion.
Group founded by Russ Freeman, 1987; recorded debut album, Moonlighting, 1986; eleven albums produced by 2002.
Awards: Oasis Smooth Jazz Awards for Achievement in Video, 1999, and Group of the Year, 2000-01; Billboard/BET, Best Group Award, 2000; members have received individual awards.
Addresses: Record company —Peak Records Inc., 22761 Pacific Coast Hwy, Suite 240, Malibu, CA 90265. Website — Rippingtons Official Website: http://www.rippingtons.com.
his Rippingtons colleagues, Marienthal has played on dozens of recordings with the finest names in jazz and is an accomplished solo artist in his own right, beginning with his debut album, Voices of the Heart, released on GRP in 1987. In addition to his 1989 compilation Collection, Marienthal’s solo accomplishments include Voices of the Heart, which was produced by Chick Corea and released in 1988, and Walk Tall: Tribute to Cannonball Adderley, released through PolyGram in 1998. Two songs from Walk Tall appeared among the top five of the National Contemporary Jazz Radio Charts in 1998: “Here In My Heart” rose to number one and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” peaked at number five.
Percussionist Scott Breadman’s affiliation with the Rippingtons dates back to the band’s inception, when he filled in as a substitute on occasion. In that sense and with the exception of Freeman, Breadman is the only original member who has continued as a mainstay of the collective into the 2000s. Breadman, in fact, was heard on the first Rippingtons album, Moonlighting. Breadman joined his first band when he was just a kid in fourth grade playing with a group called the Jokers, a band that hardly lasted “through lunch hour.” He next joined the Weirdos, another amateur schoolboy band that enjoyed a life span as brief as that of the Jokers. The lunch room gigs got old, but Breadman’s talent as a percussionist survived. Since his boyhood beginnings he has been heard with many jazz stars and others, including Jeff Golub and Rick James. Additionally, Breadman recorded with Lindsey Buckingham in Hawaii and was seen and heard with Jose Feliciano in concert in Turkey. Breadman has appeared at Carnegie Hall with Paul Simon, Feliciano, and Arturo Sandoval; and he performed with the late Peggy Lee and with Tap Dogs. He has contributed to numerous film soundtracks, including Curse of the Damned, the Austin Powers films, Joe Somebody, Battlefield Earth, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Ronin, Demolition Man, Wild Things, Mortal Kombat, Wild Orchid, Beverly Hills Ninja, and Geronimo. Other musicians whose recordings Breadman has been heard on include Pat Benatar, Mason Williams, Poe, Peter White, The Cult, Korn, Beach Boys, Bryan Savage, Macy Gray, and Morphine. No stranger to television, Breadman’s stylings have graced the Tracy Ullman Show, and In Living Color.
Bill Heller was heard on the Rippingtons’ Topaz album in 1999. The son of a subway conductor, Heller played the accordion as a boy and performed with an assortment of diverse bands as an adolescent and while in college. He met Freeman while performing with the Jim Pin Band, and Freeman invited him to contribute to Craig Chaquico’s Redwoods to the Rockies. Heller joined Chaquico again on “Four Corners” and “Café Carnival.” Heller’s work has taken him into studio sessions and onto cruise ships. His performance venues have included Carnegie Hall and international spots in Greece and Germany. He has appeared with Willie Steele, John Abercrombie, Randy Brecker, Brian Johnstone of AC/DC, Bruce Johnston of Maynard Ferguson fame, and the Mudmen. Heller, who is married, met his wife in college; they have two children.
After taking up drums at age nine, Dave Karasony won the Percussive Arts Society Drumset Competition in 1979 and again in 1980. He met Freeman in 1982 and has been heard also with Pat Benatar, Peter White, Jeff Golub, Marc Antoine, Brian Bromberg, Art Garfunkel, Al Kooper, Al Stewart, Warren Hill, Rick Braun, and Lee Oskar.
An associate of the Rippingtons since 1990, Kim Stone’s credentials include four years as a regular member of the Grammy Award-nominated group Spyro Gyra, as well as Grammy-nominated performances with Rare Silk. Stone performed with the Rippingtons on Curves Ahead in 1991, Weekend in Monaco and Live in L.A. in 1992, Black Diamond in 1997, and Topaz. Stone was heard on Freeman’s Sahara album in 1994 and released a solo effort, More Often than Not, in 1999. In addition to playing bass, Stone has many compositions to his credit, including “Bob Goes to the Store,” which was a video release from Spyro Gyra’s Breakout album. Stone has worked with B.B. King among others and has jazz festival credits including Montreaux, North Sea, Newport, Kool, JVC, and the Playboy Festival. Stone’s extensive touring has taken him throughout the United States as well as to Europe and Japan.
In 1999 the Rippingtons were a hit when they performed a Latin repertoire in an appearance at the fourth annual Heineken Jazz Festival held in Puerto Rico. Members attending that event included Dave Hooper, Dave Kochanski, Ray Yslas, and Paul Taylor. In August of 2001 the Rippingtons headlined Oklahoma’s Greenwood Jazz Festival, and in October of that year, in the midst of a jazz resurgence in Boston, gave two concerts at Scullers. The collective was also on the bill at Arizona’s Sonoran Jazz Festival in May of 2002.
Rippingtons band members have a well-established reputation for social awareness. Saxophonist Marienthal most notably is a tireless fund-raiser; he is most well known for his involvement with High Hopes, a nonprofit organization established to assist victims of traumatic brain injuries. Another well-publicized social cause popular with the Rippingtons is the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, a charity that holds special import for Heller whose CD Strong Woman is dedicated to his wife, Dawn, a victim of ovarian cancer. Also on the Rippingtons’ charities list, a 2001 appearance by the group in Omaha, Nebraska, which was designated to benefit the American Music Therapy Association.
Moonlighting, GRP, 1986.
Kilimanjaro, GRP, 1988.
Tourist in Paradise, GRP, 1989.
Welcome to the St. James’ Club, GRP, 1990.
Curves Ahead, GRP, 1991.
Weekend in Monaco, GRP, 1992.
Live in LA., GRP, 1992.
Black Diamond, Windham Hill, 1997.
Topaz, Windham Hill, 1999.
Live! Across America, Windham Hill, 2000.
Life in the Tropics, Peak, 2000.
Arizona Daily Star, March 10, 2002.
Billboard, October 11, 1997; September 16, 2000.
New York Amsterdam News, August 5, 1999.
Omaha World-Herald, August 9, 2001.
Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK), August 5, 2001.
Peak Records, http://peak-records.com/index.shtml (May 6, 2002).
“Rippingtons,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (May 6, 2002).
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