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JAZZ REVIEW

Easy Listening Evening With Rippingtons

June 10, 1996|BILL KOHLHAASE

Russ Freeman's Rippingtons create the perfect soundtrack for the well-adjusted lifestyle. The six-piece band's performance Saturday at the Greek Theatre contained few emotional highs or lows. Instead, the group maintained a pleasant, happy-face attitude that varied little from song to song.

Mixing tunes from their latest album, "Brave New World," with older Rippingtons material, guitarist-composer Freeman and company did nothing that was brave or new. The forgettable, sometimes confused themes, backed by predictable beats and colored with keyboardist David Konchanski's synthesizer wash, offered little room for flights of improvisation. Safe, controlled outings were the order of the evening.

A few moments, particularly during the new album's title tune, threatened to break from the Prozac-smooth thinking. But these moments were quickly sedated back into civility before establishing any personality of their own.

What little individualism there was came during solo features from percussionist Steve Reid, drummer David Anderson and bassist Kim Stone, who hit the set's high-point during an exchange with saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa.

Freeman's own play was largely uninspired, though he did strike nice tonal effects on his guitar synthesizer, notably during "Hideaway" when his sound took on a sitar-like character. The only time Freeman let his hair down was during the encore, when he rocked out ever so briefly on Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze."

The show's opening act, saxophonist Boney James, gave a similar, predictable set, albeit one with a bit more soulful pretentiousness. Best of the performers on this triple bill was singer Randy Crawford, whose honey-glazed tones and smooth, Dinah Washington-influenced sense of phrasing was put to good use on "Rainy Night in Georgia," "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and "What a Difference a Day Makes."

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