The Rippingtons

Black Diamond

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After nearly a decade at GRP Records, smooth jazz's premier ensemble made a very successful switch to Windham Hill with this recording inspired by leader Russ Freeman's ski adventures in his adopted home of Colorado. Their tenth album continues the band's recent successful ventures into urban-flavored music while also showcasing Freeman's amazing talents for jazz and flamenco guitar playing, in addition to his trademark classical guitar-influenced pop/rock sound. The collection is also a celebration of ten years of the smooth jazz format and the Rippingtons' instrumental role in creating music that helps define the genre's sound. The band weaves through the title track with a soaring, echoing guitar melody over a cool, shuffling hip-hop groove. Mark Williamson's spiritual-flavored chanting enhances the moody textures and funky, retro-soul vibe of the electric guitar-driven "Deep Powder," while the steamy, classical guitar-led "Seven Nights in Rome" finds the band looking down from the mountaintop, thoughtfully recounting the romantic ambience of a recent concert trip to Italy. "North Peak"'s slamming percussion approximates a speedy downhill race, but all that chill is more than balanced by the daring and exotic "Angelfire," which blends Freeman's colorful flamenco stylings and Arturo Sandoval's crackling trumpet.

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