Aside from their mutual smooth jazz pedigree -- which include some of the genre's most critically acclaimed and best-selling recordings -- it would appear Russ Freeman and Craig Chaquico have little in common. Chaquico came to instrumental music in the early '90s from life as a rock & roller, and 15 years as the guitar anchor in Jefferson Starship. Freeman and his band the Rippingtons were there at the inception of the format, breaking through with albums like Moonlighting and Kilimanjaro that were as much about soundscape-heavy productions and picture-perfect melodies as his own jazz guitar chops. A skeptic could easily call their pairing on From the Redwoods to the Rockies (Windham Hill Jazz) a marketing director's concoction. But that would be overlooking the colorful possibilities that result when jazz meets rock, and when two nature boys -- whose love of the land runs as deep as their lust for music -- meet up somewhere between the mountains and trees. Truth is, almost any of these tunes would fit perfectly on a Chaquico or Rippingtons disc, depending on whose axe takes center stage. "Riders of the Ancient Winds" features a trademark Chaquico swaying, gently rolling groove and melody line, and until Freeman chimes in with a subdued electric solo (which eases into a background harmony line), it could easily be an outtake from any of Chaquico's solo efforts. Same throughout the title track, although the tender Chaquico ballad vibe is spruced up with a cool piano trio section led by David Benoit and a splash here and there of Freeman's laid-back acoustic soloing. On the other hand, Chaquico has never done much exotic music before, and so Freeman's sunny lines over gentle percussion -- again enhanced by Benoit's magic touch -- make "Samba" a stripped down Ripps tune, reminiscent of the tropical flavors of 1992's Weekend in Monaco.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran