Let ‘er rip!

November 13, 2009

The-Rippingtons-Photo-credit-Sonny-Mediana-Lo

There are a couple of different types of music I generally cannot stand: techno, contemporary Rn’B, but nothing comes close to my distaste for smooth jazz–instrumental music with all the interesting edges buffed out till you have a kind of cloying white noise perfect for the dentist’s office. So imagine my surprise when I ended up at a Rippingtons’ concert yesterday at Indy’s Music Mill. Granted, the tickets were free, and I had been told that these legendary kings of smooth jazz were actually a jazz fusion band. However, any element of jazz improvisation was ripped from the Rippingtons long ago, and replaced by tightly orchestrated melodies seemingly written for corporate videos.

perfect-strangersThe Rippingtons are the aural equivalent of a Perfect Strangers episode. You could imagine their music in some humorous montage of Larry and Balki strolling in Central Park. Unchallenging and mushy, there’s something almost Soviet or propagandistic about The Rippingtons’ sound–music created by big brother to reassure the populace that their every move isn’t being controlled. Does that sound paranoid and libertarian? But really. How can people possibly enjoy it? I just don’t understand. And people were REALLY enjoying it last night…dancing in the aisles! Giving standing ovations! Take a listen. I know the following video is from the 90s’, but, believe me, they sound just as lame today.

It’s so soulless! All their songs are named after postcard pictures of beautiful places: Los Cabos, Kilimanjaro, Morocco, A Night in Brazil, Weekend in Monaco, Tourist in Paradise. It’s Conde Nast Traveler set to music. I think it would be fun to hear the Rippingtons’ take on Southeast DC or Detroit. Would they still kick up the reverb on the acoustic guitar or give it a grittier sound?

Sax player, Jeff Kashiwa, plays tenor and soprano sax in the Kenny G/Dave Koz style. But last night, he played mostly the EWI (electric wind instrument), probably one of the most annoying instruments known to man. The painful screeching of the EWI was exacerbated by the fact that sound man had no clue how to mix this band, favoring instead a hard rock sound–all drums and bass at excruciating decibel levels. I put bar napkins in my ears! At a Rippington’s show!

About an hour in, all my companions were in agreement that we should leave. One of them, a musician and jazz fan, said of the Rippingtons’ sound, “It’s not free at all.” He’s right. It’s contrived and artificial–evocative of safely-contained emotions. But, to me, the experience is far from pleasant.

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