Abstract painting. Musical improvisation. Dashes of color. A heavy bass line. For Russ Freeman, art and music are all about self-expression.
“I think it’s interesting the parallels you can draw between visual art and music,” said the guitarist who fronts The Rippingtons.
“I would think that when you’re writing a piece of music, you’ve got to decide on the instrumentation and that would be analogous to maybe a color palette in art. And when you want to decide a tempo for a piece of music, it would be kind of like the style you’re going to work in, whether it be a black-and-white, a painting, something with texture, or sculpture.
“All of these things are kind of related in a way; I think the creative mind is, at least I think, the processes work the same for me,” he said.
Freeman’s love of art has resurfaced. When he’s not painting landscapes, he said he’s drawn to digital illustration.
That renewed passion is reflected in The Rippingtons’ most recent disc, “Modern Art,” which came out in March. The CD cover again is Bill Mayer’s Jazz Cat, which has become the group’s mascot. This time the cool cat is sporting a beret and Daliesque moustache and is painting.
The title track kicks off the disc and features Freeman on acoustic guitar.
“I really love the timelessness of the classical guitar,” he said during a phone interview from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “The electric guitar is great. Of course, my wife loves the classical way more than the electric.
Freeman and his wife, Yaredt Leon, wrote a couple of songs for the record.
“She writes in a different medium: She writes Spanish pop songs,” Freeman said. “And she writes lyrics most of the time, but she has a very good sense of melody, so I like working with her because she thinks totally different than I do.”
Freeman is known for writing memorable instrumentals.
“I’ve always been attracted to two really strong things and that’s melody and harmony; they’re my favorite things in music. And, of course, they’re the least popular things right now; now it’s all about rhythm and groove,” he said and laughed.
The Rippingtons will play a free 7:30 p.m. show Aug. 8 at the River Raisin Jazz Festival in St. Mary’s Park in Monroe, Mich.
The band has featured a rotating lineup since its formation in 1986. Jazz superstars David Benoit, Kenny G and Dave Koz are alumni of The Rippingtons.
“It doesn’t surprise me that people have had a lot of success out of our band because we look for the most talented and greatest musicians we can find,” Freeman said.
Jamming with Freeman these days are saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa, drummer Dave Karasony, bass player Rico Belled and keyboardist Bill Heller.
River Raisin Jazz Festival, St. Mary’s Park, Monroe, Mich.
Saturday, Aug. 8
1 p.m. The River Raisin Big Band
2:30 p.m. University of Toledo Faculty Jazz Band
4 p.m. Paul DeVee & Friends
5:45 p.m. Cindy Bradley
7:30 p.m. The Rippingtons
Sunday, Aug. 9
1 p.m. Urban Transport
2:30 p.m. Elements of Sound
4 p.m. 50th Anniversary Motown Review
5:45 p.m. Dave McMurray
7:30 p.m. Alexander Zonjic with Jeff Lorber, Maysa, Motor City Horns