Contemporary jazz group nearly fills Lyman Center

Jessica GuerrucciReporter

As a part of Southern’s Spring Jazz Series, The Rippingtons, featuring Russ Freeman, played at the Lyman Center on Saturday night.

As part of a fourpart jazz series, The Rippingtons were the first to perform on March 23. The Rippingtons, a contemporary jazz group formed by Freeman, attracted a crowd that nearly filled the Lyman Center.

“I started the band in LA in 1986 and came up with the name as I was watching some friends perform onstage. I said, ‘We’ll call ourselves the Rippingtons,” said Freeman, in an interview conducted through email.

Throughout the years the band has had several changing members, Freeman said rotating musicians was done intentionally.

“It was built into the DNA of the band to have a revolving personnel, and it has proven to increase our creativity,” said Freeman. “What I did not foresee was that we would develop into a longtime core.”

New Haven was the second stop on the band’s tour, after they released their new album “Open Road,” on March 22. Freeman, a guitarist, performed alongside Dave Karasony, the drummer, Brandon Fields, the saxophonist, who is also a founding member, Ricco Belled, the bassist, and Bill Heller, the keyboardist. They played several songs from their new album, as well as some of their older, well known songs.

Courtney Parent, a student at Central Connecticut State University, said she was happy to hear her favorite song being played, “Carnival.”

“My dad actually got me into them when I was really young,” said Parent. “I used to go to jazz concerts with him all the time and then latched on to these guys. It’s been great to see them actually in person.”

Parent, who attended the concert with her mother and father, said she was glad she got to hear some of their newer music because she is not someone who keeps up with their newly released songs, but she said liked every new song that she heard.

Debbie and Alain St. Thomas, who came from Branford to attend the concert, and are both fans of The Rippingtons, said the performance was fantastic.

“It was more than we could’ve expected. I think the venue is great, nice size, we signed up a little late and we wound up with bad seats, but the sound was terrific and the proximity to the stage was great,” said Alain St. Thomas.

Debbie St. Thomas said she was disappointed that the band did not play “Cougars and Gigolos,” but despite that still she liked all the other songs that were played.

“I loved ‘Luca.’ It was very pretty, I didn’t catch all the titles, but I think we’re going to go buy the album,” said Debbie St. Thomas.

The Rippingtons ended the concert by playing Jimmy Hendrix and invited the whole crowd to get up and dance and sing along with them. Alain St. Thomas, who is a big fan of Hendrix, said the while the ending was much appreciated, the finale was an unexpected one.

“This is the first concert we’ve been to of theirs, so I don’t know how they normally end, but that was unexpected and great,” said Alain St. Thomas.

Myra Beavers, from West Haven, said she and her husband come to the Lyman Center all the time to see different performances each season, and they brought a ticket for every concert in the jazz series.

Beavers said while there was not one specific song that stood out to her, but the general sound of the band stuck out to her the most.

“I thought the show was fantastic. My husband, who is a big Rippingtons fan, always plays the music at home,” said Beavers. “So, hearing them here made me feel right at home. Calm, relaxed, smooth, and cool.”

Photo Credit: William Aliou

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