Rippingtons and Joyce Cooling January 14
Rippington’s Rip It Up, Joyce Cooling Is Cool
By Glen Creason
While old man winter blew chilly outside, the (arguably) smooth sounds of the Rippingtons heated the Performing Arts Center to a rosy glow on Saturday evening. The solo action was heated and the spirited interplay between horn guru Eric Marienthal and guitarist Russ Freeman stood tall amongst the contemporary jazz platform of fine bassist Kim Stone and the double-strong percussion of Scott Breadman and Dave Karasony. This was not so much smooth jazz as it was smooth funk with some tasty edges. Curtain raising guitarist Joyce Cooling had pretty much won over the large crowd and the Rips had their work cut out for them but they were up to soaring over the bar the pretty and talented lady had set at Cerritos.
Opening with the supercharged “Brave New World” the Rippington’s demonstrated from the get-go that this would be a show of energy and relentless instrumental give and take between sax, guitar and band. Most of the material was extended jams containing compact bundles of notes traded at breakneck speed but with crisp harmony. “Drive” was a road trip of wild Marienthal horn and stinging Freeman counterpoint but then most of the performance was done at a good giddy up. There was a tasty Latin influence as in the bouncy “Spanish Girl,” gypsy kinglike “Angelfire” or the wild “South Beach Mambo” which would have tested Carlos Santana from the congas to the fluid guitar lines. Ballads existed as in “Bellagio,” “Paradise” or the laid-back “Guitarland” but they were the exception to the well-heated norm including the bass-rich “Black Diamond,” and the scorched “Lay It Down” that crossed from Jazz to flat-out Rock and Roll. Encores included the easy-going “Tourist in Paradise” to an utterly astounding tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
The show was opened by the amazing Joyce Cooling who despite her demure beauty can play some pretty mean guitar. It is difficult to not compare her to hall of famer George Benson but her technique and smooth musical narrative is very much from that school. While George may sing and play guitar with the best he certainly is not as easy on the eyes as this San Francisco musician. Yet Ms. Cooling has paid her dues and can play her box like a grizzled veterana and can sing scat note for note like the aforementioned superstar. It never hurts to be surrounded by talent and certainly Cooling has a fine band including writing partner/keyboardist Jay Wagner, drummer Billy Johnson and bassist Jamie Brewer. This is a team concept and they play off one another with precision and passion. After busting out with the smooth funk of “Wizard” the crowd started to hear the notes and get in the groove. She was joined by sax wizard Eric Marienthal for one of her own compositions called “Camelback” that stood with the pulsating “Callie” and electrifying “Savannah” to comprise plenty to remember about the lady’s skills in this show. Yet, the rousing sendoff “Expression” aided by very talented bass player Brewer and an explosive guitar solo by Joyce Cooling had the assembled of Cerritos on their feet, enthusiastically begging for more. I have a feeling Joyce Cooling may be invited back south very soon.