You know you're probably on the right artistic path when your music professor joins your band. After spending his teenage years gigging in rock bands in the Boston area, later in New England playing with bands of every genre as sideman, fronting for name acts, (and celebrating his birthday by opening for Stevie Ray Vaughn), bassist Rick Bishop got caught up in the thriving jazz scene. He explored the clubs and met some jazz musicians from the University of Maine's music program who convinced him to play for their professor. After one lively and free-flowing jam session, the professor not only offered Bishop a scholarship, he joined what later became the Rick Bishop Jazz Quartet. Most of the clubs have closed, and the jazz scene is not what it used to be, but the Rick Bishop Jazz Quartet still plays local colleges and auditoriums. And Rick himself has released What 4, a funky, flowing, suave and sophisticated collection of jazz compositions that have earned raves from JazzRadio247, Indie-Music.com, and JazzReview.com, not to mention many music fans who thought they just didn't get jazz. The accessibility of the sound is due in part to the wide range of musical influences Rick mixes in. But there's also the allure of romance. The vibe of What 4 conjures up cappuccino cafes, after- dinner cigars and brandy, Sinatra and film noir. But if you ask Rick, it's the playful nature of jazz that lures them in every time. "What's so beautiful about jazz, especially for me as a bass player," he explains, "is that every note I' m playing, I'm inventing. I can improvise the bass lines and solos. I'm free to create. Jazz is so spontaneous and creative. No song is ever played the same way twice." While Rick may revel in the free-spirited nature of jazz, he is still a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to his recordings. (He admits he once spent twelve hours working with a percussionist on one song.) He also brings his artistic profession into the real world.