Lee Ritenour

GRAMMY-winning, guitarist Lee Ritenour, AKA Captain Fingers, has a wide-ranging array ofmaterial to revive, as evidenced by A Twist of Rit. 2015 commemorates 40 years since his debutrecording, First Course, on Epic Records. A Twist of Rit, set for release on July 31, 2015 viaConcord Records, is a magnificent follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2012 album RhythmSessions.A Twist of Rit spotlights Ritenour with several long-time musical cohorts, including keyboardistsJohn Beasley, Dave Grusin and Patrice Rushen; saxophonist Ernie Watts; bassists MelvinLee Davis, Tom Kennedy and Dave Weckl; and percussionist Paulinho Da Costa. That coregroup is augmented by drummers Ronald Bruner Jr. and Chris Coleman, along with BobSheppard on saxophone and Rashawn Ross playing flugelhorn. Joining Ritenour for the firsttime are guitarists Michael Thompson, Wah Wah Watson and David T. Walker, plus Japanesepianist Makoto Ozone.A Twist of Rit features Ritenour’s soaring guitar lines with 12 of his compositions ranging from thefunky fusion and sophisticated jazz that he has become so well known for. All of the material wascaptured by his longtime GRAMMY Award-winning engineer Don Murray and the tracks wererecorded with everyone performing together, old-school, but with modern, state-of-the-art recordingtechniques. Another album highlight will be the debut of Hungarian guitarist Tony Pusztai, GrandPrize Winner of Ritenour’s biennial, 2014 Six String Theory Competition. Pusztai was selectedfrom over 500 entries and 72 participating countries.“People such as Ernie, Patrice, Dave and JohnBeasley, who worked closely on [my album] Wes Bound – along with Melvin Davis andpercussionist Paulinho Da Costa, go back with me to the very beginning,” Ritenour says. “Erniehad been on so many of my projects. And, of course, I couldn’t do this without Dave Grusin, whois my best buddy, and who has been involved in almost all of my recordings. All of these peopleare very close friends of mine. We’ve had this musical mafia for twenty, thirty, forty years.”With his formidable fellow travelers, Ritenour revisits several selections from his iconic albumsincluding First Course (1976), Friendship (1978) – an LP consisting of the Ritenour- led supergroupthat included Ernie Watts, Don Grusin, drummer Alex Acuna, percussionist Steve Forman,and bassist Abraham Laboriel – Rit, Vol.1 (1981), Earth Run (1986), Stolen Moments (1990) andThis Is Love (1998).Save for “Pearl,” a heartfelt, Latin-tinged tribute to Ritenour’s mother, as well as the mid- tempo,bouncy title track and the surging, organ-filled “W.O.R.K.n’ It” (Weckl, Ozone, Ritenour,Kennedy) – another version, “More W.O.R.K,” will be released on an upcoming 5- LPretrospective box set – the rest of the album features the new-and-improved vintage Ritenourtracks. “When I first proposed this record to Concord, I didn’t want it to be perceived as a ‘bestof’ rehash of my old tunes,” Ritenour says. “I love to write new material. So there is new materialon the record. But I wanted to take a look at my earlier tunes – not necessarily the major radiohits – but in general, I wanted to take material that could have a fresh look today, that we could‘twist,’ or flip. This is the first record where all of the tunes are mine. It was really fun to lookback at my catalog, which stretches back forty years, and pick certain tunes to take a fresh start.”From the LP First Course, “Wild Rice” and “Fatback” swing with some grooving, mid- and uptempoMuscle Shoals-meets-Malibu horn lines, originally arranged by Tom Scott and rearrangedby Ritenour and Beasley that ring with the spirit of the late B.B. King and Steely Dan.Two more selections from First Course include the Crusaders-coded, Michael Omartian-arranged“A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That” and the funky, 9/4-time, Head Hunters-inspired“Sweet Syncopation.” The spry, festive “Bullet Train” from Friendship bounces with the air of aBrazilian love affair, and “Soaring,” from Earth Run, is rhythmically laced with a Latin lilt.“Ooh Yeah,” from This Is Love, is reincarnated as a laid back, Quiet Storm selection, topped byRitenour’s luscious, Wes Montgomery-esque chords. “Waltz for Carmen” from Stolen Moments,written for Ritenour’s wife, is an intricate duo featuring Tony Pusztai. “Tony, who is an insaneclassical guitarist from Hungary, has got some incredible jazz chops, too,” Ritenour proudly says.The zenith of the release is Ritenour’s re-imagination of “Countdown” from Rit, Vol 1., a surging,anthemic contemporary jazz classic of the highest order. “I did some sampling of my originalrecordings,” he says. “I was able to hunt down the original tracks and have them transferred todigital. We used a sample of the original “Countdown” vocoder [track]. As we were playing live,we were triggering the sample and playing along with it.”Ritenour is able to draw upon a diverse body of work that reflects his polyglot musicalupbringing. Born on January 11, 1952 in Los Angeles, Ritenour grew up listening to a widevariety of music. His father was an amateur pianist who exposed him to Peggy Lee, RayCharles, Nancy Wilson, Erroll Garner and Stan Kenton while he took his first guitar lessons ateight. Ritenour experienced his first jazz “eureka!” moment three years later when his father tookhim to the record store.“We bought three records by Howard Roberts, Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass. I was influencedheavily by all three guys,” Ritenour says. “A lot of people don’t know Howard, but he was anincredible studio player. And, of course, everybody knows Joe. My dad called Joe on the phone,and said, ‘I’ve got this fourteen year-old. Will you give him a lesson?’ So I went to Joe’s house acouple of times and we became friends. And I was also influenced by Wes’ rhythmic and melodicapproach and his tone.”Along with his love of R&B, rock and fusion, Ritenour started his career early. He played in aband that featured Patrice Rushen and Dave Grusin at the L.A. club The Baked Potato, whilemaking a name for himself working with The Mamas & the Papas and Tony Bennett. Ritenour’swork with Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Dizzy Gillespie, Simon & Garfunkel, Herbie Hancock andFrank Sinatra, to name a select few, made him the most ubiquitous guitarist of his generation. In1986, he received a GRAMMY Award for his collaboration with Dave Grusin on his recordingHarlequin, and has been a perennial chart-topper in numerous critics polls. In the 1990s, he was afounding member of the contemporary jazz supergroup Fourplay, with Bob James, Harvey Masonand Nathan East.A Twist of Rit aurally illustrates Ritenour’s delicate balance of maintaining his individualitywhile working with an array of diverse artists. “Even though I was a studio player, I was trying toestablish my own identity,” he says. “The live thing is just as important as the studio thing. Andwhen I did my first album, where a lot of the songs [on this album] are from, in 1975, I didn’tthink I had a ‘Lee Ritenour sound.’ But then, a few years later, I listened to the record, and Irealized that wow, I did have my own sound then.”Along with A Twist of Rit, Concord Records will release a five LP vinyl box set of some ofRitenour’s classic records, including Wes Bound, Festival, Color Rit, Portrait and Earth Run.Ritenour will be touring and promoting these projects throughout 2015/16.