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Jazz - Released December 4, 2020 | The Players Club

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It's hard to believe that in his over-50-year career, guitarist Lee Ritenour has never released a solo guitar album. He rectifies that fact on 2020's warmly delivered Dreamcatcher. The record follows Ritenour's star-studded 2015 album A Twist of Rit, in which he reworked songs from throughout his career with a bevy of special guests. Dreamcatcher finds him taking a more introspective, stripped-down approach, but one that still showcases his lyricism and adept fretboard skills. Recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ritenour produced the album himself at his home, working remotely with studio assistance by Gary Lee and Brian McShea. There's an intimacy to the recordings that has the feeling of a small private concert, or it's as if you're eavesdropping on Ritenour just jamming for his own pleasure. Comfortable in electric and acoustic settings, and with a career that has straddled the rock, jazz, and pop worlds, the guitarist takes an equally expansive approach on Dreamcatcher. He dips into folky acoustic balladry on "Starlight," draws upon the sophisticated hollow-body style of Wes Montgomery on "The Lighthouse," and weaves a delicate patchwork of nylon-string harmonies on the classical-leaning title track. He even rips into far-eyed electric jazz-rock on "Abbot Kinney." There's a shimmering, textural quality to many of these songs as Ritenour laces together his warm melodies using just a modicum of aftereffects. We also get the nicely arranged "Couldn't Help Myself," a flowing instrumental that evokes Ritenour's '70s fusion work and features a mix of synths, percussion, and over 20 guitar tracks. Dreamcatcher is a relaxing, deceptively understated album that showcases Ritenour's laid-back virtuosity. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2015 | Concord Records

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Released in conjunction with a five-LP vinyl box set of some of his classic albums, guitarist Lee Ritenour's 2015 studio effort, A Twist of Rit, finds him looking back over his career, revisiting and reworking songs from some of his earliest albums. In fact, many of the songs here were culled off his debut record, 1975's First Course. Joining Ritenour on A Twist of Rit are such longtime collaborators as pianist Dave Grusin, drummer Dave Weckl, saxophonist Ernie Watts, and Fender Rhodes keyboardist John Beasley. Also featured is classical guitarist Tony Pusztai, who took home the grand prize in Ritenour's 2014 Six String Theory competition. Musically, this is soulful, groove-oriented jazz that will be familiar to most of Ritenour's longtime fans. And while many of the cuts on A Twist of Rit are reworked versions of older songs like "Wild Rice," "Fatback," and "Sweet Syncopation," they've been given new arrangements (hence, the "twist") and sound as contemporary as anything off Ritenour's previous Concord album, 2012's Rhythm Sessions. The transformation works especially well on the melody for "Soaring," off 1986's Earth Run. Originally played on the MIDI-controlled SynthAxe, here Ritenour sticks to a rounded, more natural guitar tone for a nuanced, modern fusion sound. Nonetheless, cuts like the sultry "Ooh Yeah" and the organic "A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That," replete with a hard-hitting R&B horn section, retain much of the breezy '70s soul style that made them sound so fresh to begin with. Similarly, "Countdown" from 1985's Rit, Vol. 1 and "Bullet Train" from 1979's Friendship 2 have the loose, congenial vibe of old friends reuniting. Ultimately, A Twist of Rit works to remind listeners of Ritenour's legacy as one of the driving innovators of instrumental smooth jazz. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2012 | Concord Records

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Lee Ritenour's Rhythm Sessions is, in a roundabout way, a companion album to 2010's Six String Theory. For that record, he sought out a slew of guitar greats to celebrate their joint love for the instrument. Here, Ritenour assembles another top-flight cast for a set of tunes that range from fusion to pop, from contemporary jazz to post-bop and more. "The Village" places the guitarist with George Duke, Stanley Clarke, drummer Dave Weckl, and percussionist Munyungo Jackson. The fusion groove is nocturnal, slippery, even bluesy. Kurt Elling joins Dave Grusin, Nathan East, and Will Kennedy for an elegant reading of Nick Drake's "River Man." Ritenour's revisioning of Herbie Hancock's "Fat Albert Rotunda" showcases just how savvy he is at adapting a jazz-funk classic for the 21st century without sacrificing its vigor. The band -- Patrice Rushen on acoustic piano with Debron Johnson on Rhodes, Marcus Miller and Melvin Lee Davis on basses, Rob Bacon on rhythm guitar, and Oscar Seaton on drums -- rock it up a bit while keeping the ensemble and rhythmic interplay fluid, yet firmly in the pocket. Ritenour surprises by including two tunes by the European piano trio E.S.T.: "800 Streets by Feet" and "Spam-Boo-Limbo." In both cases, he uses the harmonic elasticity of the originals to dig inside their hardwired, interlocking grooves. He reveals them as rife for contemporary jazz as well as post-bop. Chick Corea stars on his own shimmering "Children's Song," with Ritenour playing classical guitar augmented by drummer Peter Erskine and Chuck Bergdorfer on bass. This set is not all cover tunes, however; Ritenour contributes three fine compositions -- "July" (a breezy little funk tune with excellent bass work by Melvin Davis), "Rose Pedals" (a crossover classical jazz piece), and "Dolphins Don't Dance" (a limber, Latin-tinged modern jazz tune with Larry Goldings on B-3). The set closer is a reading of Grusin's elegant, R&B-flavored "Punta del Soul," featuring the three young winners of his Six String Theory Guitar & Rhythm Section Competition. Rhythm Sessions underscores Ritenour's ability to place himself in any jazz ensemble -- he's almost chameleon-like -- without sacrificing his unique voice or ability as a soloist. This utterly unique recording in the contemporary jazz genre is a fine showcase for his skills as a bandleader. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1995 | GRP

Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour have had parallel careers, but this CD is their first joint meeting on record. The two guitarists complement each other well and there are hints of Wes Montgomery along with a tribute to Joe Pass ("Remembering J.P."), but the songs (all of them their originals) are little more than rhythmic grooves most of the time with the usual fadeouts. The consistently lightweight music is reasonably pleasing but never too stimulating. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2005 | Peak Records

Overtime is really two CDs in one. On the instrumentals, particularly "Bass City" and "Blue in Green," guitarist Lee Ritenour sounds a lot like Wes Montgomery and he leads his group (which features either Ernie Watts or Eric Marienthal on tenor) through some relatively straight-ahead numbers filled with soulful and creative playing. However the five vocals numbers are much more in the R&B/smooth vein and are largely throwaways despite the occasional presence of Ivan Lins. Clearly Ritenour was going for variety on this project but will probably only satisfy his greatest fans. The jazz listeners will be turned off by the vocals and the pop/smooth fans will probably only tolerate some of the more adventurous originals. Ritenour sounds fine in both settings but probably should have recorded twice as much music and split this CD into two. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1993 | GRP

Lee Ritenour, a superior studio guitarist, has recorded very few jazz albums throughout his career, preferring to play melodic pop and light funk. On the rare occasions when he has had an urge to perform jazz, Ritenour has been more than happy to show off the influence of Wes Montgomery; therefore, this tribute is a logical move, even if the results are not all that exciting. Ritenour mostly plays pieces from the later (and more commercial) half of Montgomery's career, along with four of his own originals that are sort of in the tradition. He also hedges his bet a little by throwing in a Bob Marley reggae tune. For jazz listeners who wish to sample some Lee Ritenour, this is one of his better recordings, but why purchase Wes Bound when there are so many more significant Wes Montgomery albums currently in print? © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2002 | GRP

Creatively, Lee Ritenour has had his ups and downs over the years. Many of the guitarist's commercial pop-jazz efforts have wasted his skills as an improviser; when Ritenour is catering to NAC/smooth jazz radio, improvisation is the usually the first thing to go. But when Ritenour does have a chance to stretch out, he can be an appealing improviser. Although quite accessible, Rit's House is among his more memorable and substantial efforts. This 2002 release has a soul-jazz/post-bop outlook that often recalls the late '60s and early '70s; for the most part, it is the sort of album that guitarist Grant Green would have been comfortable recording during that era. But Ritenour's guitar playing owes a lot more to Wes Montgomery, who is obviously his primary influence on Gabor Szabo's "Mizrab," as well as original tunes like "78th & 3rd" (which features organist Joey DeFrancesco) and the dusky "Olinda." One of the CD's best tracks has nothing to do with jazz: "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." Featuring former Doobie Brothers vocalist Michael McDonald, this interesting remake of the Police's 1981 hit is not only a departure from the rest of the album -- it is also a big departure from the original version. While the Police's version was up-tempo pop/rock, Ritenour and McDonald transform "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" into an adult contemporary/quiet storm ballad. That track is the CD's only vocal offering; the rest of Rit's House is instrumental. Arguably, 1992's Wes Bound is still Ritenour's best studio album -- certainly from a jazz perspective. But this CD is also respectable, and those who enjoyed hearing the guitarist stretching out on that mostly straightahead disc will also find a lot to enjoy about Rit's House. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2006 | Peak Records

Featuring a bevy of world music guests, guitarist Lee Ritenour's Smoke 'N' Mirrors is a stylish, joyous, and laid-back multicultural affair. Among the guests are Brazilian vocalist and keyboardist Daniel Jobim, South African vocalist Zamajobe and guitarist Erik Pilani Paliani, West African bassist Richard Bona, as well as such well-known contemporary jazz icons as pianist Dave Grusin, bassist John Patitucci, percussionist Sheila E., and others. Judiciously, Ritenour has made room for a wide musical palette including funky jams, melodic soul vocal tracks, inspired rhythmic passages, and of course straight-ahead jazz improvisation. While this is an impeccably crafted effort in the tradition of past Ritenour albums, it never comes off as anything less than organically heartfelt. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2015 | Concord Records

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Dedicated to the First Earth Run, in which runners circled the globe for peace in 1986, Ritenour's 16th solo album was performed on a variety of nine different guitars, counting the peculiarly fuzzy, futuristic sound of the synthaxe. For reasons having little to do with that, and far more to do with more musical playing by Rit, better material and L.A. sessionmen on their game, this is a more interesting record than most of its immediate predecessors. The standout cut here is a welcome cover of Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly; " also worthy of note are the techno-fried quasi-salsa in "The Sauce" and the title cut. Among some of the musicians who appear in the mix are Dave and Don Grusin, Ernie Watts (heard to better effect than usual on Rit's '80s albums), Carlos Vega and Paulinho Da Costa. The sessions sound too processed to allow for much spontaneity, but the Ritenour funk chops do appear more often and more effectively here. The CD version contains an extra tune, "Hero." © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2003 | GRP

Smooth jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour gets the "best-of" treatment on this GRP compilation. While longtime fans will most likely already have these tracks, curious listeners may find it a nice place to start. Featuring a cross section of tracks Ritenour recorded during the '90s and early '00s, including "A Little Bumpin'," "Harlequin," and "Wes Bound," the only disappointment is that no new or unreleased cuts were included. However, Ritenour is a consummate jazz-pop melodicist and is still well represented, despite the inadequacies of this collection. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2015 | Concord Records

Booklet
Ritenour's second acoustic album, like his first, has an overall Brazilian theme but this time, he recorded his ensemble of New York, L.A. and Brazilian musicians in one locale, New York City. This is a superior record to Rio, though, because there is a deeper Brazilian feeling to the arrangements, and Lee's own playing is even more refined and meaningful. "Waiting For You," a solo track on an acoustic guitar synthesizer, is especially attractive. The core crew consists of a collection of pro's pros -- Ernie Watts on alto and tenor, Dave Grusin or Bob James on keyboards, Marcus Miller or Anthony Jackson on bass, Omar Hakim on drums, Paulinho Da Costa and Carlinhos Brown on percussion -- who lay down smooth yet gently grooving backdrops for Rit to ride. Joao Bosco and Gracinha Leporace contribute fascinating Portuguese vocals to the album's two most appealing and thoroughly Brazilian-flavored tracks, "Latin Lovers" and "Odile, Odila" -- and Caetano Veloso brings a softer-focused vocal style to "Linda." © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1997 | GRP

Jazz being the most spontaneous and improvisational of all musical forms, it's often best appreciated in a live setting, where artistry can take over for commercial considerations and jamming for minutes on end is encouraged. Lee Ritenour has enhanced his pop-jazz catalog in recent years with projects featuring tunes that would lend themselves to such creative stretching, and so wraps up his long run at GRP with Alive in L.A., a brilliantly realized, no-overdubs-allowed ensemble date that delves into his diverse interests, from Brazilian to straight-ahead trio jazz and blues. Fans who know him best from his lighthearted radio fare may just be astounded at his chops, which do proud the grand traditions of his idol Wes Montgomery, and even try to reach a bit beyond. Recorded over three nights at the Ash Grove in Santa Monica, CA, Ritenour finds a gang of musicians even more explosive than his Fourplay pals in saxman Bill Evans (who wails heartily on Wes Montgomery's odd metered "4 on 6"), keyboardists Alan Pasqua and Barnaby Finch, and drummer Sonny Emory. Rit's clearly in charge, but it's the energetic company he keeps that makes this a hard-grooving, unforgettable date. © Jonathan Widran /TiVo
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Pop - Released February 8, 2005 | Craft Recordings

Session ace Lee Ritenour once more employs the cream of L.A.'s studio crop to come up with a drab, utterly unimaginative slab of nondescript pop. With guest vocalists like Eric Tagg and Bill Champlin (who also contribute as composers), Ritenour and his cohorts -- among them Jeff Porcaro, Harvey Mason, David Foster, Alex Acuña, and Richard Tee -- craft a pristine sonic foray into early-'80s production styles without a memorable song in ten. This is especially exasperating considering that Ritenour had the audacity to cover Sly Stone's "(You Caught Me) Smilin'" and murder it. Simply lifeless and dreadful. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2015 | Concord Records

Booklet
Portrait is predominantly a series of encounters between Ritenour and several guest interlopers, presumably to provide a well-rounded stylistic composite. The more heartening result is the acceleration of Ritenour's growth into a tastier, more musical guitarist, whether in the lead or sharing the spotlight. "Asa" is excellent, a fine Djavan tune with the composer's vocals adding immeasurably and possibly inspiring some tasty electric work from Lee -- and there is a sweetly-played Brazilian-styled tune, "Windmill," where Rit's playing almost resembles that of Chet Atkins in its smooth deceptive simplicity. "G-Rit" has Kenny G exchanging riffs with the far more inventive Ritenour, but you can tell that Kenny is definitely stoking Lee's engine. There are three tracks with a restrained quorum from Yellowjackets; "White Water" is not bad, has a nice flow, while Jobim's "Children's Games" receives a lovely performance and "Runaway" closes the LP on an attractive note (the CD has an additional cut). One of Rit's better records of the '80s. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2015 | Concord Records

Booklet
Color Rit begins right where Festival left off, with Brazilian-flavored electric jazz and Rit handling the acoustic guitar, but soon veers closer to a more generic L.A.-based series of sounds and textures. Ritenour adds electric guitar to several tracks, although the acoustic instrument dominates the album. Ernie Watts is back on a couple of cuts, but the bulk of the backup is provided by the likes of keyboardists Dave Witham, Larry Williams and Russ Ferrante, bassist Jimmy Johnson, percussionist Paulinho Da Costa and drummer Carlos Vega. "All the Same Tonight," "Malibu" and "I Can't Let Go," with vocals by Phil Perry, thankfully don't sound quite as commercial as previous attempts on earlier Ritenour albums. Yet this CD represents a slight dip for Ritenour at a stage in his career when his albums were gradually becoming classier and more musical. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 19, 2007 | Craft Recordings

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Verve

Lee Ritenour's first solo album for his new i.e. music label is a good one, one of his best actually, whether staying in the strict jazz-lite format that marks a lot of his previous work or straying into the other idioms that pop up here. Whether emulating Wes Montgomery's octaves or curling around in single-string fashion, Ritenour's playing is irresistibly tasty and swinging, perhaps more so than ever, and the material has real melodic interest -- more so than anything his former group Fourplay was performing around this time. Among the most interesting swerves off the track are the title tune, which mixes reggae with Montgomery in a very appealing way, and a surprisingly effective closing take on Fauré's "Pavanne." There are extended samples from Sonny Rollins' Alfie score, with "Alfie's Theme" grooving away in a cool, soulful, organ-jazz seam and "Street Runner" tracking Rollins' recording, its quicksilver post-bop clip juxtaposed with repose. On both tracks, Ronnie Foster supplies authentic Hammond B-3 -- perhaps fulfilling a Jimmy Smith-meets-Wes Montgomery fantasy. Bill Evans and Ernie Watts take guest turns on tenor on a few cuts; Bob James chips on agreeably on Rhodes electric piano on "Can You Feel It?"; and Ritenour often takes matters into his own hands, programming electronic drums and performing on synthesizers. Hardcore jazzers who wrote Ritenour off as a lightweight ought to hear how he has grown as a mature jazz guitarist on this album. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz Fusion & Jazz Rock - Released June 30, 1987 | Epic

A great player shows how easily he can handle trite pop. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Decca Crossover

The careers of these two jazz legends have diverged wildly since they celebrated a lifetime of friendship and collaborations with their critically acclaimed, Grammy nominated classical excursion Two Worlds in 2000. While Ritenour has kept up a busy recording pace with gems like Smoke 'N' Mirrors and his all-star tribute productions A Twist of Marley and A Twist of Motown, Grusin was largely MIA from the original recording realm, popping up only briefly in 2004 with Now Playing: Movie Themes -- Solo Piano, featuring acoustic interpretations of his best film score pieces. No doubt Grusin's fans would still love a return to the pop/jazz realm, but there's no shortage of brilliance from either performer on their classical sequel Amparo, a worthy follow-up to the first project. On the original, they took a very traditional approach, exploring the works of Bach, Bartók, and Villa-Lobos, among others, but on Amparo, the greatest surprise is the wider ranging multi-culturalism. Grusin himself composed the hypnotic opening suite of "Three Latin American Dances," which roll from a spritely "Tango en Parque Central" to percussive and dramatic swings through "Danzon de Etiqueta" and "Joropo Peligroso." The lone holdover guest from the first project is opera great Renée Fleming, whose wordless transcendence blends magically with violinist Joshua Bell on a dreamy Gabriel Fauré piece. The duo then goes folky to pleasing effect on the graceful, charmingly lyrical and orchestra enhanced "English Folk Song Suite," which they cap with "Since I First Saw Your Face," a bright slice of 17th century English romance delivered sweetly by guest vocalist James Taylor. Before returning to tradition via the rich string arrangement on Ravel's "Mother Goose Suite," Grusin and Ritenour lovingly recall their mid-'80s Brazilian-influenced jazz project Harlequin by tapping into Jobim's passionate "Olha Maria (Amparo)" with the sweetening of Bell's violin. The thoughtful Rit original "Echos" is followed by two wonderful showcases for one of the 2000s most popular trumpeters, Chris Botti, who is perfectly at home bringing beauty and brilliance to "Adagio in G Minor" and Handel's lively "Rinaldo, Duetto," which he performs as a cheery, then pensive, then happy again narrative duet with Fleming's world-renowned vocal prowess. The sheer artistry of Amparo will make fans of all of the artists involved hope that the dynamic duo won't wait till 2016 before enchanting them again with this kind of welcome excursion. © Jonathan Widran /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1990 | GRP

After 15 years of guitarist Lee Ritenour primarily playing crossover music, this set of mostly straight-ahead jazz was a surprise. Ritenour always loved Wes Montgomery's playing and on many of these cuts, that influence dominates his sound and style. Assisted by tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts (who usually takes solo honors), pianist Alan Broadbent, bassist John Patitucci (sticking to acoustic) and drummer Harvey Mason, Ritenour performs such numbers as "Stolen Moments," "Haunted Heart," "Blue In Green" and "Sometime Ago," in addition to four originals (including "Waltz for Carmen"). Although not essential music, this is one of the rare Lee Ritenour rare sets that should interest straight-ahead jazz collectors. © Scott Yanow /TiVo