Sizzling from start to finish, “Harlequin” is the result of one of the most intuitive partnerships in the world of jazz. Although Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin had been working together for a decade, “Harlequin” is regarded by the two musicians as their first genuine recorded collaboration, whereby from original concept, through selection of tracks and personnel to arrangements and mixing, it was truly a joint effort. Included in the top ten best jazz recordings ever by a noted poll, “Harlequin” is a blend of smoldering Brazilian rhythms and moods with a freshness and verve that brings on a tingle of excitement each time it is played. The scintillating jazz fusion of “Harlequin” includes added spice in the form of a major contribution by Brazilian singer-songwriter Ivan Lins who appears on three tracks.(grusin.net)
A Twist of Rit is Lee Ritenour’s new 2015 Concord Records release. A star-studded band performs a number of new compositions combining with fresh, “twisted” versions of some of his earliest funky, fusion material from the 70s and early 80s. Combining some of the hottest rhythm players out there, including Ron Bruner Jr., Chris Coleman, Dave Weckl, Melvin Davis, Paulinho Da Costa, Michael Thompson, John Beasley, Patrice Rushen, and Dave Grusin with a five piece Horn Section and Ernie Watts on tenor sax, A Twist of Rit will make for one of his most special releases to date.
Between the popular Captain Fingers and his follow-up Rio, crossover guitarist Lee Ritenour recorded a trio of sets for the Japanese JVC label; each of the three have since been reissued on CD. This date matches Ritenour with his pickup group of the time, which was called "the Gentle Thoughts." The lineup is impressive (including Ernie Watts on tenor, soprano and flute, both Patrice Rushen and Dave Grusin on keyboards, electric bassist Anthony Jackson, drummer Harvey Mason and percussionist Steve Forman), but the music is typically lightweight. Rit's fans will be interested to hear a different version of "Captain Fingers" and the guitarist's interpretation of "Feel Like Makin' Love" and Herbie Hancock's "Gentle Thoughts," but most of the playing is best served by being used as moderately funky background music.
The third of three Lee Ritenour sets originally cut for Japanese JVC and in 1991 reissued domestically on CD matches the studio guitarist with what could be called the "Crossover All-Stars": Ernie Watts (on tenor and soprano), both Dave and Don Grusin on keyboards, electric bassist Abraham Laboriel, drummer Steve Gadd and percussionist Steve Forman. They perform pleasant but somewhat forgettable originals by Rit, Watts and both Grusins, the kind of lightly funky background music that one would expect from expert studio players.
Guitarist Lee Ritenour decided to celebrate his 50th year as a guitar player by inviting a bevy of name guitarists into the studio to jam out some tunes, all in the name of love for their chosen instrument. Ritenour's subsequent album, 2010's 6 String Theory, is just that, a varied celebration on the many styles and players who have utilized the guitar. The result is an expansive, ambitious, but never belabored album that touches on jazz, blues, funk, and rock and expands beyond the usual Ritenour approach while remaining true to his unique six-string sound. To these ends, Ritenour duets with such artists as contemporary bluesman Keb' Mo', fusion/post-bop legend Pat Martino, and blues icon B.B. King, as well as George Benson, Slash, Mike Stern, and others. To say this is an all-star affair is an understatement and fortunately, while the album never overplays to expectations, it nonetheless delivers on Ritenour's promise of a guitar celebration.