Growing up in L.A. in the ‘60s, Grammy award-winning guitarist Lee Ritenour received a rich cross section of exposure to jazz, rock and Brazilian music. From one of his first sessions at 16 with the Mamas and Papas to accompanying Lena Horne and Tony Bennett at 18, his forty-year eclectic and storied career is highlighted by a Grammy Award win for his 1986 collaboration with Dave Grusin, Harlequin; 17 Grammy nominations; numerous Number One spots in guitar polls and the prestigious “Alumnus of the Year” award from USC. He has recorded over 40 albums, with 35 chart songs, notably the Top 15 hit “Is It You”, which has become a contemporary jazz radio classic.
In the ‘90s, Ritenour was a founding member of Fourplay, the most successful band in contemporary jazz, with keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason. The first Fourplay album in 1991 spent an unprecedented 33 weeks at Number One on Billboard’s contemporary jazz chart. Adding to this legacy is his latest CD Smoke ‘n’ Mirrors; the recently completed Grammy-nominated recording Amparo, (a follow-up with Dave Grusin to their highly-successful 2001 Grammy Award-nominated contemporary classical crossover CD) and producer of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band’s latest CD Act Your Age (which is nominated for three Grammys.
It’s been a long road since the seventies, when Ritenour’s legendary Tuesday night appearances at the famed Baked Potato, with a band including Dave Grusin, Patrice Rushen, Harvey Mason and Ernie Watts became part of the musical landscape for five years. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, George Benson, Al Jarreau, Joe Sample, and even Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell could be seen in the audiences that would pack the house till the wee hours of the morning. From rock to blues to jazz, his diverse music became the foundation of over 3,000 sessions as a young guitarist with a broad spectrum of artists such as Pink Floyd (The Wall), Steely Dan (Aja), Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, B.B. King, Frank Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, Aretha Franklin and Barbra Streisand. Not to forget the dazzling array of talent appearing on his solo works and collaborations, notably Phil Collins, Brazilian greats Ivan Lins, Caetano Veloso, Djavan and Jao Bosco, George Benson, Chaka Kahn, Herbie Hancock, Michael McDonald and opera great Renee Fleming.
6 String Theory (2010) is a special project put together by legendary guitarist Lee Ritenour in celebration of the world’s most popular instrument - the guitar! Joining him in this tribute to the guitar, the all-star line-up includes George Benson, BB King, Slash, Steve Lukather, John Scofield, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Cray and Vince Gill, among many other superstars. Blending rock, blues, jazz, acoustic, country and classical, they come together for a seamless project that promises to take the listener on a musical journey and exploration of the guitar. Also featured on vocals are BB King, Robert Cray, Vince Gill, Keb’ Mo’, Taj Majal, Joe Bonamassa and Jonny Lang. Debuting on this release is sixteen-year-old guitarist Shon Boublil who was the grand prize winner of Lee Ritenour’s Yamaha Six String Theory Guitar Competition.
In a career that spans five decades and more than 40 albums, guitarist Lee Ritenour has developed a keen understanding of the symbiotic balance between the frontman and the supporting players, between the wisdom of experience and the enthusiasm of youth. On Rhythm Sessions (2012), he surrounds himself with a cadre of high-profile veterans and promising newcomers all of whom reaffirm the vital role played by the rhythm section in any worthwhile musical endeavor.
Included on the Rhythm Sessions roster are luminaries like Chick Corea, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Dave Grusin, Marcus Miller and many others. Also appearing throughout the record are the winners of Ritenour’s 2012 Rhythm Section Competition, an international event he launched in 2009 as a guitar competition and later expanded to include aspiring keyboardists, bassists and percussionists. The competition winners appearing on the album include keyboardist Hans de Wild (Holland), pianist Demetrius Nabors (Michigan), bassist Michael Feinberg (New York) and drummer Selim Munir (Turkey). The album also features Ritenour’s 19-year-old son Wesley, an aspiring drummer in his own right on one of the tracks.
The most recent result of that ongoing experiment is an album that embraces a variety of sounds and grooves, all rooted in jazz, but also layered with shades of funk, R&B, Latin, world music and more. The album’s sense of variety stems from the eclectic source material. Some songs were penned by Ritenour, while others come from heavyweights like Herbie Hancock, Dave Grusin, Chick Corea, EST and Nick Drake. I wanted the various rhythm sections assembled for this album the guitar, keyboards, bass and drums to be very organic, says Ritenour. “The songs I wrote for this project were written with these different musicians in mind, and the songs I picked by other songwriters brought to mind certain players as well. So while my name may be on this record, it’s as much about these other players as it is about me.”
Ritenour’s previous recording, 6 String Theory, had focused primarily on guitar by featuring the international winners of his 2009 guitar competition. However, in keeping with his ongoing commitment to discovering and mentoring new talent, he quickly realized that there was so much ground yet to be covered. “There are just so many great piano players and bass players and drummers out there, so when it came time to make Rhythm Sessions, I thought, Why not make a record featuring some of those great players, and then extend the contest to include the rhythm section, and let the young rhythm section winners make an appearance on the record?”
This mix of seasoned players with newcomers results in a multi-layered, multi-textural and extremely engaging recording. “I’m at a point in my career where I’m marshaling all of my skills and experience over 40 years and really putting it all into an album like Rhythm Sessions, he says. I’ve always loved working with great talent, and at the same time finding new young talent and opening doors for them. I want to take as many opportunities as I can to give something back as a way of expressing my thanks for all that s been given to me.”