Friday, August 31, 2012

Lee Ritenour Rhythm Sessions Concord Music 2012

Lee Ritenour changed my musical perspective years ago when I walked into what is now a dying relic commonly referred to as a brick and mortar record store and heard the release Captain Fingers and musicians like Ernie Watts and Bill Champlin.

The last Ritenour release was Six String Theory which drew critical acclaim and showed off his amazing versatility in a variety of ensemble not to mention genre settings...Rhythm Sessions is due to street September 25th and takes Lee Ritenour's talents not to mention his Six String Theory competition to a whole new level.

Ritenour does a combination of an all star rhythm section featuring such talent as Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Dave Grusin and combines the prolific genius of these giants of jazz with Winners of his Annual Six String Theory International Competition. Rhythm Sessions is a slightly unique conceptual idea in that it celebrates the net worth and vital place held by the rhythm section in any musical endeavor of substance. What makes this release so special and in some cases the proverbial critics worst nightmare is not from a performance but from a compositional perspective. While the improvisational jazz root is firmly fixed, the genre and in some cases soundscapes created move in layers of funk, Latin and even what I would refer to as neo-classical world music. One noted winner appearing on this release is bassist Michael Feinberg who has just released his own debut recording titled The Elvin Jones Project. Keeping it all in the family as it were Rhythm Sessions also features Ritenour's 19 year old son Wesley who is an aspiring drummer and after hearing him play it is more than obvious that the apple does not fall far from the tree.

As Rhythm Sessions progresses there is a wonderful organic and sometimes ambient feel to the rhythm section as each magically transcends genre and sets each tune up with a unique sonic pulse that creates a ebb and flow distinctly different with each tune yet ties the package together flawlessly. In terms of standout tunes it would be like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. Opening this stellar release is "The Village" which welcomes you to the land of rhythm and groove but instead of getting comfortable one needs to expect the unexpected. "River Man" is a delightfully eclectic vocal tune with Kurt Elling who oddly enough will be dropping his new release on the same day! "River Man" is a tune written by the late English singer-songwriter Nick Drake and fits Elling's style as though it were originally written for him. "Fat Albert Rotunda" is flash fried funk and more fun than one ensemble should be allowed to have. Long time musical compatriot Patrice Rushen literally steals the show and with Marcus Miller holding down the bass slot that is a daunting task indeed. "Children's Song #1" features Lee Ritenour on classical guitar with stellar work from both Chick Corea and Alan Pasqua on piano. Ritenour did a slight rework to the middle of the Corea tune which allowed him the flexibility to pick up on what would normally have been Gary Burton's vibe part and the embellished version works incredibly well. The Dave Grusin classic "Punta Del Soul" closes out the release with Six String winner Michael Fienberg on acoustic and electric bass who more than proves all the good buzz he is receiving ( and a good deal from this site ) is indeed worthwhile! Ritenour's gifted son finds himself owning the pocket in a 4tet featuring his dad Lee on guitar, Christian McBride on bass and Ariel Mann on guitar, synths, programming and keyboards and Wesley Ritenour kills it on the tune "800 Street By Feet."

Over five decades and forty releases later Lee Ritenour is still bringing his "A" game taking traditional contemporary jazz to a different level. A virtually flawless release of vitality and originality. Ritenour has never been better!

Tracks: The Village; River Man; Fat Albert Rotunda; 800 Street By Feet; Children's Song #1; L.A. By Bike; Maybe Tomorrow; Spam Boo Limbo; July; Rose Pedals; Dolphins Don't Dance; Punta Del Soul. 

Personnel: Lee Ritenour: guitar; George Duke: rhodes, moog synthesizer; Stanley Clarke: acoustic bass; Dave Weckle: drums; Munyungo Jackson: percussion; Ariel Mann: guitar, keyboards,synths, programming; Kurt Elling: vocals; Dave Grusin: rhodes; Nathan East: Yamaha silent bass; Will Kennedy: drums; Patrice Rushen: acoustic piano; Marcus Miller: electic bass; Oscar Seaton: drums; Melvin Lee Davis: electric bass guitar; Deron Johnson: rhodes; Rob Bacon: rhythm guitar; Christian McBride: acoustic bass; Wesley Ritenour: drums; Larry Goldings: hammond B3; Sony Emory: drums; Zamajobe: vocals; Tal Wilkenfeld: bass guitar; Vinnie Colaiutta: drums; R.J. Benjamin: background vocals; John Beasley: piano; Dave Grusin: acoustic piano; Alan Pasqua: acoustic piano; Peter Erskine: drums; Dimitrious Nabors: acoustic piano, additional arranging; Hans de Wild: hammond B3 organ; Michael Fienberg: acoustic bass and electric bass; Selim Munir: drums.