On Saturday 27th July, Legendary Jazz Venue Ronnie Scott's, will present a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with a true guitar legend - Mr Lee Ritenour.
The afternoon session will comprise Lee talking about his career, demonstrating some of his guitar techniques followed by a Q&A session at the end. Lee will also be playing at the club with Dave Grusin & Friends from 25th - 27th July (Full details below).
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, his new album set for release on Concord Records on September 25, 2012, Ritenour 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.
"I always thought it's a very cool model to combine very well-known, almost legendary players with completely new talent on the same record," says Ritenour. "I love that scenario. It's not a format that many people have followed before, but I've always considered it a fascinating experiment, and a way to create some great sounds."
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. Rhythm Sessions leads off with "The Village," an exotic world-beat track that Ritenour wrote and arranged only after he'd secured his "dream team" rhythm section. "I had been traveling quite a bit, and still trying to book the various rhythm sections for the record while I was still on the road. I was able to book Dave Weckl, George Duke and Stanley Clarke, but the only time they were available was the week after I contacted them. I didn't have any music prepared for them, so I ended up writing a song with them in mind. The tune came together very quickly as this 12/8 African shuffle."
The follow-up, "River Man," was written by the late English singer-songwriter Nick Drake and is one of two vocal tracks on the record, this one featuring Kurt Elling. "I kept hearing Kurt's voice for this tune, and it ended up being a perfect fit," says Ritenour, who arranged Grusin, East, drummer Will Kennedy and himself behind the vocal track. Ariel Mann provides additional assistance with synth and programming, not just here but on almost every other track on the record. "When you dig a little deeper into the accompaniment behind Kurt's voice, you hear a beautifully arranged track. It surrounds him in all the right ways. I feel like it has the quality of a modern standard."
The set includes two tracks by the late Esbjorn Svensson, leader of Swedish jazz group EST that rose to international prominence in the late '90s and remained active until Svensson's death in 2008. Ritenour first discovered the band through his son, Wesley, who plays drums on EST's "800 Street By Feet," which also features Christian McBride on bass. Later in the set, a percussive and intriguing rendition of EST's "Spam Boo Limbo" includes John Beasley on piano, Tal Wilkenfeld on bass and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums.
The gentle "Children's Song #1" is a cover of the opening track from Chick Corea's 1984 opus, Children's Songs, but with plenty of embellishment from Ritenour. "I took a big gamble and wrote a completely new section in the middle of the song," he says. "It starts out with Chick's main theme, and then morphs into my extended section, then goes back into the main melody. The version I used as a reference was the original version recorded by Chick and Gary Burton on vibes. The vibraphone and the guitar have some similarities, so I knew it would make a lovely acoustic guitar piece. Chick ended up loving the arrangement."
The edgy but hopeful "Maybe Tomorrow" is borrowed from the canon of the Welsh rock group Stereophonic. "The song was a huge hit by a group whose sound has nothing to do with what you'd usually associate with Lee Ritenour," says Ritenour. "But I heard this great melodic hook, and I heard this really cool groove, so we arranged it with a slightly funkier edge with a rock guitar sound. I just kept hearing my South African friend, Zamajobe - who is a big star down there - as the singer for this track. She did a terrific job with this."
The album closes with the dynamic groove - part Latin, part funk - of "Punta Del Soul," a Grusin composition that spotlights a rhythm section comprised of Ritenour's 6 String Theory and Rhythm Section Competition winners. Dimitrious Nabors is prominent on piano, but Ritenour's arrangement allows plenty of room for Hans de Wild's embellishment on Hammond B3 and the solid undercurrent set up by bassist Michael Feinberg and drummer Selim Munir.
"I wanted to bring as many voices as possible into this record - some well established, some brand new, and tie it all together with the guitar sound that I feel has become my trademark," says Ritenour. "I put some serious time and love and care into my records. They are projects that I never take lightly. They're too important to me. I hope people get that out of my records, especially this one."
Indeed, the love and care invested in Rhythm Sessions have been a hallmark of every project that Ritenour has ever been a part of, which has resulted in a career that legends are made of. Since his early recordings in the 1970s, he has earned a GRAMMY Award and 19 GRAMMY nominations, numerous #1 spots on guitar polls, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian SJ Awards, and a prestigious "Alumnus of the Year" Award from the University of Southern California. He has recorded more than 40 albums that have yielded 35 chart songs. As a young guitarist, he put his combination of diverse musical styles and brilliant technical chops to work in more than 3,000 sessions with a broad spectrum of artists - beginning with the Mamas and Papas in the late '60s and also including Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Simon & Garfunkel and Frank Sinatra. In the 1990s, he was a founding member of Fourplay, which is considered the most successful group in contemporary jazz. Rhythm Sessions,the latest chapter in Ritenour's continuously unfolding story, is a celebration of the synergy and energy that emerges when a brilliant and innovative guitarist surrounds himself with a combination of the greatest musicians of our time and an up-and-coming generation of soon-to-be-great talent.
"I'm at a point in my career where I'm marshalling 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."
For more info or to buy tickets for Centre Stage: An Audience with Lee Ritenour visit: www.ronniescotts.co.uk
Lee Ritenour / Dave Grusin and Friends will also be playing at Ronnie Scott's
Thursday 25th - Saturday 27th July
Two shows per night
1st show: Doors 6pm
2nd show: Doors 10.30pm
For more info or to buy tickets visit: www.ronniescotts.co.uk