All things of value develop over time: Mastery at a craft, a store of specialized knowledge and the enduring power of music beautifully performed. Master guitarist, composer, arranger and producer Lee Ritenour is the beneficiary of time well spent in these areas during an incredible career that spans more than 30 years and some 30 timeless recordings. In celebration of this recorded legacy as well as the prospect of new musical horizons, the innovative guitarist is releasing the exciting live CD recording he titled Overtime this June.
Recorded over just two days in a cozy Burbank, California recording studio before an invited audience with a who's who of special guests, Overtime is a companion piece to the DVD project of the same name. The album's thirteen tracks travel through four distinct phases of the prolific Ritenour's career: The early days as an L.A. session player during the fusion era; the straight-ahead sounds of idols like Wes Montgomery and Miles Davis; his immersion in the seductive sounds of Brazil; and the sophistication of his contemporary jazz recordings. And there's a touch of the here and now for good measure, hinting at things still to come for the man dubbed "Captain Fingers."
"This project was a celebration- a look back and a look forward at my music from the 70’s to now," notes Ritenour, who spent the better part of 2004 working overtime to choose the music, write new arrangements, organize the recording sessions, and coordinate the participation of top-line players for the set. "There's some new material on the CD and of course there's a reconstruction of a lot of the classic material that I've been associated with for these past three or four decades."
Overtime showcases tracks from such classic Ritenour albums as 1977's Captain Fingers, 1978's Captain's Journey, the Brazilian-flavored Festival from 1988; 1992's seminal Wes Bound album that paid tribute to the late Wes Montgomery; 1981's smooth Rit; and even a piece of classic soul from 2003's Twist Of Motown. Also included are two tracks that don't appear on the DVD release, plus a new composition by featured singer Kenya Hathaway called "Possibilities" that she also performs.
Joining Ritenour for this very special journey are several old friends and collaborators and some new ones as well. The album features the skills of pianist Dave Grusin, Brazilian singer-songwriter Ivan Lins, keyboard wiz Patrice Rushen, drummer Harvey Mason, reeds player Ernie Watts, and longtime bassist Anthony Jackson, all of whom he has been playing and recording with since the '70s. Also featured are saxophonist Eric Marienthal, bassist Dave Carpenter, percussionist Alex Acuña, trumpeter Chris Botti, drummer Oscar Seaton, and vocalists Kenya Hathaway and Grady Harrell.
"Over the last 30 years, I’ve had the opportunity of working with an incredible group of great musicians," Ritenour notes "and this project gave me the chance to invite them to participate on this recording, as well as a few new kids on the block.”
The CD/DVD project was initially born out of an idea for a special 20th anniversary retrospective with VideoArts, the Japanese video company with which Ritenour has been releasing material internationally for 20 years. But Ritenour says, "I also had this vision that I wanted to do a new recording that encompassed video as well as the great sound that we can get in the studio these days." The result is that with the project recorded in 5.1 Surround sound and discrete stereo as well as hi-definition video, the listening experience is just as pristine and dynamic as the visuals. Adds Ritenour: "That's the great thing about just listening to music -- you can use your imagination and let it carry you to some other place. So this project works nicely in both senses. You can experience the visual part if you happen to watch the DVD, but if you're just listening to the CD, it has its own imagery."
While Overtime is a live journey through previous eras, the collection is by no means a nostalgia fest. The tracks are edgy, breathless, and fresh, proving the timelessness of Ritenour's many compositions and recordings. Fusion-ear "Captain Fingers" jams once again with crackling energy; "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" combines funk and rock power; Miles Davis' "Blue In Green" caresses the senses; and "Sugarloaf Express" feels like an instant samba party. And through it all Ritenour demonstrates why he remains a master at his craft: he combines unerring timing, expressive playing, a seeming endless source of imaginative melody lines and improvisatory inspiration.
Say the name Lee Ritenour and a whole litany of sounds and images come to mind: Rit, the consummate session pro guitarist who has worked with nearly every recording artist in the contemporary jazz, pop, and R&B catalog; Rit the innovator whose forays into various styles of music has kept him fresh over the years; Rit, one of the original members of contemporary jazz stalwarts Fourplay; and Rit, the producer whose encompassing vision and far-ranging tastes have launched several popular Twist Of collections.
Born Lee Mack Ritenour, Lee started his guitar career early at the age of 16 recording with the '60s pop stars The Mamas & The Papas. By 18, he was backing Lena Horne and Tony Bennett on tour. Beginning in his 20’s, he performed on more than 3,000 sessions.
Ritenour has several other distinctions- dubbed "Captain Fingers" for his dexterity on the strings, he launched a successful solo career in 1975 at the age of 23. His career has netted him 17 Grammy nominations, several gold albums, numerous Number 1 spots in guitar polls, and a 1985 Grammy with Dave Grusin on the Harlequin album.
In the '90s, he joined with Bob James, Nathan East, and Harvey Mason to form the pioneering supergroup Fourplay, whose debut album in 1991 spent an unprecedented 33 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's contemporary jazz chart. Also a founding partner of i.e. music, Ritenour's first release on the label was the critically hailed Twist Of Jobim in 1997. Two more all-star tributes followed: 2000's Twist Of Marley and 2003's Twist Of Motown.
To celebrate the 2005 release of the Overtime, Ritenour is heading out on a very special world tour this spring. His Lee Ritenour & Friends shows will feature many of the same incredible musicians from the recording: Dave Grusin, Patrice Rushen, Alex Acuna, Ernie Watts, as well as bassists Abraham Laboriel or Brian Bromberg on select dates. The concert schedule will include dates in Asia, Europe, South Africa, and the U.S.
Ritenour is excited about the release of Overtime, as it gives him a chance to now look to the future. "To me, there have never been any boundaries,” he says, "because as a young guitar player, I appreciated so many different types of music. This project has given me the opportunity to reflect on that diversity and has inspired many fresh, new ideas for the future.”