Saturday, January 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Lee Ritenour

Guitarist Lee Ritenour celebrates his 56th birthday today (January 11th). Ritenour was born in Hollywood, California, and picked up the guitar early. By 16, he was playing in a session with John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas. That began an extremely successful career as a sideman. Ritenour has performed and recorded with top names in pop, R&B, rock, and contemporary jazz, including Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones, Steely Dan, and Pink Floyd, before deciding to launch a career as a solo artist. In 1976, he released his debut solo album, First Course.

Among his many recorded collaborations was his teaming with keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East, and drummer Harvey Mason to form the supergroup Fourplay. The group enjoyed great success with its first three releases -- 1991's Fourplay, 1993's Between The Sheets, and 1994's Elixir -- before Ritenour decided to return to his solo endeavors.

Ritenour has enjoyed recording both solo projects and star-studded concept albums, such as his all-star tributes, including 1997's Twist Of Jobim, 2001's A Twist Of Marley, his 2002 solo set Rit's House, and 2003's A Twist Of Motown.

His 2005 career retrospective, OverTime, included re-recordings of 19 tunes from his three-decade-plus career.

His most recent studio recording was the 2006 album Smoke 'N'Mirrors., which featured an array of percussionists, including drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and percussionists Sheila E., Alex Acuna, Paulinho Da Costa and Indian artist Satnam Ramgotra on tablas.

Ritenour is putting the finishing touches on a new CD re-teaming him with longtime friend and collaborator, pianist Dave Grusin, that will be available this spring. The two worked on Two Worlds, which was released in 2000.

The guitarist has worked with so many pop, R&B, and jazz artists that he certainly mutt have enough material for a book about his experiences. But Ritenour says he wouldn't want to betray anyone's confidence with a tell-all book: "I don't think I would write a book about Lee Ritenour. But I would love to write a book about a fictitious character, 'cause I've got stories for days and days and days. And you know, I grew up in Los Angeles my whole life, I've got an angle on this town that a lot of people maybe don't have, you know. So when the time comes, maybe I'll try to create that story."

Ritenour will be honored with the George Benson Lifetime Achievement Award at the 4th Annual Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards, set for Friday, March 7th, 2008, in Hammerson Hall at The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.

By: Janine Coveney

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