Saturday, September 10, 2005

Review - Lee Ritenour – Overtime CD

Lee Ritenour – Overtime CD
Peak Records PKD-8531-2
released June 7. 2005

One of the best known jazz guitarists in the world, Lee Ritenour has released a live in-studio DVD and companion CD, which attempts to summarize his career by paying tribute to some of his major influences, and covering genres that he’s recorded in, including fusion, straight ahead, Brazil-influenced and contemporary jazz. Of course, it’s not really possible to provide fans with a single-disc live retrospective CD of a 30-year recording career. The DVD is 150 minutes long and features 19 tracks. The 74 minute CD can best be seen as an introduction to Lee Ritenour live with some of his favorite collaborators.

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"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."

The 13 track CD ended up being a mixed bag, however. Some of the tracks smoke with deft playing, tension, and challenge and compel me to listen again and again. The other half, funky jazz fusion, just don’t hold my interest and sound like bloodless instrumentals - sonic wallpaper. But, as an overview of Ritenour’s career, it’s an honest representation.

There's a gorgeous rendition of the classic Miles Davis composition, "Blue In Green," (from 1959's Kind of Blue) featuring label mate Dave Grusin on piano.

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"She Walks This Earth" (also covered by Sting) written by Brazillians Ivan Lins and Vitor Martins, features Lins on vocals and if you listen to the lyrics, it's almost an update of "The Girl From Ipanema."

The delicious trumpet playing by Chris Botti is featured on “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, the Sly and the Family Stone song.

The playing on the funkier tracks is first-rate. Listen to the prominent bass soloing on "Night Rhythms" by Melvin Davis. He and tenor saxophonist Eric Marienthal (a well known band leader in his own right) steal the show.

The final track, "Is It You," is superb smooth jazz with Kenya Hathaway and Grady Harrell on vocals. I usually don’t go for the smooth stuff, but this is a gorgeous R’n’B semi-ballad.

Ritenour’s faultless guitar shines throughout the CD. His playing is distortion free, nimble and reminiscent of Wes Montgomery. In a nutshell, he is a jazz guitar perfectionist. Unfortunately, I have usually found funky jazz fusion and smooth jazz just not challenging enough to listen to as anything other than background music. I tend to prefer players who tend to grit things up more with reckless abandon, like Mike Stern.

01. Boss City (Wes Montgomery) 5:49
02. Blue In Green (Miles Davis) 9:15
03. Ocean Ave. (Lee Ritenour) 4:30
04. She Walks This Earth (Ivan Lins, Vitor Martins) 5:01
05. Sugerloaf Express (Lee Ritenour) 5:14
06. Possibilities (Kenya Hathaway) 4:39
07. Papa Was A Rolling Stone (Barrett Strong & Norman Jess Whitfield) 6:53
08. Morning Glory (Lee Ritenour & Bill Champlin) 5:44
09. Captain Fingers (Lee Ritenour) 7:29
10. P.A.L.S. (Lee Ritenour) 3:47
11. Night Rhythms (Lee Ritenour) 5:57
12. Lil' Bumpin (Lee Ritenour) 5:00
13. Is It You? (Lee Ritenour, Eric Tagg & Bill Champlin) 4:30

Read Warren Kelly's Blogcritics review of the Overtime DVD.

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