Two For Tuesday: Lee Ritenour (Encore)

We talked about Larry Carlton last week, so featuring Lee Ritenour today seems appropriate. From April 30, 2013.

Back in the late Eighties, Mary and I were at our local Blockbuster Video (now an Advanced Auto Parts store) and I found a videotape of a concert by Lee Ritenour. I had never heard of him (although I had certainly heard him, even though I didn’t know it at the time), but I saw a young guy playing guitar on the tape box and I decided that he couldn’t be that bad. I took it home and Mary and I watched it, and I was amazed at the music that I heard. I love instrumental, guitar-based music and had developed a taste for what was coming to be known as “smooth jazz,” and Lee did it all.

Lee Ritenour has been around since 1968, pretty amazing when you consider he’s only in his early sixties. He played his first session for the Mamas and Papas when he was sixteen and soon earned the nickname “Captain Fingers.” Coincidentally, that’s the name of our first selection today; in this particular recording, he’s accompanied by Ernie Watts on saxophone, Patrice Rushen on keyboards, Harvey Mason on drums, and Abe Laboriel on bass. He started his solo career in 1975, with the album First Course, and did albums in the jazz/funk and Brazilian styles. In 1991, he recorded Stolen Moments, which featured him playing straight-ahead jazz influenced by Wes Montgomery’s use of octaves and the technique of playing with his bare thumb. The title track from that album, a jazz standard written by Oliver Nelson, is the second track; he’s accompanied by Brian Bromberg on bass, Alan Broadbent on the piano, Harvey Mason on drums, and Ernie Watts on saxophone. Lee has gone on to be the original guitar player of Fourplay (as we heard last week), record a tribute album to Montgomery (one of his influences), and in 2010 celebrated his fiftieth year of playing guitar with the album 6 String Theory.

Lee Ritenour, your Two for Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Stolen Moments” Results


The song in my most recent BotB was the jazz standard “Stolen Moments.” I offered two performances, one by Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, and Andreas Varady, the other by the Brownman Electryc Trio. The votes are in, and here’s the result.

Ritenour/Grusin/Varady: 11
Brownman Electryc Trio: 4

I do have to apologize to Birgit and other Canadian voters that the Brownman version didn’t play in Canada. Debbie from The Doglady’s Den (whose blog everyone needs to read) found an alternate version here for anyone who couldn’t play it on YouTube. Sorry about that!

This was more or less a blowout, but at least Brownman and his trio didn’t get shut out. Stephen T. McCarthy, one of the founders of BotB, said that, had I matched Phil Woods against Ritenour and crew, it would have been harder to choose between the two. Which is why I didn’t include Phil in the battle. I had flirted with the idea of matching all three, but this was a long song, and I’ve been cautioned against doing that.

Congratulations to Lee, Dave, and Andreas, and a pat on the back to Brownman for a job well done.

The next Battle of the Bands will be next Thursday, October 15, 2015. See you then!

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Stolen Moments”


Sometimes a little voice comes along and tells you to do a song, and you don’t know why, but you decide to go with it. For this battle, I chose “Stolen Moments,” a jazz standard written by Oliver Nelson, a saxophone player who played with a number of jazz greats and died too soon at the age of 43. When I saw the list of musicians who had done the song, my eye immediately fell on the name Phil Woods. In the early 1970’s, I got a bunch of free records from a guy Mom taught with whose mother worked at WCFL in Chicago, one of which was Phil Woods and the European Rhythm Machine at the Montreaux Jazz Festival. I wasn’t really into jazz at the time, but I gave the album a listen.

Wow! I had never heard music like this. Over the years, I listened to it a number of times. Maybe not as often as Chicago Transit Authority or Child Is Father To The Man, but enough that it burned the name “Phil Woods” into my brain for all eternity. So, when I saw he had done the song, I had to have a listen. As I was listening, I started scrolling through the comments, and got the sad news that Phil had died on Tuesday at the age of 83.

I’ve done three things to commemorate Phil: I stopped at his obituary page and left a note, I purchased the MP3 version of his Montreaux album, and I’m featuring his version of “Stolen Moments” with the European Rhythm Machine (George Gruntz, piano; Daniel Humair, drums; Henri Texier, bass) to introduce you to the tune. This is not part of the Battle today.

As with most jazz standards, the song has been covered a number of times. Here are our two contestants for today:

CONTESTANT #1: Lee Ritenour, Andreas Varady, and Dave Grusin

This was a performance at the 46th Montreaux Jazz Festival which also coincided with Quincy Jones’ 80th birthday. That’s Quincy handling the introductions.

CONTESTANT #2: The Brownman Electryc Trio

I had never heard of this band before today, but they have a website that tells us Brownman Ali is from Trinidad, learned the trumpet from Randy Brecker in New York, and is now considered Canada’s preeminent jazz trumpeter. He leads seven different ensembles, including the Electryc Trio (with a different lineup in the US and Canada) which is reminiscent of Miles Davis in his later years. This is the Canadian lineup, including Brownman, Brad Cheesman on 6-string bass, and Colin Kingsmore on drums.

So, which do you like better? The more traditional treatment by Ritenour, Grusin, and Varady, or the Miles Davis-esque treatment by the Brownman Electryc Trio? Vote now by leaving a comment, and after you’ve done that, visit the other Battles going on today by visiting the other BotB’ers:

Tossing It Out
Far Away Series
StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands
Your Daily Dose
Mike’s Ramblings
Curious as a Cathy
DC Relief – Battle of the Bands
This Belle Rocks
Book Lover
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Shady Dell Music & Memories
Debbie D. at The Doglady’s Den
Angels Bark
Jingle Jangle Jungle
Women: We Shall Overcome
Cherdo on the Flipside
Holli’s Hoots ‘n’ Hollers
J. A. Scott
Quiet Laughter

I’ll announce the winner of this battle next Wednesday, October 7. See you then!

The Friday Five! Five Favorite Guitar Players, Part 1

Before I start, let me apologize for the fact that some of you received a partial version of this post in your email, and I think it also went out to Facebook and Twitter. I wanted to see if I had gotten a few HTML commands right and meant to hit the “Preview” button, and managed to hit “Publish” instead. Duh.


I’d like to introduce a new feature here on the blog: The Friday Five! How do you like the logo? I ripped off borrowed the idea from the Jackson Five. Hope they don’t mind…

I’ve been thinking about changing The Thursday Ten to The Friday Five for a while, mostly because it’s easier to come up with a list of five things than a list of ten I’d occasionally like to do something different on Thursday, like Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop or something else of my choosing. The Thursday Ten isn’t going away entirely; I’ll still do one from time to time when I can think of a list of ten things.

So welcome to the inaugural Friday Five. This week’s topic: My five favorite guitar players.

From the start of sixth grade until my stroke in 2007 (about thirty years) I played the guitar. And most of the time, the guitar won…

Thank you! I’ll be here all week! Don’t forget to tip your servers!

But seriously…

I wanted to recognize some of the people who inspired me to keep playing. These are in the order in which I learned of them. Obviously, there are many more than these, but these are the ones that are key.

George Harrison. I wouldn’t have even taken up the guitar if it weren’t for George. My world went a little Beatles-crazy after they first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. We divided ourselves into four camps, called John, Paul, George, and Ringo. There weren’t quite as many people in the George camp; he was the funny-looking quiet one who stood between Paul and John, focused on his playing. Even then I could tell he was a fantastic musician, and as time went on, he distinguished himself, not only as a guitar player, but as a singer, a songwriter, and a humanitarian. And a very funny guy…

Terry Kath. Maybe by virtue of the fact they came from my hometown, maybe it was the horns, but Chicago was my favorite band when I was in high school. Terry might not have been why I started listening to Chicago, but he was definitely the reason I kept listening to them. Where the rest of the ensemble was cool and played with precision, Terry played with utter abandon. He was an excellent singer, guitarist, and songwriter, and the world lost one of its bright lights when he accidentally shot himself in the head in 1978.

Carlos Santana. Around the same time Chicago was making its way into my ears, I heard another band, Santana, named for its leader and lead guitarist, Carlos Santana. They blended blues, rock, Latin, jazz, and some Eastern music, and the result was mesmerizing. It took a remarkable player like Carlos to make it work. Carlos’s collaborations with Mahavishnu John McLaughlin (and the latter’s spiritual direction) added a level of mysticism to his playing. He has become an elder statesman in his later years without losing any of the fire or spirit in his playing.

Lee Ritenour. At a time when I was just sick and tired and bored with music and ready to chuck it all in, I rented a video of Lee Ritenour and his band playing. When it was over, I said, “that’s what I want to play!” He started out as a session musician (at sixteen) and was conversant in a number of genres when he went out on his own. Originally, his music was more fusion-like, but since then he’s gotten into more straight-ahead jazz, emulating the style of the great Wes Montgomery and the jazz players of the 1950’s (Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel, Jim Hall and others).

Tommy Emmanuel. I was browsing the music at Borders one day (remember them?), and they had a CD (remember them?) on display: The Journey by a guitarist named Tommy Emmanuel. I read the back of the jewel case (remember them?), and saw that Joe Walsh lent his considerable skills to one of the tracks, so I figured, what the hell, and bought it. I took it home and played it, and loved it. I had to find more by him, and that’s when I discovered that, while Tommy was an outstanding electric guitarist, he was an even better acoustic fingerstyle player, and that was more his thing. He is one of the few players to have been granted the honorific Certified Guitar Player by the great Chet Atkins (OK, it’s more of a joke than anything, but the players aren’t).

I could spend a year of Fridays listing the guitarists who influenced me (and, if you aren’t careful, I just might), but these are the five that jumped immediately to mind. Tomorrow, five others might jump to mind. With me, you ccan never tell.

Anyway, that’s your Friday Five for the last day of July 2015.