Guitarist Lee Ritenour has assembled an impressive cast of musicians for his latest album “A Twist Of Rit”, which is bascially a collection of re-works of some of his older compositions. Four tracks alone are from his debut album “First Course”, recorded in 1975. “Wild Rice” gets a Funk-Rock treatment here with a cool Fender Rhodes solo by Patrice Rushen and the inimitable Ernie Watts on tenor sax. Most of the new arrangements are by Lee himself or by Lee and pianist John Beasley who is also heard throughout on Wurlitzer, Clavinet, and various synthesizers.
“Fatback”, also from the first album, has some neat Hammond B3 organ courtesy of Dave Grusin – the original horn arrangments for both tracks came from Tom Scott. The horns for “A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit Of That” were done by Michael Omartian and are bascially kept here in the shape of Rashawn Ross (trumpet), Wendell Kelly (trombone), Ernie Watts (tenor), and Adam Schroeder (bari).
The fourth track originally from the first album, “Sweet Syncopation”, still shines because of its Tower of Power-like horn parts and the inclusion of Patrice again (she only has two appearances here; can’t get enough of her playing) as well as the heavy percussive work of Paulinho Da Costa.
There is one track from Lee’s 1998 album “This Is Love”: the mild and midtempo summer groove of “Ooh Yeah” is a welcome change of pace here with a distinct fusion sound and Moog work by Dave Grusin plus some added flute by Bob Sheppard.
Two tracks on the album feature the quartet of Lee plus Makoto Ozone (Hammond organ and piano), Tom Kennedy (bass), and Dave Weckl (drums). The guitar-heavy (no wonder) “W.O.R.K.N’ It” and the calm and airy “Pearl” (a new song) describe both ends of Lee’s vast spectrum. He can act out like a heavy rocker (on the former) and play some of the most sensual and beautiful lines (on the latter). The title track has another extra special addition: legendary guitarists Wah Wah Watson and David T. Walker join him on guitars and Melvin L. Davis plays some Marcus Miller-style bass here. Actually the whole track could be from the Miller songbook. Pretty funky and driving.
One of the most popular Lee compositions, “Countdown” from the 1981 album “Rit”, is revised a bit haphazardly it seems. “Soaring”, originally from the 1986 LP “Earth Run”, where Dave Grusin, Ernie Watts, and Paulinho Da Costa appeared as well, is a very welcome fresh and lively rendition from an album which also boasted a brilliant cover of Herbie Hancock‘s “Butterfly” by the way. The best track on offer is “Bullet Train”, originally from Lee’s third album “Friendship” from 1978, with some of the best sax playing by the adorable Ernie Watts (who co-wrote the song) and with an immense amount of energy.
The album closes with the nice and easy “Waltz For Carmen” which Lee recorded also for his live album in 1997. Featured here is the Grand Prize Winner of Lee’s 2014 Six String Theory competition – classical guitar, Tony Pusztai.
And Lee is on tour: He plays Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in Seattle from August 25th-30th and the Flathead Lake Lodge in Big Fork, Montana on September 1st. He is also scheduled for the Tokyo Jazz Festival on September 6th and his Lee Ritenour and Friends tour takes him to Infinity Hall, Hartford on October 1st, The Hamilton in Washington DC on October 2nd, Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis on October 3rd, Scullers in Boston on October 4th, and the Blue Note in New York October 6th-11th. They also play the Silverlake Music Festival in Pattaya, Thailand on October 31st.