Lee Ritenour

A Twist of Rit

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Released in conjunction with a five-LP vinyl box set of some of his classic albums, guitarist Lee Ritenour's 2015 studio effort, A Twist of Rit, finds him looking back over his career, revisiting and reworking songs from some of his earliest albums. In fact, many of the songs here were culled off his debut record, 1975's First Course. Joining Ritenour on A Twist of Rit are such longtime collaborators as pianist Dave Grusin, drummer Dave Weckl, saxophonist Ernie Watts, and Fender Rhodes keyboardist John Beasley. Also featured is classical guitarist Tony Pusztai, who took home the grand prize in Ritenour's 2014 Six String Theory competition. Musically, this is soulful, groove-oriented jazz that will be familiar to most of Ritenour's longtime fans. And while many of the cuts on A Twist of Rit are reworked versions of older songs like "Wild Rice," "Fatback," and "Sweet Syncopation," they've been given new arrangements (hence, the "twist") and sound as contemporary as anything off Ritenour's previous Concord album, 2012's Rhythm Sessions. The transformation works especially well on the melody for "Soaring," off 1986's Earth Run. Originally played on the MIDI-controlled SynthAxe, here Ritenour sticks to a rounded, more natural guitar tone for a nuanced, modern fusion sound. Nonetheless, cuts like the sultry "Ooh Yeah" and the organic "A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That," replete with a hard-hitting R&B horn section, retain much of the breezy '70s soul style that made them sound so fresh to begin with. Similarly, "Countdown" from 1985's Rit, Vol. 1 and "Bullet Train" from 1979's Friendship 2 have the loose, congenial vibe of old friends reuniting. Ultimately, A Twist of Rit works to remind listeners of Ritenour's legacy as one of the driving innovators of instrumental smooth jazz.

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