Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Friendship (feat. Lee Ritenour) - Selftitled (1979)

(U.S  1979)
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Bands such as Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers and artists such as Michael Jackson made it clear how heavily the synergy of studio session instrumentalists were to their sounds. The more they were able to adapt their sounds to the persona of an artist? The more they were able to expand their own sound. When drummer Alex Acuna, sax player Ernie Watts, keyboardist Don Grusin, bassist Abraham Laboriel, percussionist Steve Foreman and Captain Fingers himself Lee Ritenour got together for this 1979 one shot session under the name Friendship - all this experience just clicked.

Starting up with Grusin's melodic,staccato piano "Bullet Train" brings to the front the hardest grooving variety of West Coast style jazz funk-with each of the players inventing new melodies in a truly democratic fashion. "Tighten Up" is my favorite here-a bass synth led Headhunters type funk. The situation takes the then very popular Caribbean/Reggae type into that similar idiom while "Let's Not Talk About It" is a ferocious fusion type number with Laboriel's bass line sounding as if I am sure Super Mario Bros used as the basis for part of it's soundtrack. "Here Today,Here Tomorrow" had a more soul/pop type groove about it whereas "Waterwings" has a very percussive Afro-Latin flavor that never takes its eyes off the prize Steve Foreman sets up for it. Ernie Watts' time to shine comes on "The Real Thing"-one of the finest solos I've heard from him.

Friendship
Considering the obvious instrumental pedigree of these musicians? I went into this album running on autopilot in terms of this being an impeccably played album. Yet well played music and soulful music are really at their best when they are mutually exclusive. Sometimes an artist with a more soulful attitude might like the musical chops to deliver the goods. And vice versa. On this album,each of the six participants bring their funkiest and their most melodically adept elements to the forefront on every one the songs featured. There is definitely a strong sense of familiarity among these players of course-having done so many sessions together in different combinations. Yet somehow Friendship manage to sound like a band all their own. In terms of funky grooving instrumental communication in the jazz/funk-fusion genre? This album really gets the flavor of the late 1970's end of that musical ethic down to a science!  [Review by Andre S. Grindle].

Lee Ritenour
Lee Ritenour (born January 11, 1952) is an American jazz guitarist who has contributed to over 3000 sessions and has charted over 30 contemporary jazz hits since 1976.

Ritenour was born January 11, 1952 in Los Angeles. At 16, he played on his first recording session, with the Mamas & the Papas, and was given the nickname Captain Fingers for his dexterity. He was a studio musician in the 1970s, winning Guitar Player magazine’s Best Studio Guitarist award twice.

Throughout his career, Ritenour has experimented with different styles of music, incoprorating funk, pop, rock, blues, Brazilian, and classical music with jazz.

He is noted for playing his red Gibson ES-335 and his Gibson L5 guitars. Since his early recordings in the 1970s, Lee has held numerous #1 spots on guitar polls, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian SJ Awards, and a prestigious “Alumnus of the Year” Award from the University of Southern California.
Ritenour’s solo career began with the album First Course (1976), which was a good example of the jazz-funk sound of the 1970s. That was followed by Captain Fingers, The Captain’s Journey (1978), and Feel the Night (1979)

In 1979, Ritenour “was brought in to beef up one of Pink Floyd’s The Wall ‘ heaviest rock numbers, “Run Like Hell”.He also played “uncredited rhythm guitar” on “One of My Turns”.

As the 1980s began, Ritenour began to add stronger elements of pop to his music, beginning with Rit in 1981. For this, he kept with his distorted sound, now using his Ibanez LR-10 signature model guitar. The song “Is It You”, with vocals by Eric Tagg reached No. 15 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 27 on the soul chart. The track also peaked at number fifteen on Hot Adult Contemporary chart. He continued with the pop-oriented music for Rit/2 (1982) and Banded Together (1984), while releasing a slick, yet more crossover-styled, Direct-Disk instrumental album in 1983 called On the Line. He also provided rhythm guitar on Tom Browne’s hit, Funkin’ for Jamaica.

In 1985, he recorded his first album for GRP Records with Dave Grusin, entitled Harlequin, featuring Ritenour primarily on classical guitar, with Brazilian singer Ivan Lins.

On Earth Run (1986) he used nine different guitars, most notably the SynthAxe ,whose power is Awesome, his Valley Arts guitar, and his Gibson Chet Atkins acoustic. The album also featured long-time collaborator Phil Perry for the first time, on the track “If I’m Dreaming, Don’t Wake Me”, a song also featuring David Foster and Maurice White who played wicked good (prove it?) on the recording.

Ritenour continued in a direction strongly featuring other artists in 1987, with Portrait. The album itself has something of a strong smooth-jazz sound, and Ritenour can be heard here playing with The Yellowjackets, Djavan, and Kenny G.

Don Grusin
In 1988, his smooth jazz-influenced Brazilian music came to the forefront with Festival – another album strongly featuring his work on nylon-string acoustic guitars. The following album, Color Rit, continued with a similar mood. He did however, change direction completely again with his straight-ahead jazz album Stolen Moments. Sounding similar to Wes Montgomery, Ritenour played alongside long-time collaborator, saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist Alan Broadbent, bassist John Patitucci (playing only acoustic) and drummer Harvey Mason. During that same year, he performed and composed the theme song of the Canadian TV series Ramona.

In 1991 Ritenour, together with keyboard player Bob James, formed the Grammy-nominated contemporary jazz group Fourplay. He left the hugely successful group in 1998 to continue with his own solo works. He was replaced by Larry Carlton. He paid tribute to the Wes Montgomery with the album Wes Bound, featuring covers of songs written by Montgomery. Also seen in this decade was a 1994 collaboration album with guitarist Larry Carlton called Larry & Lee.

Lee Ritenour's 70's Solo LP's
In February 2004, Ritenour completed a project looking back on his career involving musicians he has worked with throughout his career called Overtime. Overtime was recorded live in a studio in front of a small audience. It was released in early 2005, and is currently available as a singular audio CD, double-DVD set or singular HD DVD. Some of the musicians featured include Dave Grusin, Patrice Rushen, Ivan Lins, Dave Carpenter, Eric Marienthal, Harvey Mason, Alex Acuna, Kenya Hathaway, Taylor Dayne, Steve Forman, Nathan East, Chris Botti, Anthony Jackson, Melvin Lee Davis, and Ernie Watts, amongst many others.

His album entitled Smoke n’ Mirrors was released in late August 2006. His son Wesley makes his debut appearance as a drummer on the album at the age of 13. This album contains Ritenour’s version of Bill Withers’ 1978 hit “Lovely Day”.

In June 2010, in order to celebrate his fifty years as a guitarist, Lee Ritenour released the album 6 String Theory (in reference to 6 musical areas covered by the use of guitar). The album featured famous guitarists such as Vince Gil, Steve Lukather, Neal Schon, John Scofield, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Cray, Slash, Pat Martino, Mike Stern, George Benson and B.B.King, but also younger players such as Andy McKee, Joe Robinson and Guthrie Govan. Ritenour, Yamaha Corporation, The Berklee College of Music, Concord Records, Monster Cable, and D’Addario Strings collaborated to create the 2010 Yamaha 6 String Theory Guitar Competition. The winner of that international competition, that included guitarists from over 45 countries, was 16-year-old Canadian classical guitarist Shon Boublil. The competition in 2011 is continuing.

In 2012, Lee released Rhythm Sessions, which also features luminaries such as Chick Corea, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Dave Grusin, Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaiuta, Nathan East, Patrice Rushen, Marcus Miller and many others. The album also features the winners of the 2012 6 String Theory rhythm section competition on the Dave Grusin track, Punta Del Sol. [extract from radioserenidad.com]
Tighten Up 45
This post consists of MP3's (320kps) ripped from my trusty vinyl copy of this album, and features full album artwork & label scans.  I have followed Lee Ritenour's career ever since his debut album 'Captain Fingers' from 1977 and was delighted to find this collaboration LP which features some of the  jazz rock artists in the business.  It is interesting to note that Lee actually released a solo album entitled Friendship one year earlier and was probably the impetus for releasing this collaborative masterpiece. I plan to post more of Lee's material in future, so stay tuned .
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Tracklist
A1 Bullet Train 5:23
A2 Tighten Up 5:10
A3 The Situation 4:30
A4 Let's Not Talk About It 4:53
B1 Here Today Hear Tomorrow 5:20
B2 Waterwings 6:53
B3 The Real Thing 5:56

Friendship were:
Lee Ritenour (guitar)
Alex Acuna (drums)
Steve Forman (percussion)
Don Grusin (piano)
Abraham Laboriel (bass)
Ernie Watts (saxophone)
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