Lee Ritenour

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Lee Ritenour
LeeRitenour Stockholm20090715.jpg
Ritenour at the Stockholm Jazz Festival, 2009
Background information
Birth name Lee Mack Ritenour
Born (1952-01-11) January 11, 1952 (age 64)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Genres Jazz, jazz-funk, jazz fusion, smooth jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, producer
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1968–present
Labels Epic, Elektra, GRP, PolyGram, Decca, Peak, Concord
Website www.leeritenour.com
Notable instruments
Gibson ES-335, Gibson L-5

Lee Mack 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.[1]


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.


The Lee Ritenour Gibson L5 Signature archtop guitar

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".[2] He also played "uncredited rhythm guitar" on "One of My Turns".[3][4]

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.[5] The track also peaked at number fifteen on Hot Adult Contemporary chart.[6] 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 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.

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.


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.

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).[7] 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.

Ritenour joined the 10th[8] [9] and 11th[10] annual Independent Music Awards judging panel to assist independent musicians' careers. [11] He was also a judge for the 8th and 9th Independent Music Awards.



Date Title Label
1976 First Course Epic EK 46114
1977 Lee Ritenour and His Gentle Thoughts JVC VDJ-1001
1977 Captain Fingers Epic PE 34426
1977 Sugar Loaf Express JVC JIMI-2008-2
1978 Friendship (Different from 1979 release) Jasrac VDJ-1003
1978 The Captain's Journey Elektra 6E-136
1979 Rio GRP GRD-9524
1979 Feel the Night Discovery 71010
1979 Friendship (Reissued with The Captain's Journey on Wounded Bird) Elektra 6E-241
1980 The Best of Lee Ritenour (compilation) Epic EK 36527
1981 Rit Discovery 71013
1982 Rit 2 Discovery 71017
1982 Dave Grusin and the NY-LA Dream Band, with Dave Grusin GRP A 1001 & GRD 9501, JVC 28022
1983 On the Line, with Dave Grusin (This version differs in some takes to the 1985 GRP Release, and was reissued coupled with Rio on Wounded Bird) GRP GRD-9525
1984 Banded Together Discovery 71018
1985 Harlequin, with Dave Grusin GRP GRD-9522
1985 GRP Live in Session, with Dave Grusin GRP A-1023 & GRD 9032
1986 Earth Run GRP GRP-D-9538
1987 Portrait GRP GRD-9553
1988 Festival GRP GRD-9570
1989 Color Rit GRP GRD-9594
1990 Stolen Moments GRP GRD-9615
1991 Collection GRP GRD-9645
1993 Wes Bound GRP GRD-9705
1995 Larry & Lee, with Larry Carlton GRP GRD-9817
1997 Alive in L.A. GRP GRD-9882
1997 A Twist of Jobim I.E. Music 314 533 893-2
1998 This Is Love I.E. Music 314 557 290-2
1999 Two Worlds, with Dave Grusin, Renée Fleming, Gil Shaham and Julian Lloyd Webber Decca 012 157 960-2
2001 A Twist of Marley GRP UCCR-1003
2002 Rit's House GRP VERF 01197-2
2003 The Very Best of Lee Ritenour (compilation) GRP 314-589-281-2
2003 The Best of Lee Ritenour (compilation) Sony EK 85795
2003 A Twist of Motown GRP B0000115-02
2005 Overtime Peak PKD-8531-2
2005 World of Brazil GRP B0004926-02
2006 Smoke n Mirrors Peak PKD-30018-2
2008 Amparo, with Dave Grusin Decca UCCU-1192
2010 Lee Ritenour's 6 String Theory Concord CRE-31911-02
2012 Rhythm Sessions Concord CRE-33709-02
2015 A Twist of Rit Concord CRE-37243-02

With Fourplay[edit]

With L.A. Workshop[edit]

Other credits[edit]

Collections and compilation albums[edit]

  • 1980 The Best of Lee Ritenour (Epic EK 36527)
  • 1991 Collection (GRP GRD-9645)
  • 2003 The Very Best of Lee Ritenour (GRP 314-589-281-2)
  • 2003 The Best of Lee Ritenour (tracks 1–8 same as 1980 version, +3 additional tracks) (Epic EK 85795)

As sideman[edit]



  1. ^ "Biography". Lee Ritenour. January 24, 2013. Retrieved 2014-06-25. 
  2. ^ Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story Of Pink Floyd by Mark Blake, page 270
  3. ^ The Complete Guide To The Music Of Pink Floyd by Andy Mabbett, page 80
  4. ^ "Inside the Mind of Pink Floyd: David Gilmour". Guitar. September 1995. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 494. 
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 205. 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ "Judges". Independent Music Awards. Retrieved 2016-08-27. 
  9. ^ [2][dead link]
  10. ^ "11th Annual IMA Judges". Independent Music Awards. Retrieved 2016-08-27. 
  11. ^ "She & Him, The Black Keys, Mark Hoppus, Aimee Mann And Bettye LaVette Join Judging Panel For The 9th Annual Independent Music Awards @ Top40-Charts.com - New Songs & Videos from 49 Top 20 & Top 40 Music Charts from 30 Countries". Top40-charts.com. Retrieved 2016-08-27. 
  12. ^ "American Flyers". October 17, 1990 – via Amazon. 

External links[edit]