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Lee Ritenour

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Lee Ritenour
Ritenour at the Stockholm Jazz Festival, 2009
Ritenour at the Stockholm Jazz Festival, 2009
Background information
Birth nameLee Mack Ritenour
Born (1952-01-11) January 11, 1952 (age 72)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresJazz, jazz fusion, crossover jazz, smooth jazz, jazz rock
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, producer
Years active1968–present
LabelsEpic, Elektra, GRP, PolyGram, Decca, Peak, Concord, Discovery

Lee Mack Ritenour (/ˈrɪtnər/ RIT-now-er; born January 11, 1952) is an American jazz guitarist who has been active since the late 1960s.[1][2][3]


Ritenour was born on January 11, 1952, in Los Angeles, California, United States. At the age of eight he started playing guitar and four years later decided on a career in music. When he was 16 he played on his first recording session with the Mamas & the Papas. He developed a love for jazz and was influenced by guitarist Wes Montgomery.[4] At the age of 17 he worked with Lena Horne and Tony Bennett. He studied classical guitar at the University of Southern California.[2]


The Lee Ritenour Gibson L5 Signature archtop guitar

Ritenour's solo career began with the album First Course (1976), a good example of the jazz-funk sound of the 1970s, followed by Captain Fingers, The Captain's Journey (1978), and Feel the Night (1979).

In 1979, he "was brought in to beef up" one of Pink Floyd's The Wall's heaviest rock numbers, "Run Like Hell".[5] He played "uncredited rhythm guitar" on "One of My Turns".[6][7] As the 1980s began, Ritenour began to add stronger elements of pop to his music, beginning with Rit (1981). Rit became his only release to chart in Australia, peaking at number 98.[8] "Is It You" with vocals by Eric Tagg reached No. 15 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 27 on the Soul chart.[9] The track peaked at number fifteen on Hot Adult Contemporary chart.[10] He continued with the pop-oriented music for Rit/2 (1982) and Banded Together (1984), while releasing a Direct-Disk instrumental album in 1983 called On the Line. He also provided rhythm guitar on Tom Browne's album Funkin' for Jamaica. He recorded Harlequin (1985) with Dave Grusin and vocals by Ivan Lins.[4] His next album, Earth Run, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance. The album's title track was also Grammy nominated in the category of Best Instrumental Composition.[3][11] Portrait (GRP, 1987) included guest performances by the Yellowjackets, Djavan, and Kenny G.[12]

In 1988, his Brazilian influence came to the forefront on Festival, an album featuring his work on nylon-string guitar.[4] He changed direction with his straight-ahead jazz album Stolen Moments which he recorded with saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist Alan Broadbent, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Harvey Mason. During the same year, he composed the theme song for the Canadian TV series Ramona.


In 1991 Ritenour and keyboardist Bob James formed the group Fourplay.[4] He left the group in 1997 and was replaced by Larry Carlton. He released the career retrospective Overtime in 2005. Smoke n' Mirrors came out the next year with the debut of his thirteen-year-old son, Wesley, on drums.

Celebrating his fifty years as a guitarist in 2010, Ritenour released 6 String Theory, a title that refers to six musical areas covered by the use of guitar.[13]

Ritenour has been a judge for the Independent Music Awards.[14][15][16][17]

Lead vocalists[edit]

Lee Ritenour's first few solo albums consisted entirely of instrumentals. Beginning with Captain Fingers (1977), Ritenour used vocalists on many of his songs:


Grammy Awards[edit]

Ritenour has received one Grammy award out of sixteen nominations.[3]

Year Category Nominated work Result
1978 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition "The Captain's Journey" Nominated
1981 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance RIT Nominated
1985 Grammy Award for Best Arrangement on an Instrumental "Early A.M. Attitude" Won
Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance (Orchestra, Group or Soloist) Harlequin Nominated
Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocal(s) "Harlequin" Nominated
1986 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance, Vocal or Instrumental Earth Run Nominated
Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition "Earth Run" Nominated
1990 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance Stolen Moments Nominated
1993 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance (Instrumental) Between the Sheets Nominated
Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo "4 on 6" Nominated
Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Individual or Group Wes Bound Nominated
1994 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement with Accompanying Vocals "Ability to Swing" Nominated
1995 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance Elixir Nominated
Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance Larry and Lee Nominated
1997 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance Alive in L.A. Nominated
1997 Grammy Award for Best Classical Crossover Album Two Worlds Nominated
  • Album of the Year, Jazziz magazine (2010)
  • Best International Instrumentalist, Echo Jazz Award (2011)



Title Peak chart positions Label Year

First Course Epic 1976
Captain Fingers 178 Epic 1977
Gentle Thoughts JVC 1977
Sugar Loaf Express JVC 1977
Friendship JVC 1978
The Captain's Journey 78 Elektra 1978
Rio 163 JVC 1979
Feel the Night 136 Elektra 1979
Friendship Elektra 1979
Rit 26 Elektra 1981
Rit/2 99 Elektra 1982
On the Line Elektra Musician 1983
Banded Together 145 Elektra 1984
Harlequin, with Dave Grusin 192 GRP 1985
Earth Run GRP 1986
Portrait GRP 1987
Festival 156 GRP 1988
Color Rit GRP 1989
Stolen Moments GRP 1990
Collection GRP 1991
Wes Bound 19 GRP 1993
Larry & Lee, with Larry Carlton 4 GRP 1995
Alive in L.A. 18 GRP 1997
This Is Love 4 I.E. Music 1998
Two Worlds, with Dave Grusin Decca 2000
Rit's House 5 Verve 2002
World of Brazil GRP 2003
Overtime 24 Peak 2005
Smoke 'n' Mirrors 10 Peak 2006
Amparo, with Dave Grusin Decca 2008
6 String Theory Concord 2010
Rhythm Sessions 3 Concord 2012
A Twist of Rit 3 Concord 2015
Dreamcatcher The Players Club 2020
Brasil Candid 2024

Charted singles[edit]

Date Title Position Chart (US)
1981 "Countdown Captain Fingers" 43 Dance[20]
"Is It You" 15 Hot 100[20]
1982 "Cross My Heart" 69
1993 "Waiting in Vain" (ft. Maxi Priest) 54 R&B[20]
2007 "Smoke 'n' Mirrors" 27 Smooth Jazz[20]
"Forget Me Nots" 14
2010 "Shape of My Heart" (Lee Ritenour, Steve Lukather & Andy McKee) 19
"Put the Top Down" (Dave Koz ft. Lee Ritenour) 1
2012 "Roadtrip" (Michael Lington ft. Lee Ritenour) 3
2013 "The Village" 3
"L.A. by Bike" 15
2015 "A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That" 5

As a member[edit]


L.A. Workshop

  • Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) (Denon, 1988)
  • Norwegian Wood, Vol. 2 (Denon, 1994)

GRP All-Star Big Band

Other credits[edit]

As sideman[edit]


  1. ^ "Biography". Lee Ritenour. January 24, 2013. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Lee Ritenour". Allmusic.com.
  3. ^ a b c "Lee Ritenour". Grammy.com.
  4. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1018. ISBN 978-1-85227-745-1.
  5. ^ Blake, Mark (2008). Comfortably Numb. Da Capo Press. pp. 270–. ISBN 978-1-56858-383-9. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  6. ^ Mabbett, Andy (1995). The Complete Guide to the Music of Pink Floyd. Omnibus Press. pp. 80–. ISBN 978-0-7119-4301-8. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  7. ^ "Inside the Mind of Pink Floyd: David Gilmour". Guitar. September 1995. Archived from the original on December 30, 2012. Retrieved July 29, 2010.
  8. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 253. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 494.
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–2001. Record Research. p. 205. The videos for "Is It You" and "Mr. Briefcase" were both amongst the first videos played on MTV on August 1, 1981.
  11. ^ "Earth Run". AllMusic. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
  12. ^ "Lee Ritenour: Portrait". allmusic.com.
  13. ^ "Lee Ritenour Discusses His "6 String Theory"". Archived from the original on July 2, 2010. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  14. ^ "Judges". Independent Music Awards. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  15. ^ "The Independent Music Awards Announces Judges for 9th Annual IMAs | MicControl". Archived from the original on June 26, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-28.
  16. ^ "11th Annual IMA Judges". Independent Music Awards. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  17. ^ "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. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  18. ^ "Lee Ritenour Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved January 12, 2022.
  19. ^ "Lee Ritenour Chart History: Jazz Albums". Billboard. Retrieved January 12, 2022.
  20. ^ a b c d "Lee Ritenour Chart History". Billboard.

External links[edit]