I had almost no interest in seeing this show, but my friend who lives in the area had an extra so I tooled over the hill for the late show and I'm REALLY glad I did!
I've always known what an amazing guitar player Ritenour is, but his overall thing has always been so "smooth jazz" that I've never given him much time, and when I saw him live many years ago my impression was "too LA smoooooth".
However, this show from start to finish was much deeper and serious than anything I was expecting; even when he WAS playing "smooth jazz" it was really excellent, thanks to his brilliant, soulful playing and his SUPER-GROUP of a band!
He had Patrice Rushen on keyboards, Brian Bromberg on bass & Alex Acuña on drums and all of them are BIG TIME world class players.
What surpised me was that almost everything was very groovy & straight ahead in style; no "smooth jazz" fluf, with Rushen playing mostly on the grand piano and Bromberg on stand up bass, and Ritenours clean, tasteful solos and rhythms were simply unreal. I've always put him in the Larry Carlton, Robben Ford catagory but I clearly have not given him enough credit for his INCREDIBLE chops, taste and creative sense; his playing was GREAT!
Nothing he did was over-the-top or posey/look how good I am, which is so often what I see. I saw Larry Carlton at the Kuumbwa a couple of years ago and it WAS too LA smooth & I walked out, but Ritenour & his group were reaching into the groove on every tune and the music really went places!
The bass player (who is fucking GREAT) did strap on an electric and Rushen played an electric piano on a few tunes and they were great as well, the different sound & dynamic mixing in very well with the more acoustic style of the early part of the show.
The only thing annoying was the usual jazz schtick of breaking up amazing group performances with too long individual solos, where the other musicians are just standing and watching while the soloist simply shows off. This always breaks the flow of the tune for me and it's a bit pandering, IMO.... but it is standard in almost every jazz show I see so I deal with it. But last night it didn't really get in the way TOO much because the overall sound was too good to fuck up.
They played for an hour and a half (the late show always gets more time) and it could have gone on another two hours. Walking out into the PERFECT Santa Cruz evening my friend & I were buzzing, so we HAD to go over to the Poet & Patriot pub next door to hoist a few and rehash the evening, unwilling to let it end.
I would ABSOLUTELY recommend seeing Lee Ritenour with this group if you get the chance. Unfortunately he's through playing in the Bay Area, but he's doing a run of shows in Seattle this week at Jazz Alley; GO TO THE SHOW, you Nor'Westers!
I don't know if his live shows & band are always designed this way, but this show was beautiful, serious, groovy, BIG TIME music being played by seriously BIG TIME players!!
sweet review, miss the poet and the patriot, great bar.
I've written off Ritenour due to his smooth jazz leanings, but reading this makes me want to check him out.
He is a fantastic guitarist. What a band he's assembled too!
Not a huge fan but I like some of it including the colaborations with the Dave and Don Grusin (but some of it does nearly put one to sleep
What ever category you put him in, Countdown is a very cool tune. Glad to hear you enjoyed the show. Time to pull out some disks and give them another spin.
That Dave Grusin album, Discovered Again, is a great one imo. Ron Carter plays bass. . .
This was pre-Smooth Jazz.