Lee Ritenour – A Twist Of Rit – Concord Music Group CRE-37243-02, 70:47 ****1/2:

(Lee Ritenour – guitars; Michael Thompson – rhythm guitar; David T. Walker – guitar; Wah Wah Watson – guitar; John Beasley – piano, synthesizers, clavinet/samples; Wurlitzer electric piano; Fender Rhodes; Dave Grusin – piano; Hammond B-3; mini Moog; clavinet; Fender Rhodes, synth, vibes; Patrice Rushen – Fender Rhodes, clavinet; Makoto Ozone – piano Hammond B-3; Melvin Lee davis – bass; Tom Kennedy – acoustic bass; Dave Weckl – drums, hand drums; Christopher Coleman – drums; Ron Bruner Jr. – drums; Paulhino da Costa – percussion; Ernie Watts – tenor saxophone; Bob Sheppard – flute, baritone saxophone; Rashawn Ross – flugelhorn, trumpet; Wendell Kelly – trombone; Tom Luer – tenor saxophone; Adam Schroeder – baritone saxophone; Tony Pusztai – classical guitar)

After three thousand sessions, 19 Grammy nominations and co-founding Fourplay (perhaps the greatest contemporary jazz group of all time), guitarist Lee Ritenour continues to augment his legacy. His career has been defined by a wide array of collaborations (including Pink Floyd) and numerous solo projects beginning in the seventies. He was a vital part of the jazz fusion movement of that era. His creative, soaring guitar lines travel across a variety of genres and structures. And now Lee Ritenour has released another album.

A Twist Of Rit is a bold revision of prior songs (and some new material) aided by an all-star session lineup and superior engineering. The opening track, “Wild Rice” explodes with a layered mix of horns, keyboards and rhythm. Ritenour’s effects-laden electric guitar is animated, full of attitude. Patrice Rushen (Fender Rhodes) and Ernie Watts (tenor saxophone) add solos. “Fatback” is old school with a riveting guitar lead. Ritenour is relentless and pushes the jagged perimeter of the instrument. Dave Grusin leads a memorable transition with a B-3 solo. The full sound is framed by a contingent of trumpet, trombone, tenor saxophone and baritone). Adopting a smoother jazz vibe (including a spacey intro), Ritenour (in his best Wes Montgomery stye) shines on “Ooh Yeah”. Minor touches like Flugelhorn (Rashawn Ross) and flute (Bob Sheppard) add shading to the guitar and Fender Rhodes (John Beasley).

Drawing on many influences,. There is a discernible fusion resonance on “W.O.R.K.N’ It” with some harder rock transitions. And Ritenour can rock out in this quartet ensemble. Makoto Ozone swings on Hammond, and Dave Weckl’s drumming is exceptional. Expanding the overall sound, “A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit Of That” is funky and soulful. Rhythm guitarist Michael Thompson sets up Ritenour as Grusin and Beasley combine with the horns and drums/percussion (Ron Bruner Jr. and Paulhine da Costa) to push this one. On a change of pace, “Pearl” employs a gentler swirling time signature and guitar fluidity. Ritenour’s versatility is impressive.

The title cut emphasizes the 70’s soul jazz influences. Melvin Lee Davis’ prominent bass work, Bob Sheppard’s flute and the trio of guitars (Ritenour, Wah Wah Watson and David T. Walker) anchor this tight jam. The playing is spirited and up tempo numbers “Countdown” and “Sweet Syncopation” (with a scorching guitar solo) bristle with edginess and agility. It is fitting that the finale, “Waltz For Carmen” is a meditative duet with Tony Pusztai). The duo complements each other with graceful elegance. Ritenour’s delicacy is effective and moving.

TrackList: Wild Rice; Fatback; Ooh Yeah – W.O.R.K.N’ It; A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit Of That; Pearl; Twist Of Rit; Soaring; Sweet Syncopation; Bullet Train; Waltz For Carmen

—Robbie Gerson