Lee Ritenour – Lee Ritenour’s 6 String Theory – Concord Records CRE-31911-02, 68:02 *****:
(An all-star lineup of musicians incl. Lee Ritenour; B.B. King; Robert Cray; Keb’ Mo’; Taj Mahal; John Scofield; George Benson; Slash; Steve Lukather; Vince Gill; Johnny Lang; Joey DeFrancesco; Andy McKee; Pat Martino; Joe Robinson; Neal Schon; Mike Stern; Joe Bonamassa; Tomoyasu Hotei; Gutherie Govan; Tal Wilkenfeld; Shon Boubul, and many others)
With fifty years in the music profession, what does a living legend do next? After all, Lee Ritenour has participated in over 3000 recording sessions, released 40 albums, been nominated for 19 Grammys (with one win), and played with some of the greatest musicians of all time. The answer, fulfill an artistic vision and invite as many brilliant players as possible to celebrate the guitar itself as a voice for musical culture. To complement this prominent gathering, some lesser known artists were included. Also, Ritenour would hold a competition for guitarists. The eventual winner, judged by some of the performers on the CD, would get a number to perform on the finished project.
There are an impressive fifteen tracks that feature twenty different guitarists. The song selection was intended to explore the six “strings” or genres of music (jazz, rock, blues, acoustic, country and classical) influenced by the guitar. Shared production duties sustain a high level of studio quality without restricting any of the creativity or inspiration. Despite a wide array of styles and combinations of players, the album moves freely and never feels disjointed or uneven.
Each track is a highlight. Ritenouer and Pat Martino, exchanging leads and solos on “L.P. (For Les Paul)”, is jazz play at its best. There is a blistering acoustic number, “Daddy Longlicks”, by Australian, Joe Robinson, and a surprising groove rendition of the Henry Mancini classic, “Moon River” featuring George Benson and organist Joey DeFrancesco. Two blues numbers, “Am I Wrong”, featuring Keb’ Mo’ and Taj Mahal, and “Why I Sing The Blues” , with an improbable lineup that includes B.B. King, Vince Gill, Keb’ Mo’, Johnny Lang and Ritenour are memorable as well.
Ritenour manages to be a central part of the music without overexposure. He seems as comfortable with a funky sound on “Lay It Down” with John Scofield, or a fusion piece, “Freeway Jam” aided by Mike Stern and Tomoyasu Hotei. There is freedom to reinvent pop songs, as Robert Cray and Joe Bonamassa do on Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason”. The contest winner, Shon Boubil, a classical guitarist, contributes an adroit version of Luigi Legnani’s” Caprices Op. 20, Nos. 2 & 7”.
More is not necessarily better, but in the case of Lee Ritenour’s 6 String Theory, it is.
TrackList: Lay It Down; Am I Wrong; L.P. (For Les Paul); Give Me One Reason; “68”; In Your Dreams; My One And Only Love; Moon River; Why I Sing The Blues; Daddy Longlicks; Shape Of My Heart; Drifting; Freeway Jam; Fives; Caprices, Op. 20, Nos. 2 and 7.
— Robbie Gerson