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Brazilian Beat

These are eventful times for Lee Ritenour, the guitarist who in the past 10 years has crossed every border, stylistically and geographically.

He toured Europe twice this year. He just played the Universal Amphitheatre with a group of Brazilian and American musicians in a show based on his album “Festival.” And next month he will take his small band to Jakarta to celebrate Indonesia’s first international jazz festival.

“ ‘Festival’ is my first all-acoustic album in 10 years,” says Ritenour, a Hollywood native who has gained prominence through extensive use of electric guitars and synthesizers. “It went well with the Brazilian flavor of most of the songs.”

A graduate of the Sergio Mendes mid-1970s groups, Ritenour has led several small groups, one of them with Dave Grusin, and was one of a cadre of young musicians who helped establish what is now considered the California sound of the ‘70s.

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Blended with that sound is the new Brazilian movement known as Tropicalism. “It has a little more of the African element, brought in by some musicians from the north of Brazil,” Ritenour points out. “It’s a slightly more contemporary extension of what Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim started in the ‘60s.”

On the album he introduced as guests Caetano Veloso and Joao Bosco, representatives of the new and more provocative northern Brazilian sound.

“Even if you can’t understand the words,” Ritenour says, “it’s enjoyable just to listen to the voice as if it were an instrument.

“This has been one of my busiest years ever, and with so many jobs and challenges I think my playing has more confidence. I really feel good about the way things are going.”

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