Jazz Reviews : An Evolving Ritenour at Universal Amphitheatre

Lee Ritenour is evolving. While the locally based guitarist’s style remains rooted in the arena where jazz meets rock, his keen affection for Brazilian popular music is moving more to the forefront as his fondness for less-than-memorable pop-oriented pieces seems to be waning. It’s a move with a musical future.

At his show Friday at the Universal Amphitheatre, Ritenour--backed with gusto by Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), David Witham (keyboards), Tim Landers (bass) and Paulinho da Costa (percussion)--delivered several Brazilian and Brazilian-tinged tunes from such GRP albums as “Festival,” his latest, and “Harlequin Festival.”

Whether spotlighting a high-pitched Phil Perry vocal or just the leader’s guitar, tunes like “Asa” and “Harlequin,” both by Ivan Lins, and Ritenour’s “Night Rhythm” had an infectious, invigorating snap.

These works, rendered mostly on acoustic steel-string guitar, allowed Ritenour what he does best--play flowing, melodic solos that have a singing quality. On the rock-flavored tunes like “Sunset Driver,” Ritenour switched to electric guitar and doled out whining improvisations that lacked the warmth his other efforts revealed.


Michael Brecker, playing tenor saxophone, and EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) opened the concert with a set of intense originals that had angular, technically demanding melodies and were usually shored by a propulsive backbeat.

On such tunes as “Its Bynne Reel” and “Nothing Personal"--with guitarist Mike Stern, pianist Joey Calderazzo, drummer Adam Nussbaum and bassist Jeff Andrews providing valiant support--Brecker, on tenor sax, blew tons of notes that included incredibly fast, repeated passages, sky-high wails and wild free-form statements.