Guitarist Lee Ritenour has made a career as such a versatile session man (with session work ranging from Joe Henderson to Pink Floyd) and has done so many smooth jazz and pop dates that hardcore jazz fans can be forgiven for not having seen him burn live in the company of a real band on standards and his own originals. Ritenour assembled a vibrant ensemble to push himself on the date with Nate Smith on drums (famously of Chris Potter's ensembles among others), Tom Kennedy on bass (Dave Weckl, Mike Stern) and keyboardist Jesse Milliner.
Ritenour divided his time between his hollowbody jazz box and his solidbody Les Paul to cover a wide range of his own material ranging from straight ahead bop in the style of his idol Wes Montgomery to harder hitting fusion and funk with much more improvisation than is usually the case on his own recordings and other projects.
The rhythm section of Nate Smith and Tom Kennedy in particular was on fire from the first note to the last in an unusual pairing which one hopes will find its way into more projects from Ritenour and others. Tom Kennedy possesses one of the most solid grooves in electric jazz and can solo over changes at extremely demanding tempos effortlessly and Smith's metric modulation and modern approach to swing and groove made it a very interesting juxtaposition of styles and generations. Ritenour seemed especially intrigued by Smith and gave him ample space with which to display his signature style and Smith and Kennedy pushed Ritenour harder than might otherwise have been the case.
Much of the material was made up by classic Ritenour tracks from A Twist Of Rit, his latest project made up of his own classic tracks revised and revisited. One can only hope that at some point Ritenour finds time to record this ensemble and work in this idiom more often.