With a deep admiration for Wes Montgomery and a penchant for Brazilian music, Lee Ritenour is one of the most prolific guitarists in modern jazz. Whether as a front man, sideman or member of a group, "Captain Fingers can always be counted on for quality music. A Grammy winner, Ritenour has performed or recorded with several jazz, pop and R&B acts throughout his career, including Steely Dan, Bob James, Tony Bennett, The Mamas and the Papas and the Brothers Johnson, and he was a founding member of the super-group Fourplay. Among his classic recordings are "Is It You, "Harlequin, "Portrait, "Night Rhythms and the Brazilian-themed "Rio Funk.
Ritenour continues his tradition of excellence with Smoke 'n' Mirrors. He is joined by a stellar lineup that includes, among others, Patrice Rushen, John Patitucci, Vinnie Colaiuta and Ritenour's son Wesley. The album mixes a handful of covers with several original compositions, including the title song, "Stone Cool, which he co-wrote with Wesley, and a few tributes to South Africa.
"Smoke 'n' Mirrors starts things off with Ritenour playing true to form on the electric guitar, supported by bassists Melvin Davis and Richard Bona, Colaiuta, Alex Acuna and Sheila E. Daniel Jobim, grandson of legendary Brazilian musician and songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim, wrote, performs lead vocals and plays keyboards on the elegant "Blue Waters (Dias Azuis)," also featuring fellow Brazilian Paulinho Da Costa on percussion, Dave Grusin on piano and Patitucci on acoustic bass.
Ritenour does justice to the Freddie Hubbard classic "Povo. Rushen gives this selection some extra juice with her Fender Rhodes piano solo. The track closes with a percussive showcase with Sheila E. on percussion and Oscar Seaton on drums. The track is followed by a cover of Bill Withers' "Lovely Day, led by vocalist Zamajobe. The last of the covers is a delightful take on Rushen's own "Forget Me Nots. Led by Zamajobe, it features a brief African rhythm interlude, with Rushen on background vocals, Fender Rhodes and an organ solo.
The album ends with three originals, starting with "Stone Cool, followed by "Motherland and "4 ½ Storms. Ritenour is in perfect form throughout, although the guest musicians and vocalists are more out front than usual. Smoke 'n' Mirrors is Lee Ritenour, but it's also the excellent cast of supporting performersa formula that works well.
Lee Ritenour: arrangements, acoustic, electric guitars, baritone guitar, acoustic hi-strung guitar, synth bass, keyboards and programming; Melvin Davis: six-string electric bass (1, 9), electric bass (8, 11, 13); Richard Bona: electric bass fills, hand claps (1), electric bass (2, 4, 10, 14), shaker (4), vocal scat (14); Vinnie Colaiuta: drums (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 14), hand claps (1); Alex Acuna: bongos, hand claps (1), congas (2, 14), percussion (3, 4, 6, 10), drums (5, 12); Sheila E.: Korg wave drum (1, 14), hand claps (1), percussion (8, 11), sound effects (14); Brian Taylor: hand claps (1); Eric Ferguson: percussion programming (2); Dave Grusin: acoustic piano (3, 5, 9); John Patitucci: acoustic bass (3, 5); Paulinho Da Costa: percussion (3, 5); Daniel Jobim: lead and background vocals, keyboards (5); Joyce: lead vocals (5); Danilo Caymmi: flutes (5); Brian Bromberg: acoustic bass (6); Satnam Ramgotra: tablas (6, 10); Zamajobe: vocals (7, 9, 11); Erik Pilani Paliani: acoustic and electric guitars (7), background vocals (9), rhythm guitars (9, 11); Phutam Tiso and Nondumiso Zondeki: backing vocals (7); Wesley Ritenour: drums (7); Tlale Makhene: percussion (7); Alberto Lopez: wood percussion (7); Patrice Rushen: Fender Rhodes piano (8, 11, 12), organ solo and background vocals (11); Oscar Seaton: drums (8, 11, 13); Tita Lima: background vocal effects (9); Steve Tavliogne: soprano saxophone, EWI and alto flute (10); Abraham Laboriel: electric bass (12); Mea Noite: percussion (13).