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Music Review: Lee Ritenour – 6 String Theory

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Guitar Haiku #1

Gentle winds blowing
Soft sounds from metallic strings
Keep the night alive.
— Miss Bob Etier

Few musicians of any genre can match the curriculum vitae of Grammy award-winning guitarist Lee Ritenour. One of the founding members of monster jazz group, Fourplay, he has completed a project inspired by B.B. King, that (after 40+ albums) may well be his masterpiece. 6 String Theory includes a 15-track CD and a guitar competition (sponsored by Yamaha).

Martino & Ritenour - Photo by Kevin EstradaFew genres are ignored, and we experience a collection of world class musicians from rock, blues, jazz, acoustic, country, and classical who all share a common bond — love of the guitar. Spouses often complain that their mate is “married to their career” and certainly that could be said of the music industry. However, have you ever heard of a man having a love affair with a fountain pen or a typewriter? The feminine personification of the guitar is seldom better documented than with B.B. King and “Lucille.” It’s impossible to consider his famous Gibson being named Walter! These men checked their egos at the door to the studio and they all play with inspired passion.

A special moment on 6 String Theory for Ritenour is George Benson’s solo performance of “My One and Only Love.” According to Ritenour, “It exemplifies the higher purpose” of the project, to focus attention on the guitar. As a listener, there are 15 special moments for me as each track presents diverse technicians speaking different languages and delivering their message with the music. 6 String Theory is a listening experience that will send you scurrying to YouTube and Amazon to hear more of each artist. It’s great to hear familiar artists in a new light and welcome new stars onto the playlist.

Lee Ritenour has assembled a group of 20 dedicated guitarists (including himself) with combined resumes second to none. King, George Benson, Steve Lukather, Slash, Neal Schon, Jon Scofield, Robert Cray, Vince Gill, Keb’Mo’, Taj Mahal, Andy McKee, Mike Stern, Tomoyasu Hotei, Gutherie Govan, Joe Bonamassa, and Johnny Lang are noteworthy members of the ensemble along with three more who deserve special mention.

Ritenour had difficulty getting volunteers to join renowned jazz guitarist and teacher Pat Martino (winner of Downbeat Magazine's 2004 reader's poll for jazz guitarist of the year) for a track. Were they intimidated by this legendary performer? In the end, Ritenour himself penned a tribute song to Les Paul and the two masters trade solos in an up-tempo number that would make Paul proud. Joey DeFrancesco on organ and Will Kennedy on drums round out this unique quartet. These two appear on other tracks and are fine examples of the support talent Ritenour has brought together for this recording.

Boublil & Ritenour - Photo by Kevin Estrada“Smokin’” Joe Robinson is the 18-year-old winner of 2008’s Australia’s Got Talent. He contributes one of his own compositions and solos on “Daddy Longlicks.” He should be on the guitar radar for years to come.

Write this name down. Shon Boublil is the 16-year-old winner of Yamaha’s 6 String Theory Competition. His winnings include a four year scholarship to Berklee Collge of Music as well as a track on 6 String Theory, “Caprices, OP.20, No. 2 and 7.” Boublil took first place honors with a flawless performance of an extremely difficult classical piece, alone on a stage before the judges, showing no fear. A fitting conclusion to a special album — an album for all lovers of music and especially the guitar.

6 String Theory was released on June 29. Check out Ritenour's website for tour dates. Thanks to Miss Bob for the haiku.

Guitar Haiku # 2

The guitar player
With his instrument on fire
Warms our chilled spirits.
— Miss Bob Etier

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  • Bob Ragland

    Been a Rit fan since Captains Fingers. I love to play guitar to many of his songs. I must say, I am not too bad…..until I turn off the platter. Nice article! Looking forward to listening to his new CD.

  • Reese McKay

    Great review! BB King is one of my favorites. I’ll be seeing him in concert at Red Rocks in Denver this month.