Lee Ritenour – A Taste of Jobim


musical trends come and go, and as contemporary jazz continues in its evolution, K might surprise you to find the names of Al t> Jarreau, Dave Grusin, Art Porter, El DeBarge, Herbie Hancock, Oleta Adams, Yellow jackets and Antonio Carlos Jobim together in the same sentence. But when the creative wealth of these talented musicians is brought together with the deepest respect for me father of Bossa Nova, the result is a reshaping of the music for me times: A TWIST OF JOBIM.

Bowing as i.e. music’s first release, A TWIST OF JOBIM is a project close to producer Lee Ritenour’s heart. Ritenour, who started his professional career with Sergio Mendes has never strayed far from the influence of the Brazilian sound, and now the guitarist, who has enjoyed one of the most successful recording careers in contemporary jazz, returns to spearhead a tribute album to the late Brazilian composer from an American perspective.

From the beginning, it was my intention to create a sort of fabric of American musicians to pay tribute to Jobim’s songs and to Jobim himself,” says Lee. “I wanted to prove that his songs are universal, that they stand the test of time in the 90s as they did in the 60s when most of these songs were written. I wanted to use the best American jazz and pop musicians that I could get my hands on in this period to interweave them into sort of a wonderful twist of his music, if you will.”

A TWIST OF JOBIM is an all star event that combines the talents of many great musicians with 11 tracks from the Jobim songbook. Included are time honored selections such as The Girl From Ipanema and Dindi, an early favorite for NAC play courtesy of the synergy between El DeBarge and Art Porter. DeBarge transforms the song with an urban spin, and in doing so sets the stage for Porter’s silky smooth soprano. It was to be Art’s last recording: and his ability to capture the longing and the desire of the Iyrics stand as testament to his talent and sensitivity to the moment. Lee calls upon Alan Pasqua and Ernie Watts to revisit Childen’s Games, a tune he earlier covered with Yellowjackets, who this time around appear on the lesser known Mojave Al Jarreau and Oleta Adams bring their distinct vocal styles to A TWIST OF JOBIM with two favorites and in doing so, will re-shape the perception of both singers’ repertoire. Listen to how Jarreau purposely “undersings” the Iyrics of The Girl From Ipanema as if to pay homage to the original vocal by Joao Gilberto. And Oleta’s passionate vocal magic on the duet Waters of March only enhances the Iyrics of this Jobim masterpiece. The music of Jobim is something that I love to sing anytime, anywhere, and I knew that the guitar would get really special treatment,” Jarreau recalls. “The guitar is a very special part of Jobim’s music, and because I have a history with this type of guitar playing myself, I knew that Lee would give it the respect it deserves. I have a real love and appreciation for the magic of Brazilian guitar and how it is used.” A good example of this is the opening track, Water To Drink, which takes on new life as a result of Ritenour’s intuition. Dave Grusin’s piano compliments the melody as Lee’s use of the instrument sets a relaxing pace for the popular bossa. Grusin also teams up with Brazilian percussionist Cassio Duarte (he and fellow rhythm maker Paulinho da Costa are the only Brazilians on the album) for a thought-filled rendering of the lovely ballad Bonita. One of the keys to the success of A TWIST OF JOBIM is the quality of the ensemble play. This satisfying interaction is a direct result of Lee’s dedication to arranging the music for this album. “A number of his songs are almost perfect,” explains Lee. “And that was the hard part of planning A TWIST OF JOBIM. You have to respect that balance between the original and the desire to work with K. The true test of any great songwriter is his music’s ability to stand the test of time. I spent a long time on the arrangements to make sure it came out the way I envisioned it.”

Part of this vision is placed in the capable hands of saxophonists Eric Marienthal and Ernie Watts. Marienthal is featured on the jazzy Captain Bacardi, and his melodic inventiveness transforms the song in ways that surpassed Lee Ritenour’s expectations of as special reunion: “Not many people remember that Jobim wrote a few blues tunes. Dave Grusin and I used to play this song quite often years ago and when I invited him to play on the album, he immediately remembered our history with the song.” Marienthal, who’s close enough to Brazil to understand the way music integrates with the rest of life, follows Lee’s direction, and the song swings and sways with a straight ahead feel not hinted at in the original. And Stone Rower, with it’s propulsive drive gives Hancock, Steve Tavaglione, John Pattitucci and Russell Ferrante room to stretch.

Back in ’95 Ritenour assembled his first star studded tribute to Jobim at Lincoln Center. That evening became the catalyst for A TWIST OF JOBIM when Lee and his Brazilian wife, Carmen, were overwhelmed by the spirit of the moment. The memories linger here: Herbie Hancock recalls his New York performance with Stone Flower recaptured in this recording. Dave Grusin reflects on Bonita. Brazil’s superstars took the stage to celebrate where it all began for bossa nova in 1962. To honor the man who defined the music for all time. Listen to A TWIST OF JOBIM and you’ll soon realize that Lee Ritenour’s vision of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s music is remarkably similar to me creative flux that originally spawned bossa nova. A development of combined musical styles to reflect the fashion of the day. Adults worldwide have been captured by the warmth and emotion of Jobim’s melodies, and now new generations are discovering that the more things change, the more they really do stay the same. Lee Ritenour has found an exciting way to broaden that idea, making Jobim’s musical legacy relevant for todays contemporary jazz.