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Lee Ritenour Gets a Little Help From His Friends for '6 String Theory'

Lee Ritenour Gets a Little Help From His Friends for '6 String Theory'
Lee Ritenour Gets a Little Help From His Friends for '6 String Theory'

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Doug Levine

Grammy-winning jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour gets a little help from his friends, namely some of the world's greatest guitar players, on his new album, "6 String Theory."  Lee's all-star showcase is a celebration of the instrument he mastered more than a half-century ago.

Lee Ritenour first learned to play guitar at age eight, and by 16, he was recording with '60's pop stars The Mamas and The Papas.  His prolific studio work commanded thousands of sessions with the best from jazz, rock, pop and blues, and his dexterity on the guitar earned him the nickname "Captain Fingers."

Now 58, Lee is the master of ceremonies on "6 String Theory," working as producer, arranger, composer and performer alongside everyone from Robert Cray and Vince Gill, to Pat Martino, B.B. King and John Scofield.  There's also appearances by bluesmen Johnny Lang, Taj Mahal  and Keb' Mo'; rockers Neal Schon, Joe Bonamassa and Slash; and up-and-coming guitarists Andy McKee, Joe Robinson and Shon Boublil.  Earlier this year, Shon won the Grand Prize at Lee Ritenour's Six String Theory International Guitar Competition.

Lee himself only plays on three of the tracks, saying he wanted to focus on the guitar's unlimited possibilities.

"The guitar is the most evolutionary instrument on the planet.  There's no doubt about it.  In the hands of Segovia, the great classical guitarist, or in the hands of Jimi Hendrix, it's still the guitar, but it's totally different.  So, I wanted everyone to be able to listen to this album [and] make sure that it was musical; and [I] somehow ran [the tracks] together [so] that it was not a hodgepodge of music.  And, it isn't.  When you listen to the music it kind of evolves from one step to the next.  If you listen to the whole album it takes you on a journey, but it's the guitar journey," he said.

When it comes to jazz guitar one of the first names on Lee's wish list was George Benson.

"I wanted George to play some be-bop on this album.  He's so well known for his contemporary jazz and 'smooth' jazz and vocals, but what I really wanted him to do was stretch out and be the legendary Gorge Benson we all know that just 'eats the guitar alive,'" he said.

"I kind of pride myself on being a good producer, arranger and orchestrator, and I'm such a fan of the guitar and I know guitar styles so well; the jazz sound, the rock sound, the blues sound, the classical sound, that I think I was able to put it together the right way," said Ritenour.

Lee Ritenour's upcoming tour includes stops in Japan, Turkey, Ukraine, Holland, Ireland and England.

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