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Jazz Meets Soul in <i>Twist of Motown</i> - 2003-12-02


First there was A Twist of Jobim, then A Twist of Marley. Now, jazz meets soul on a new all-star compilation called A Twist of Motown.

Credit guitarist and producer Lee Ritenour for bringing together some of today's best-selling jazz soloists, including George Benson on Marvin Gaye's Inner City Blues.

Lee Ritenour's first Twist album came in 1997, with the release of A Twist of Jobim, a tribute by various jazz artists to Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. Two years ago, he produced a collection of songs by reggae superstar Bob Marley on A Twist of Marley.

Ritenour says his latest "twist", A Twist of Motown, was inspired by the timeless quality of Motown music. "It's the indelible melodies, the ear-grabbing harmonies and groove-centered rhythms that keep coming back," he says. Of course, it was the combination of showmanship and top-flight studio production that gave Motown, a fledgling Detroit, Michigan record label, international acclaim.

Stevie Wonder was Motown's youngest star who first became known as "Little Stevie Wonder, the 12-Year-Old Genius" after the release of his 1963 live album. Wonder was at his best in the 1970s with songs like You Haven't Done Nothin', performed as an instrumental on A Twist of Motown by saxophonist Richard Elliot.

Motown was also a launching pad for Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, The Jackson Five, and The Temptations.

Bob Dylan once called Motown's Smokey Robinson "America's greatest living poet." Robinson had his share of hit singles with his group The Miracles, and became one of the era's most respected songwriters and producers. Heard on the new collection are vocalist Brenda Russell, who puts a twist of jazz on the Smokey Robinson ballad, Track of My Tears. R&B singer Will Downing updates The Temptations chart-topper Just My Imagination.

Also featured on A Twist of Motown are trumpeter Chris Botti, keyboardists Bob James and Dave Grusin, saxophonists Mindi Abair and Gerald Albright, and guitarists Peter White and Ray Parker, Jr.

Lee Ritenour, who performs in Singapore, Thailand, Korea and Japan in December, plays lead guitar on another Marvin Gaye favorite, I Heard It Through The Grapevine.