Lee Ritenour - The 1970's

Dec 1, 2020

Lee Ritenour
Credit Blue Desert

Sunday Night Jazz Showcase

Program #307 (November 29 at 8:00 p.m.)

Known to fans as "Captain Fingers" for his uncommon dexterity on the guitar, Lee Ritenour is a noted jazz artist and session musician who has been one of the leaders in his field since the early '70s.

Born in Los Angeles, California on January 11, 1952, Ritenour took up the guitar when he was eight years old, and decided to make music his career when he was 12. Ritenour's parents were supportive of his ambitions, and arranged for him to study with some of the best guitar teachers in Southern California.

At 15, he joined a rock band called the Esquires, and when John Phillips heard Ritenour at work, he invited him to play on an upcoming session by the Mamas and the Papas; it was the first record date for the 16-year-old guitarist. While Ritenour's tastes were eclectic and he worked with a number of rock and soul artists, he had a special passion for jazz, citing Wes Montgomery as a key influence, and within a few years he was playing prestigious gigs with the likes of Lena Horne and Tony Bennett.

Ritenour took time off from his career to attend the University of Southern California, where he studied classical guitar under Christopher Parkening, but he returned to work after two-and-a-half years. By the mid-'70s, Ritenour was one of the top session musicians in Los Angeles, lending his talents to albums by the likes of Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Carly Simon, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Natalie Cole, the Bee Gees, and Quincy Jones, as well as jazz projects with Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Alphonso Johnson, and Stanley Turrentine.

Ritenour also had a keen interest in Brazilian and Latin sounds; he toured with Sergio Mendes in 1973, and recorded with Flora Purim, Gato Barbieri, and Paulinho Da Costa.

In 1976, Ritenour stepped into the spotlight with his first solo album, First Course, a polished jazz-pop effort released by Epic Records. After cutting four albums for Epic, Ritenour moved to the Elektra-distributed Discovery imprint with 1978's The Captain's Journey, the first of seven albums he'd cut for Elektra and its offshoots.

(provided by Allmusic)