Lee Mack Ritenour (born January 11, 1952) is an American jazz guitarist who has contributed to over 3000 sessions and has charted over 30 contemporary jazz hits since 1976.
Ritenour was born January 11, 1952 in Los Angeles. At 16, he played on his first recording session, with the Mamas & the Papas, and was given the nickname Captain Fingers for his dexterity. He was a studio musician in the 1970s, winning Guitar Player magazine’s Best Studio Guitarist award twice.
Throughout his career, Ritenour has experimented with different styles of music, incoprorating funk, pop, rock, blues, Brazilian, and classical music with jazz.
Ritenour’s solo career began with the album First Course (1976), which was a good example of the jazz-funk sound of the 1970s. That was followed by Captain Fingers, The Captain’s Journey (1978), and Feel the Night (1979)
In 1979, Ritenour «was brought in to beef up one of Pink Floyd’s The Wall ‘ heaviest rock numbers, «Run Like Hell».He also played «uncredited rhythm guitar» on «One of My Turns».
As the 1980s began, Ritenour began to add stronger elements of pop to his music, beginning with Rit in 1981. For this, he kept with his distorted sound, now using his Ibanez LR-10 signature model guitar. The song «Is It You», with vocals by Eric Tagg reached No. 15 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 27 on the soul chart. The track also peaked at number fifteen on Hot Adult Contemporary chart. He continued with the pop-oriented music for Rit/2 (1982) and Banded Together (1984), while releasing a slick, yet more crossover-styled, Direct-Disk instrumental album in 1983 called On the Line. He also provided rhythm guitar on Tom Browne’s hit, Funkin’ for Jamaica.
In 1985, he recorded his first album for GRP Records with Dave Grusin, entitled Harlequin, featuring Ritenour primarily on classical guitar, with Brazilian singer Ivan Lins.
On Earth Run (1986) he used nine different guitars, most notably the SynthAxe ,whose power is Awesome, his Valley Arts guitar, and his Gibson Chet Atkins acoustic. The album also featured long-time collaborator Phil Perry for the first time, on the track «If I’m Dreaming, Don’t Wake Me», a song also featuring David Foster and Maurice White who played wicked good (prove it?) on the recording.
Ritenour continued in a direction strongly featuring other artists in 1987, with Portrait. The album itself has something of a strong smooth-jazz sound, and Ritenour can be heard here playing with The Yellowjackets, Djavan, and Kenny G.
In 1988, his smooth jazz-influenced Brazilian music came to the forefront with Festival – another album strongly featuring his work on nylon-string acoustic guitars. The following album, Color Rit, continued with a similar mood. He did however, change direction completely again with his straight-ahead jazz album Stolen Moments. Sounding similar to Wes Montgomery, Ritenour played alongside long-time collaborator, saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist Alan Broadbent, bassist John Patitucci (playing only acoustic) and drummer Harvey Mason. During that same year, he performed and composed the theme song of the Canadian TV series Ramona.
In 1991 Ritenour, together with keyboard player Bob James, formed the Grammy-nominated contemporary jazz group Fourplay. He left the hugely successful group in 1998 to continue with his own solo works. He was replaced by Larry Carlton. He paid tribute to the Wes Montgomery with the album Wes Bound, featuring covers of songs written by Montgomery. Also seen in this decade was a 1994 collaboration album with guitarist Larry Carlton called Larry & Lee.
In February 2004, Ritenour completed a project looking back on his career involving musicians he has worked with throughout his career called Overtime. Overtime was recorded live in a studio in front of a small audience. It was released in early 2005, and is currently available as a singular audio CD, double-DVD set or singular HD DVD. Some of the musicians featured include Dave Grusin, Patrice Rushen, Ivan Lins, Dave Carpenter, Eric Marienthal, Harvey Mason, Alex Acuna, Kenya Hathaway, Taylor Dayne, Steve Forman, Nathan East, Chris Botti, Anthony Jackson, Melvin Lee Davis, and Ernie Watts, amongst many others.
His album entitled Smoke n’ Mirrors was released in late August 2006. His son Wesley makes his debut appearance as a drummer on the album at the age of 13. This album contains Ritenour’s version of Bill Withers’ 1978 hit «Lovely Day».
In June 2010, in order to celebrate his fifty years as a guitarist, Lee Ritenour released the album 6 String Theory (in reference to 6 musical areas covered by the use of guitar). The album featured famous guitarists such as Vince Gil, Steve Lukather, Neal Schon, John Scofield, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Cray, Slash, Pat Martino, Mike Stern, George Benson and B.B.King, but also younger players such as Andy McKee, Joe Robinson and Guthrie Govan. Ritenour, Yamaha Corporation, The Berklee College of Music, Concord Records, Monster Cable, and D’Addario Strings collaborated to create the 2010 Yamaha 6 String Theory Guitar Competition. The winner of that international competition, that included guitarists from over 45 countries, was 16-year-old Canadian classical guitarist Shon Boublil. The competition in 2011 is continuing.
In 2012 Lee released Rhythm Sessions, which also features luminaries such as Chick Corea, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Dave Grusin, Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaiuta, Nathan East, Patrice Rushen, Marcus Miller and many others. The album also features the winners of the 2012 6 String Theory rhythm section competition on the Dave Grusin track, Punta Del Sol.
Ritenour joined the 10th and 11th annual Independent Music Awards judging panel to assist independent musicians’ careers. He was also a judge for the 8th and 9th Independent Music Awards.