Older: Crossing Borders with Lee Ritenour


Published: 05/15/2018

by Scott Adams


Program #1355 - 'Crossing Borders: Lee Ritenour'

This show airs daily from 05-16-18 through 05-22-18 Monday-Friday at 7am, 3pm, 6pm and midnight Central Time (US). Weekends, too.

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This month's 'Crossing Borders' theme shines a spotlight on musicians who make it a point to stretch our personal boundaries from the familiar touchstones of American jazz and pop to the spectrum of the Brazilian sound. So we'll let the following short notes have their say... as we get this week's show underway.


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This week’s show:

My Producer's Notes

Listen to The Sounds of Brazil weekdays at 7am, 3pm, 6pm and midnight Central Time daily.

When it comes to ‘Crossing Borders’ with Brazilian music, it’s pretty easyt to make the case for guitarist Lee Ritenour. And to help you get to know how strong this creative connection flows between the guitarist and the land of Samba and sun, I’ve decided to post the liner notes that Lee asked me write for his ‘World of Brazil’ album. Enjoy! - Scott Adams


Chances are pretty good that Lee Ritenour never met up with Brazilian singer Nara Leão. Chances are equally good that if they had, Nara would have approved.

Back in the late 50’s, Nara, the teenage daughter of socialite parents who kept a neat Copacabana high-rise pad, would regularly throw all-night parties for the soon-to-be stars of Bossa Nova – names like Menescal, Boscoli, Mendes, Gilberto and Jobim. At the time, Nara was nothing more than a ‘Super Fan’ – her appointment as Brazil’s musical muse would come soon enough – but that beachfront address on Rio’s famous Avenida Atlântica became a second home for these visionaries, a melting pot for new ideas. New friends.

That’s the Brazilian way.

And it still held true many years later for Lee Ritenour, who made his first visit to Brazil in 1973. He remembers it as if it were yesterday:

“I went there on vacation when I was 21 and had the chance to meet Oscar Castro-Neves. Not long after, I was invited to a party at Sergio Mendes’ house, and that was the night I met Dave Grusin. Antonio Carlos Jobim was also there, along with Oscar and lots of guys from Sergio’s band, and there was a lot of jamming, so it was quite something. I guess you could say that party was the beginning of a big part of my career going forward.”

This collection picks up Lee’s Brazilian trail in 1985 with Harlequin, his legendary collaboration with pianist Dave Grusin. The title song, “Arlequim Desconhecido,” yielded our American introduction to singer Ivan Lins, and set Ritenour on a path that he would follow with several other Brazilian singer/songwriters in the coming years. In 1987, Djavan was invited into the studio for Lee’s Portrait album to recreate his hit song “Asa.” In May of 1988, Caetano Veloso and João Bosco flew north to New York, recording their songs “Linda’”and “Latin Lovers,” respectively, for Lee’s Festival; and Lee returned the favor a year later by flying the master tapes down to São Paulo for Gonzaguinha to sing his memorable anthem, “É,” for the Color Rit sessions.

The distance of years shows that each of these vocals stand as milestone recordings for all concerned: Ivan and Djavan went on establish themselves here in the US, Caetano began his inevitable march towards musical universality and João still sings ‘Latin Lovers’ on tour, no doubt due to the worldwide popularity and critical acclaim that grew from his collaboration with the American guitar player.

Lee’s passion and foresight succeeded in raising the bar for Brazil’s best, with brilliantly conceived arrangements and talented musicianship – and each Brazilian singer in turn responded to the invitation with his own definitive performance.

“Caetano told me later that he was pretty nervous,” Lee recalls. “That was the rhythm section with Dave Grusin, Omar Hakim and Anthony Jackson. We were rehearsing “Linda” in the studio, getting the arrangements and guitar parts just right and we were really ready for him. Caetano had barely taken off his jacket when he heard this wonderful arrangement from the control room. He was so overwhelmed that he told me later, ‘How can I just step into that and start singing?’”

“In each case there was an electric energy. With João and Djavan, their rhythm guitar parts were so outstanding you could really sense that they were as thrilled to play with us as we were with them, and Ivan was completely like ‘one of us’ already; he understood our music, we understood his music – the way he composed, the way he liked to groove. When we did Harlequin, it was a match made in heaven.”

In the songs-without-words department, The World of Brazil finds Rit with several tunes that capture his role as a true advocate for the place of Brazilian music in contemporary jazz. From the samba pulse of 1985’s “San Ysidro” to 1987’s bossa-wrapped “Windmills” and then on to 1989’s “Bahia Funk,” it’s apparent that Lee, unlike many who have tested the waters and moved on, had discovered that his early flirtations had grown into a lasting love affair with Brazilian music.

“I was very proud that I had a grasp of Brazilian music and wanted to be respectful of the authentic nature of these songs,” says Lee. “Yet I was adding my guitar and bringing a jazzier ‘Ritenour’ flavor to it, so I wanted to make sure that it felt very Brazilian.

“Later, with A Twist of Jobim, I was confident enough to purposefully do a reconstruction - my way of approaching Brazilian music. But that was very different than those 80’s songs, where I wanted to keep everything ‘right in the pocket’.”

That 1996 recording reunited Lee with Dave Grusin and an equally stellar supporting cast. By this time, Lee’s appreciation of Brazilian music had focused on Brazil’s top composer and his sensitivity and respect for Jobim’s intricate harmonies and musical nuance.

Lee’s oversight of these talented ensembles speaks as strongly as any of his solo work on these songs. That’s El DeBarge and Art Porter trading phrases on “Dindi,” with an arrangement that carries all of the poignant grace of the composer’s intent. And “Stone Flower” provides a deeply jazzy foundation for Herbie Hancock with Ritenour’s rhythm guitar in close support.

But it only takes the opening strains of “Water To Drink” to remind us that music is best when shared with friends. With Rit, it seems that it just couldn’t be any other way. And in case you’re wondering who selected the songs for The World of Brazil – well, that was Lee’s job, too.

“I really have a passion for many different kinds of music, but Brazilian music and jazz are at the top of the list for me. It still touches me today. For instance, I’ll catch a Brazilian song that I’ve heard a million times and it still just takes me away.”

Okay, Lee. Take us away. Again.

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‘Crossing Borders with Lee Ritenour’

Hour 1:

Set 1: The Sounds of Brazil Opening Theme

New York/Brazil<>Lee Ritenour/Festival

Amor de Muito<>Chico Science/Brasil2 Mil

Baia<>Walter Wanderley/Next Stop Wonderland Soundtrack

Welcome to The Lounge             

Lovin’ You<>Fabiana Passoni/Lovin’ You

Special Announcement

Bitcoin Samba<> Roy Stephansen/Single


Set 2:

Introduce Next Set

Perfect Love<>Yutaka/Another Sun

Tema de La Onde<>Nicola Conte/Café Roma Vol. 2

Don Azimuth<>Marcos Ariel/4 Friends      

Introduce Next Song

Asa<>Lee Ritenour & Djavan/World of Brazil

Circle<>Soulstance/Truth, Simplicity & Love

Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing<>Sergio Mendes/Vintage 74


Set 3Introduce This Week’s Spotlight Song

Triste<>Elis Regina/Personalidade

Estrada Branca<>Til Bronner/That Summer

A Cada Canto<>Alexia Bomtempo/Chasing Storms and Stars 


More from Brazil Club:


Set 1:

Waters Edge<>Lee Ritenour/Smoke n’ Mirrors

Welcome To Our Second Hour

Faceira<>Gal Costa/Aquarela Do Brasil

Amo<>Chiquinho Do Acordeon/Brazilian Nights     

Everybody’s Beautiful (In Brazil)<>Bob Baldwin/Brazil Chill

Special Announcement

Waiting In Vain<>Jody Watley/Single


Set 2:

Introduce Brazil Back2Back: Marisa Monte

Maria De Verdade<>Marisa Monte/Rose & Charcoal

Speak Low<>Marisa Monte/Marisa Monte

Introduce Next Song

Dindi<>El DeBarge & Art Porter/ World of Brazil

Doin’ Time In St. Tropez<>Camiel/On A Day Like This

Noites Do Sertão<>M. Nascimento/Encontros

Sonho do Brasil<>Slowdown/Retrospectives


Set 3:

Latin Lovers<>Lee Ritenour/World of Brazil

Assuntos Banais<>Toco/Outro Lugar

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Next Week: With five shows to play with this month, we’ll continue our ‘Crossing Borders’ theme by sharing some of our favorite songs from Sergio Mendes plus a tune or two that you may have never heard before. Springtime fun!

I hope you’ll enjoy the show and please don’t forget to tell a few friends about us, Sundays at 2 pm CT on 90.9 FM WDCB . It's always great to share the music.

Always a pleasure,

Scott Adams

The Sounds of Brazil!  

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