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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby


Lee Ritenour

Captain Fingers

Epic 5128962 5128962000 [40:35] ADD


Captain Fingers [7:06]
Dolphin Dreams [7:01]
Fly By Night [4:58]
Margarita [5:09]
Isnít She Lovely [4:32]
Space Glide [5:07]
Sun Song [6:43]
Lee Ritenour: 360 Systems Polyphonic Guitar Synthesizer, Electric Guitar, Electric 12-string guitar, and classical and acoustic guitars
Dave Grusin: Oberheim Polyphonic and Mini-Moog Synthesizers, Electric Piano, Clavinet, arranging and conducting on Fly By Night and Sun Song
Ian Underwood: Synthesizer Programming, Oberheim Polyphonic Synthesizer and Acoustic Piano
Dawilli Gonga: Electric Piano
Patrick Rushen: Electric Piano
Dave Foster: Electric Piano
Ernie Watts: Soprano and Tenor Saxophones
Jay Grayson: Rhythm Guitar
Ray Parker, Jr.: Rhythm Guitar
Mitch Holder: Rhythm Guitar
Alphonso Johnson: Bass
Anthony Jackson: Bass
Mike Porcaro: Bass
Charles Meeks: Bass
Bill Dickinson: Bass
Harvey Mason: Drums and Percussion
Jeff Porcaro: Drums
Steve Forman: Percussion
Victor Feldman: Congas
Steve Mason: Percussion
Bill Campli: Vocals
Ray Cramer: Cello Solo on Sun Song
Michael Columbier: String arrangements and conductor on Dolphin Dreams

Lee Ritenour is one of the great names in jazz-rock fusion and jazz guitar, establishing himself through a string of essential recordings since the 1970s. He has at one time or another played with almost everyone influential in modern jazz. In 1977, however, he was a twenty-five year old studio player still coming into his own as a featured player. He had established himself to the point of being a first-call studio player, having already played with such musicians as Paul Simon, Sergo Mendes, the Tijuana Brass, and Carly Simon. This album featured Ritenour as composer, guitar player, and even synthesizer player as he stretched out and showed the world how he had earned his "Captain Fingers" nickname.

As commercially viable jazz-rock albums go, this is among the best. It seems to include every A-list musician that Ritenour could find, including another young upstart destined for greatness in Dave Grusin. The songs make use of almost every popular radio-friendly style of music one would have encountered in 1977. The cover of Stevie Wonderís Isnít She Lovely is as good a recording as the original in practically every way. Not a note-for-note remake, it deviates in order to give more space for Ritenour to display his talents. Interestingly, it also includes Ray Parker, Jr. on the rhythm guitar parts as well, lending more funk and pop credibility to the rendition.

The tracks where Ernie Watts is called upon, Fly by Night and Space Glide use his talents in the most flattering of ways as well. Space Glide is a funk-infused smooth-jazz masterwork. Dolphin Dreams also has, interestingly, entered into the jazz lexicon as a standard. Considering the number of times that this reviewer has been to New Orleans and Chicago, as well as enjoying the music produced by some of the great jazz schools in America, this is one of those songs which one simply knows as a melody, and really doesnít have any particular style associated with it anymore. Hearing the original, disco tinged recording is very interesting, especially considering the number of times that it has been redone and the variety of treatments it has since been given.

On the other extreme, Sun Song is a beautiful, introspective acoustic guitar ballad, complete with cello solo and string section. When the obviously 1970s rhythms kick in, it finds its way into context with the rest of the album. However, the classical guitar is an unforgiving axe, and when an electric guitar player uses it, they invite either disaster or, as in this case, praise for their technique and facility on the guitar, not relying on effects and processing to make them great players.

This is an album that any fan of jazz guitar, jazz-rock fusion, and especially Lee Ritenour should enumerate in their essential recordings. While it can feel a bit dated at times, the songwriting is undeniable, the arranging informed and intelligent, and the music fun as well as incredibly well executed.

Patrick Gary

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