Lee Ritenour: The jazz-funk guitarist

Leonard “Lee” Ritenour is an American guitarist whose career spans several decades and includes no fewer than 40 albums. Known for his music fusing smooth jazz, jazz-funk and popular jazz, this artist has been recognized as a great jazz legend.

Read on to find out more about Lee Ritenour, his musical influences and his unique mastery of the guitar. This portrait will reveal the secrets of his spellbinding melodies!

An exceptional musical career

Lee Ritenour - Parcours musical exceptionnel
Lee Ritenour – An exceptional musical career

Born in Los Angeles in 1952, Lee Ritenour developed a passion for music at an early age. By the age of 16, he was playing alongside artists such as Herbie Hancock and Joni Mitchell. In 1979, he released his first solo album, First Course. This was followed by a series of collaborations and products, all of which had a major influence on his career. Working with artists such as Dave Grusin and Stanley Clarke, he continued to perfect his mastery of the guitar and to explore a wide range of musical genres.

An innovative approach to jazz and funk

Lee Ritenour soon distinguished himself by his ability to mix jazz and funk. Instead of tackling one or the other of these two disciplines, he exploited the combination of these styles. Influenced by the 70s, his tracks surf between modern grooves and classic jazz. This technique is amplified by the fact that Lee Ritenour is a multi-instrumentalist, giving his music an extra creative dimension.

For over 4 decades, his signature can be found on more than 3,000 sessions and 470 albums. Not to mention the 15 Grammy Awards he has won, including 10 for the 1985 album “Harlequin”. An incredible performance that can’t go unnoticed!

Lee Ritenour’s favorite instruments and techniques

Lee Ritenour mainly uses electric guitars to produce his songs. The main models he favors are the following:

  • Gibson L5-S (1976)
  • Fender Stratocaster (1959/1963)
  • Epiphone Emperor Regent (1955-1956)
  • Yamaha AES800 (1982)

When it comes to effects, Lee Ritenour prefers Electro-Harmonix and Boss pedals. He uses them to enrich the sounds of his guitar, but also to implement his playing and improvisational techniques. These effects also enable him to produce very particular sounds. One such effect is the famous “Mu-Tron”, a distortion effect specially designed for his musical style.

Prestigious collaborations

Lee Ritenour - Collaboration prestigieuse
Lee Ritenour – Prestigious collaborations

During his long career, Lee Ritenour has collaborated with some of the greatest jazz and rock stars, including Elton John, Chick Corea and Pink Floyd. His worldwide success has earned him numerous invitations to perform at international festivals. But Lee Ritenour is appreciated not only for his skills as a composer and arranger. He is also recognized for his outstanding contribution to the promotion and dissemination of modern playing styles.

Lee Ritenour’s complete discography


Here’s the complete list of Lee Ritenour’s discography:

  1. First Course (1976)
  2. Captain Fingers (1977)
  3. The Captain’s Journey (1978)
  4. Feel the Night (1979)
  5. Rio (1979)
  6. Rit/2 (1982)
  7. Rit (1981)
  8. On the Line (1983)
  9. Banded Together (1984)
  10. Harlequin (1985)
  11. Earth Run (1986)
  12. Color Rit (1989)
  13. Festival (1988)
  14. Stolen Moments (1990)
  15. Collection (1991)
  16. Wes Bound (1993)
  17. Larry & Lee (1994)
  18. Alive in L.A. (1997)
  19. This Is Love (1998)
  20. Two Worlds (2000)
  21. Rit’s House (2002)
  22. A Twist of Rit (2015)
  23. Dreamcatcher (2020)

Lee Ritenour’s influence on the music world

Lee Ritenour - Influence
Lee Ritenour – Influence

Lee Ritenour is an undeniable icon in jazz and funk circles. His musical output and method have inspired entire generations of fans, musicians and producers. Some of his songs – such as “Is It You”, “Night Rhythms” and “Captain Fingers” – are considered masterpieces of jazz-fusion music. What’s more, Lee Ritenour’s personal style has helped shape modern jazz as we know it today.

Lee Ritenour is without doubt one of the heroes of jazz-funk. His diverse discography and remarkable performances make him a force to be reckoned with. His mastery of the guitar and his innate sense of composition enable him to transcend genres and musical boundaries.

With his many collaborations, innovations and unrivalled technique, Lee Ritenour has made his mark as a virtuoso guitarist. His music is an invitation to travel, to discover the colors and flavors of modern jazz-funk!

All the questions about Lee Ritenour’s career

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