Is it possible to encapsulate a thirty-something year career and capture the spirit of the artist and the music? Greatest hits compilations skim the surface of the most recognizable songs. Live recordings tend to be big on crowd pleasers and theatrics. On OverTime, Lee Ritenour has opted for a gathering of musical friends and collaborators, an intimate setting, and a collection of songs that cover not just the adventurous eclecticism of his career but the journey that the genre known as contemporary jazz has taken over the span of his career.
OverTime is the result of a live recording session for a double-DVD concert film. Although an audience was present, the musicians were seated in a circle facing each other, playing with and to each other. Throughout the CD you can feel the connection that created. The music is tight but the vibe is loose. The setting brings a level of warmth to the jazzier, more challenging songs that makes them less than they might be on a straight-ahead jazz project. The seamlessness of the song selection has the same effect. The group effortlessly segues from jazz touchstones like Miles Davis' "Blue and Green" and Wes Montgomery's "Boss City" into Ritenour's definitive fusion classic "Captain Fingers" and pre-smooth standard "Night Rhythms," then on to Brazilian singer/songwriter Ivan Lins' sublime "She Walks This Earth," and Kenya Hathaway and Grady Harrell's rejuvenation of "Papa Was A Rolling Stone," and their updated take on "Is It You."
To long-time Ritenour fans most of these songs are old friends and Ritenour has brought in a spectacular group of old friends and new discoveries to share the experience. Long-time collaborators Dave Grusin, Harvey Mason, Patrice Rushen, Eric Marienthal, Alex Acuna and Ernie Watts are joined by new scene-stealers Oscar Seaton, Melvin Davis, and Barnaby Finch, and smooth jazz superstar Chris Botti... who abandons chill and absolutely wails on "Papa Was A Rolling Stone." (He has never recorded anything this hot!) Behind the scenes are session wizards like Anthony Jackson. Many of these musicians haven't played together before, but the chemistry is immediate and you can feel its presence. This band is tight, and the solos are delivered the way the real pros do it with just enough to dazzle you with their musicianship without getting excessive and showy or overwhelming the song.
OverTime stretches the borders and blurs the boundaries between sometimes disparate elements of jazz and does it all with such a sense of fun and love for the music that this is not just a project for Ritenour fans or serious jazzers. This is an excellent jumping in point for newbies who want to go a little deeper into all that jazz encompasses.
- Shannon West