Lee Ritenour is a Los Angeles guitar archetype. His recording session and touring career dates to the late 1960s and includes dates with the Mamas and the Papas, Lena Horne and Tony Bennett.
As is the case with L.A. guitar archetypes, he started young — he was 16 on that Mamas and the Papas session, according to his online bio — and has stayed for decades, playing with some of the top players in jazz music.
Ritenour, who hits Rocky Mount’s Harvester Performance Center on Sunday, has deep experience in jazz, jazz/funk, Afro-Cuban and smooth jazz styles. At the base of it all is a versatile guitar style that can go from butter to burning.
Not that his composing and arranging skills are lacking. The 16-time Grammy Award nominee won his only Grammy in 1985, for instrumental arrangement on the song “Early A.M. Attitude,” from his Dave Grusin & Lee Ritenour album, “Harlequin.” Those two in the 1970s were part of a run of Tuesday night performances at L.A. jazz club The Baked Potato, which drew such audience members as fellow guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and George Benson, according to his bio.
A couple of decades later, Ritenour was part of Fourplay, a smooth-jazz phenomenon.
Fast forward to 2015, and dozens of jazz chart-topping albums later, Ritenour released his most recent disc, “A Twist of Rit.” It contains much of what Ritenour fans go for: grooving, jazz-adjacent songs featuring players including Grusin, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr., bassist Tom Kennedy and sax man Ernie Watts; and, of course, Ritenour’s expressive guitar work.