Jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour pays tribute to Jobim in Jazz Roots concert at Arsht Center in Miami


Lee Ritenour, one of the world’s most successful jazz guitarists, learned Brazilian bossa nova from the master, Antonio Carlos Jobim.

“I met Jobim when I was a teenager, actually, at Sergio Mendes’ house. I was playing with Sergio Mendes. He had a party. There was kind of a jam session, and Tom Jobim, as we call him, was there that night,” recalls Ritenour, who that night also met composer-pianist Dave Grusin, who would later win an Oscar and multiple Grammy Awards.

Ritenour, Jobim’s grandson Daniel (a pianist) and Grusin are among the performers who will pay tribute to the great Brazilian musician 8 p.m. Friday in “A Twist of Jobim,” the season finale of Jazz Roots at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.

Jazz Roots producer Larry Rosen has known Ritenour more than 30 years, when the guitarist was a star on Rosen and Grusin’s old jazz label, GRP Records.

“He always had a great expanse of musical knowledge. Brazilian music was a real big component of it,” Rosen says. “He carries that through to today in everything that he does.”

Ritenour’s first studio session was playing backup at age 16 for the Mamas and the Papas in 1968. He released his first album, First Course, in 1976.

“It was the beginning of the fusion movement and especially the West Coast fusion movement, where we were taking Brazilian rhythms, which we had kind of copped from that whole movement with Jobim that had just happened in the ’60s,” he says. “We were taking R&B grooves and taking a sort of fast fusion ideas and combining it with our love for jazz. That became kind of a contemporary fusion at the time.”

Three years after Ritenour joined the GRP roster, he and Grusin won a Grammy in 1985 for their album Harlequin.

Before Friday’s performance, Ritenour, 62, will hold a master class for Miami-Dade County Public Schools music students. The advice he’ll give:

“If they’re a player or a singer, then I really emphasize that it’s important for everyone to have their own voice. Don’t be a copy of another great. Say you love B.B. King or George Benson, Jimi Hendrix or whoever it is, there’s only one of those guys, so if you grow up sounding like Jimi Hendrix, it just doesn’t mean so much. Everyone grows up with their own voice inside them. It’s just how do you get it out, how does that happen,” he says.


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