Has the bloom of success begun to fade for jazz fusion? Friday's concert by Lee Ritenour and the GRP All-Stars at the Greek Theatre was way down in attendance from the crowds that usually show for such events.
Ironically, given the lack of turnout, the evening was one of Ritenour's most well-rounded outings of recent memory. The numbers performed by special guests Don Grusin and Bob James may have veered toward formulaic fusion, but Ritenour's part of the program made a convincing effort to provide an omnivorous collection of musical styles.
Ritenour's familiar repertoire of funk-based guitar showcases--"A.M. Attitudes" and "Night Rhythms" were typical--offered few surprises. Ritenour played with predictable speed and accuracy, and the rhythm team of Abe Laborial, Gary Novak and Grusin laid out a stream of lightweight but catchy rhythms.
What Ritenour described as his "jazz" set was considerably more appealing. On "24th St. Blues," in particular, the ensemble came together with a cohesive interplay that was easily the collective high point of the night, with Ritenour, for once, applying his fast fingers to some thoughtfully swinging harmonic lines.
But individual honors were taken--with ease, as they often are--by saxophonist Ernie Watts. His no-nonsense, blue-collar approach was a model of how to get the job done. Watts simply played the living stuffing out of everything, whether it was David Sanborn-simulated alto sax for the Bob James pieces, or his own whirlwind tenor on "24th St. Blues."