Lee Ritenour: A Twist of Jobim

Lee Ritenour debuts his signature label “i.e. Music” with A Twist of Jobim (i.e./ Polygram 3145338932; 57:38), a contemporary tribute to the great songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim. Ritenour assembled a diverse group of players for the project, which presents equally varied (and somewhat uneven) reads on Jobim’s work. On the truly inspired side are Herbie Hancock’s complex, intense acoustic piano-based read of “Stone Flower,” a snaking, pulsing Ritenour/Dave Grusin duo on “Water to Drink,” and two beautifully realized Oleta Adams-Al Jarreau duets. The minimalist arrangement of “Waters of March” finds the duo crooning in bounding octaves to capture the joyful, spirited lyric, while their take on “Girl from Ipanema” brings out the lyric passion sometimes missed in more deadpan reads. Adams and Jarreau (it’s nice to hear him in a lower range) bring a welcome elastic, instrumental quality to their vocals which is noticeably missing in, say, El DeBarge’s cloying R&B stylized “Dindi.” However, even on the misfires (include the highly-programmed “Favela” in that group), there’s no denying the power of Jobim’s haunting melodies, and the reverent spirit of Ritenour’s project.