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Various Artists: A Twist of Motown

A Twist of Motown is guitarist/producer Lee Ritenour’s third Twist-themed concept compilation, following A Twist of Jobim (1997) and A Twist of Marley (2001). For this collection he called in top-notch contemporary jazz players such as guitarists George Benson and Peter White to add firepower and enhance his own zesty licks. For vocal treatments, Will Downing, Lisa Fischer, the Perri Sisters, Brenda Russell and Benson lend their incredible intonations. While trumpeter Chris Botti, soprano saxophonists Mindi Abair and Gerald Albright and tenor saxophonist Richard Elliot add luster. For keyboards it doesn’t get too much better than Dave Grusin, Russell Ferrante and Bob James for this type of material. Keeping the grooving solid and moving along are bassist Nathan East and drummer Ricky Lawson, with a plethora of other musicians helping out.

As would be expected, the immortal hits “Inner City Blues” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” featuring Fischer’s stellar singing are unstoppable, hot-grooving forces. Also notable are “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” and “Medley: War/What’s Going On,” which feature bold, attention-grabbing arrangements and spirited playing. Ritenour also serves up soothing sides with variations of “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “Creepin.’

On the downside, “All This Love” and “Got to Be There” seem like unworthy choices considering the extent of the legendary label’s catalog. But overall, Twist is an appealing take on Motown classics.

Originally Published