The unusually intimate small-club setting of Ash Grove at Santa Monica pier finds Lee Ritenour Alive in L.A. (GRP GRD-9882; 64:03), having a great time. This captivating live album, culled from shows in January ’97, finds the now-ubiquitous Ritenour getting back to basics, leading a tight group through lean arrangements and projecting the sheer joy of improvisation through his sputtering, spindly solos. Alive revisits modern jazz standards like “Wes Bound” with a dynamic, bluesy approach, thanks to Ritenour bandmates Bill Evans on sax, Alan Pasqua on keyboards and Melvin Davis on popping, pumping bass. This group lays down the foundation for Ritenour’s trademark, laid back soloing on gently soulful swingers like “Boss City” and technical timing chestnuts like “4 on 6” and “Uptown.” In addition to the intimate band interplay, the small club allows Ritenour to really connect with his audience in a way that’s harder to do at festivals and large venues. That performer-audience energy is what brings this recording alive.