Monday, December 2, 2013

REVIEW: Lee Ritenour in Concert

The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN


Ritenour is one of those odd guitar gods who has been around forever, at least 20 years in what passes for limelight in the jazz world. If you're a collector of his stuff, you'll have more than 25 albums in your collection. If you collected every one of the records on which he's played guitar, you'd have to own warehouse real estate.

Minneapolis was the 3rd stop on Ritenour's "This is Love" promotional tour. The band looked fresh and motivated. With sax star Eric Marienthal, drummer and drum machinist David Haynes, bassist Melvin Davis, and Barnaby Finch on keys, Ritenour toyed with the "Smooth Jazz" pigeon hole for most of the evening. If he could sell it, I think Ritenour's last dozen recordings would have been a lot funkier. Live, he appears to be mostly what he wants to be.

The concert started a little rough. Ritenour passed through several of his current crowd pleasers with energy and he and Marienthal took most of the solo time. During "Boss City," Ritenour took a shot at the classic Wes Montgomery tactic of wringing all of the melodic possibilities from 3-4 chords.

Sound-wise, the mix was, typically, bass-heavy. The show started rough, with the keyboards panned hard left and lost in the mix and the drums panned hard right with about half of the kit completely gone. Some of that improved by the second tune, but the sound dude (I can't call these guys "audio engineers" any more than I can call garbagemen "sanitary engineers." Sorry.) had a terrible time dealing with the dynamics of the band and completely lost control by the end of the show. By the encore, there wasn't a clearly represented instrument anywhere to be found. You'd think that someone who makes decently recorded music would have a handle on live sound, but you'd be consistently wrong.

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Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.