You got to have friends

Malibuite Lee Ritenour will perform at the Hollywood Bowl Aug. 15.

Local legend Lee Ritenour brings his prolific pals to the Hollywood Bowl.

By Kim Devore / Staff Writer

He finds inspiration everywhere from Malibu to Rio to Cape Town. He is an old hand at jazz, a whiz at rock and accomplished in classical. When it comes to music, guitarist Lee Ritenour is all over the map and that’s just the way he likes it.

“I have a passion for many kinds of different music,” the 55-year old musician said, “and through my career I’ve been able to blend those elements. Maybe I am a true product of L.A. because it’s such a melting pot of so many different things.”

Music lovers will get a sampling of Ritenour’s smorgasbord of sound at his upcoming Aug. 15 concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Billed as “A Guitar Night With Lee Ritenour and Friends,” the line-up features “Captain Fingers” (as Ritenour is known) along with Patrice Rushen on keyboards, Brian Bromberg on bass, Alex Acuna on drums and Richard Bona on electric bass. The musicians also got together for Ritenour’s latest CD, “Smoke N’ Mirrors,” which was inspired by a trip to South Africa in 2005.

“I was excited by the native African players and some of the most intoxicating rhythm guitar playing I’d ever heard,” Ritenour said. “Over the years, I have become more and more attracted to African music, and that trip solidified that connection for me.”

The jazzman’s return to the Bowl, meantime, marks a homecoming of sorts. He first took to the outdoor stage in a Battle of the Bands competition at the age of 16. A few months later, he soared into the professional stratosphere doing sessions with The Mamas and the Papas. By the time he was 18, he had moved on to Tony Bennett and Lena Horne, performing at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

His parents had always encouraged their son’s musical ambitions, and it soon became clear that after-school guitar lessons paid off.

“It was the ’60s and a glorious time for the guitar,” Ritenour said. “We had the explosion of the hippie movement, lots of folk music being played. You had Chuck Berry and Eric Clapton and Cream. The guitar was just all over the place.”

But Ritenour’s talent and early successes were not accidental. “I was a serious student from the get-go,” he reflected. “Maybe I was a cut above, but I also wanted it really badly and I worked very hard. I was shy but competitive when it came to the guitar.”

In the ’70s, Ritenour became a regular at the famed Baked Potato jazz club in North Hollywood, jamming alongside Dave Grusin, Patrice Rushen, Harvey Mason and Ernie Watts.

Today the Grammy-Award winning artist has more than 3,000 sessions to his credit, having played for everyone from Pink Floyd to Dizzy Gillespie, opera great RenĂ©e Fleming to songbird Barbra Streisand. He’s also supporting the musical aspirations of his 14-year-old son, Wesley.

“Because of me, he’s passionate about old jazz. It’s fascinating to see him following the same path I did. I guess it’s the family business.”

Ritenour said his Bowl gig will be a very personal performance and a musical treat. “It’s not everyday that I am at the Bowl,” he said. “For the fans it’s always phenomenal, being up in the hills and outside in the summertime. It’s a magical L.A. feeling.”

Lee Ritenour performs at the Hollywood Bowl Aug. 15 at

8 p.m.