Ritenour came to the project already very familiar with Motown music. In the early days of his career when he was a top session guitarist, he worked often at Motowns Los Angeles studio, with the likes of Diana Ross, Rick James, Holland-Dozier-Holland, and many others.
Deciding to present most of the songs on A Twist of Motown as instrumentals, the first order of business was, to find out which tunes could hold up melodically instrumentally. So Ritenour immersed himself in the music. I listened to the Motown stuff so much before pre-production, he says. I would go on bike rides and listen to fifty songs on my headphones and really get inside the arrangements.
The result is an album featuring eleven Motown classics, all of which have been creatively reworked and performed by an assemblage of superstar musicians. Most of the tracks are anchored by a stellar rhythm section that includes keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, rhythm guitarist Ray Parker, Jr., bassists Nathan East and Melvin Davis, and drummer Ricky Lawson. Ritenour functioned as a sort of casting director when choosing the artists to perform on each tune.
As he explains, I always look at these Twist Of albums as kind of my Quincy Jones productions because from working with Quincy through the years I saw how he would cast people together almost like a movie. I dont know what school you go to other than the Quincy Jones school for this kind of casting.
Starting out as a Los Angeles session musician in the early 70s, Ritenour soon became a first-call sideman, and in 1976, he decided to launch a solo career. Since then, hes recorded thirty albums that span a range of styles, won a Grammy®, and become one of the most influential guitarists in contemporary jazz.
In 1991, Ritenour, Bob James, Nathan East, and veteran drummer Harvey Mason founded the superband Fourplay, which immediately established itself as a force on the jazz scene. Ritenour launched his own label, i.e. music. In 1997, Ritenour inaugurated the Twist of series with A Twist of Jobim, which celebrated the music of legendary Brazilian composer-artist Antonio Carlos Jobim. That album was followed by 2001s A Twist of Marley, which explored the music of reggae icon Bob Marley.
A Twist of Motown will be available on CD September 23, 2003.
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