11th STREET — Musical icons Dave Grusin and Lee Ritenour debut their latest classical crossover venture “Amparo” at the Broad Stage on Saturday.
Grammy nominated “Amparo” — the follow up to Grusin and Ritenour’s successful 2000 release of “Two Worlds” — is the brainchild of Chris Roberts, President of Universal Decca.
“He had the vision that Dave and I could probably crossover into the classical world,” Ritenour said.
Eight years later, bolstered by the success of Grammy nominated “Two Worlds” Roberts approached the musicians about creating a follow up CD.
The CD which has distinct Latin tones yet carefully blends classical adagios and English folk songs is, “a cross and combination of great musical heritages. The main melody instruments [piano and guitar] lent itself naturally to new tonal possibilities and orchestrations,” Ritenour said.
The musicians, who are friends and have been playing together for years, have a history that is as varied as their respective musical backgrounds.
Grusin was originally enrolled in Colorado’s (then A&M, now State College) to study veterinary medicine and admitted, “I was going to become an animal doctor.”
At the last minute, thinking about all the time and money his father invested in his musical tutelage, he switched to study music at the University of Colorado.
Toward the end of his college career, Grusin began to think about how to make a living.
“I had some real film composer heroes, like Andre Previn and David Raksin. So I decided to get into film as a long term goal.” He started on the television show “Gidget” eventually receiving offers to score films.
Since then, he’s worked on well known movies such as; “Tootsie,” “The Goonies,” and HBO’s “Recount” along with a daunting list of directors that includes, Steven Spielberg and the late, Sydney Pollack. Of Pollack, Grusin said, “Most of the time he knew what dramatic intent he’d want the music to convey and then he’d let you do that. Spielberg used to stop by everyday to see what kind of music I’d come up with. He was so hands on, helpful and supportive.”
Ritenhour, born and raised in Los Angeles, grew up during the firmly established “Folk Era.”
“Wherever you went, the guitar was the instrument of the day, and I was very attracted to it,” Ritenour said.
Ritenour studied with some of the great L.A. guitarists: Duke Miller (who went on to teach at USC), Barney Kessel, Howard Roberts and classical guitarist, Christopher Parkening (now a Pepperdine professor). He was surrounded by experienced musicians at a very young age and became a studio musician when he turned 18. He’s worked with luminaries such as Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, The Mamas and The Papas and backed such stars as Sergio Mendes and Pink Floyd (on “The Wall”).
It was at Dante’s (a club in NoHo) where Ritenour first met Grusin. They met again at a party at Sergio Mendes’ house along with Brazilian artist, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and it was the first time they jammed together.
“Dave was like a God in this town. I was so fortunate when I started working with him on his films and TV shows. The fact that Dave was using this young guitar player became my calling card. By the time I was 21, I was working 15 sessions a week,” Ritenour said.
But both Ritenour and Grusin admitted to occupational trepidation. “When I think about people who mapped out their careers, that’s not me. I just bounced around like one of those steel balls in a pinball machine,” said Grusin, who took whatever jobs would come his way. And as easy a picture as Ritenour painted, he admitted, “You always have a gnawing feeling in your stomach, and wonder, ‘am I going to make it?’”
Most unusual to learn is that Grusin doesn’t listen to music recreationally. “Part of it is, you spend all your waking hours writing, recording and everything else seems like a distraction,” said Grusin. Ritenour confessed, “My one big hobby is riding my bike on the bike path in Santa Monica. I love to listen to a lot of jazz, classical and Brazilian, sometimes though, I’ll listen to Porcupine Tree and Tool, which is the direct influence of my son, Wesley.”
The “Amparo” show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available through the Broad Stage box office or by calling (310) 434-3200.
Taylor Van Arsdale is a writer/producer and movie reviewer for the Daily Press. She can be reached at Tailfish@roadrunner.com.