Lyle Ritz (ukulele), Bernie Fleischer, Don Shelton, Gene Cipriano, Paul Horn, John Bambridge Jr. (reeds), Joe Mondragon, Red Mitchell (b), Frank Capp, Larry Bunker (d), Gene Estes (vib, marimba, d)
Reference: FSRCD 810
Bar code: 8427328608107
As a highly regarded studio bassist in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s, Lyle Ritz (born 1930) could hardly have imagined the impact of a few earlier recordings he had done using a considerably smaller four-string instrument. His two ukulele jazz recordings on the Verve label in the late 1950s, How About Uke? and 50th State Jazz, were unlike anything previously recorded.
Ritz will always be known as the brilliant pioneer in the area of ukulele jazz. His recordings are legendary and have inspired countless players both in Hawaii and on the mainland, including such names as Peter Moon, Roy Sakuma, and Moe Keale. Ritz returned to his ukulele roots in the mid 1980s, releasing a number of more recent recordings as well as an instructional book of his arrangements.
-How About Uke?
"Admittedly, a jazz ukulele album sounds like a novelty at best and at worst like some kind of mutant perversity -- until one hears Lyle Ritz play the uke, that is. At two different sessions in September of 1957, Ritz, a jazz bassist, went into a Verve studio with bassist Red Mitchell, drummer Gene Estes, and flutist Don Shelton, and laid down 13 sides -- 11 of them canonical jazz and standard tunes that are simply breathtaking for their swing as much as their gentility. Shelton, who appears on half the sides, lays out a sharp line on Duke Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" that is answered in counterpoint by Ritz in both chordal and single-string runs. The complex chord voicings on Rodgers & Hart's "Have You Met Miss Jones" offer such color and texture that one can forget that this was written specifically for piano. And Ritz's solos touch on guitarists from Django Reinhardt to Tiny Grimes to Wes Montgomery. Other standouts are Ritz's two originals, "Ritz Cracker," a bop tune, and "Sweet Joan." The versions of "Moonlight in Vermont," "Little Girl Blue," and "I'm Beginning to See the Light" are all revelatory for their wonderfully realized harmonic palette. This is a gorgeous record, one that bears not only encountering, but repeated listening."
Thom Jurek -All Music Guide
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